Conference 2023

42nd Bereavement Care Conference 


Coping with life alone

Wednesday 25th October 2023 at Emmanuel Church, Northwood


The new Chairman of Bereavement Care, Mr Gopal Bhachu, welcomed delegates to The 42nd Annual Conference entitled: Bereavement – Coping with life alone which was held at Emmanuel Church, Northwood on October 25.

He praised the work of bereavement care but said there was a “lot more to do and I want to open new avenues to work together.” He then introduced the Keynote Speaker.

“Try and be gentle to yourself and give honest support.” These were the words from a leading rabbi who’s son drowned on his honeymoon only six months ago.

You could hear a pin drop when Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain MBE spoke about his own tragedy at the Bereavement Care Conference. Somehow this renowned rabbi from Maidenhead shul held it together as representatives from all faiths and none heard about how he was coping as well as helping others.

He said: “It is a brutal reality. Life is difficult and death is difficult. Some deaths are much harder than others. Life is challenging but we  have to get on with things as best we can.  Human resilience is astonishing. I saw a couple laughing and joking and knew five years ago their son had committed suicide. I was pleased for them. “

He said he was asked if his faith helped him and said: “My faith didn’t help me because I didn’t believe God was responsible. What helped me was my community who rallied round, letters and emails, hugs, the warmth of human kindness was the best tonic. I was also protected by work, I had a routine.

“I wanted to crawl into a corner but so many people came up to me, crying or wanting to hug me. Often I ended up comforting them.”

He spoke about the importance of helping people cope before they died, when they had been given a terminal diagnosis and their families.

“It is important to give honest support. If someone is suffering from an  incurable disease, pray for qualities to help them cope, not for a miracle cure, but to accept what is happening.”

He told delegates it was important to discuss practical  things such as what kind of funeral someone wanted, did they want to donate organs, have they made a will.

Rituals, such as the Jewish shiva, usually a week of mourning, can be comforting, especially as people wanted to tell their story over and over again.

He talked about the various stages of grief, the sense of dislocation: ‘how can life go on when my husband has died.?’

The rabbi’s tips for coping alone were:

  • always accept invitations because you might not be asked again.
  • don’t move within a year, you have lost someone. Don’t lose everything else as well.
  • Try and take up a new activity. You then become an individual, not a surviving half
  • Do something every day, no matter how small
  • Try and be gentle on yourself.

A series of workshops were held throughout the day including  supporting those who have lost a child and WAY (Widowed and Young).

Judy Silverton, from Mosaic Reform and Chair of the Conference Planning Group, closed by thanking all the speakers, delegates and sponsors and everyone involved in making the day such a success.

Narrative by Jane Harrison

Photographs courtesy of David Pollak