Each one of us experiences loss.
Its pain is different for everyone. We cannot always deal with it in an orderly, confined way. Just when we think the pangs of anguish have gone away, another wave sweeps in. And we are forced to revisit the memories, the pain and the fear.
Our grieving can make those around us uncomfortable. Friends and loved ones may not know how to respond to our struggles. They may not find words to soothe our aching wounds. But nevertheless, their presence is comforting.
There are many forms of loss. For example, bereavement, a decline in health or redundancy. But, for those we serve in prison, we must add a loss of freedom to the list. When separated from loved ones, trying to cope with loss alone can feel like a hopeless task. Prison is a particularly difficult place to grieve. And, if those in our prisons cannot process their grief, rehabilitation is almost impossible.
And so, you can see how important it is to help those we serve to deal with bereavement. It’s a stepping stone towards renewal and ceasing to offend.
Back in 2017, our survey of prison chaplaincy departments across England and Wales sought to find out how we could support them better in their work. A clear priority for many was help with bereavement and loss support. More recently, discussions with HMPPS have led to some of our experienced volunteers being trained to deliver pastoral care in their local prison.
It is often the prison chaplain who will break the news of deaths to people in their care. But now, our newly-trained volunteers have the opportunity to support chaplains in providing ongoing bereavement support. Their work forms part of our new Pastoral Care programme.
Sharon is one of our first volunteers to be trained. She explains, ‘The pastoral care training was very helpful and was presented in a really insightful way. I hope this work will prove an asset and encouragement to our chaplaincy teams and those they care for. We want people in prison to know that continuous support is available.
‘Loss in various forms is experienced by many in our prisons. I am praying that Jesus will bless, comfort and give hope to all those with whom we have contact.’
Right now, we are able to offer ongoing pastoral care to people in seven prisons in England and Wales as we roll out the first phase of our new programme. In the next six months, we anticipate having trained Pastoral Care volunteers in a further 20 prisons, before making it available across the prison estate.
Please would you prayerfully consider making a gift today to help us train more volunteers in this vital area and to roll out our Pastoral Care programme to all those in our prisons who need it? Your support will mean that they too can rely on a comforting presence in the depths of their grief.
Yes, I will make a donation.
Your gift will help us continue to support men and women in prison through this crisis, and emerge stronger and ready to reach even more people in Christ’s name. Thank you!
P.S. Ensuring people in prison can process their grief is a stepping stone to them leading a life away from crime. Please do pray for people in prison who are grieving, and ask God how you can help today.
Peter Holloway is the Chief Executive of Prison Fellowship England and Wales.