As we remember our departed loved-ones on All Souls Day (2 November 2020) a word of hope is offered to the bereaved by Elizabeth Partridge.
Elizabeth is a qualified relationship counsellor, the Marriage and Family Life Team Coordinator for the Kent Pastoral Area of the Archdiocese of Southwark, and she leads "Grief in Loss, Hope in Christ" retreats for the bereaved at Aylesford Carmelite Priory.
Speaking from Aylesford Priory during the Covid-19 pandemic, Elizabeth recalls that November is traditionally when we remember the dead, including those who have died in war (Remembrance Day), and this year, those who have died because of the coronavirus.
November takes on an extra significance for all those who have had a loved-one die. The month can be a time of particular grief but also of prayer.
Elizabeth invites us to listen to the hymn "Be Still My Soul", sung by the Carmelite Friars at Aylesford (from the album "Timeless Echo").
Elizabeth speaks of her own bereavement following the death of her husband Ray in 2016, after 46 years of marriage. Her soul was not still; she became overactive so that she didn't have to think about what had happened.
Eventually, she experienced a time of peace and let the Lord take over. It was the beginning of a journey into silent prayer. Elizabeth can now listen to the hymn “Be Still My Soul” and know that the words are for her and everyone who reaches out to God’s protective love: “Be still my soul, your God will undertake to guide the future as he has the past.”
Elizabeth reads the poem “Thoughts”, which speaks of the experience of God’s love in silent prayer. In moments of silence, peace can descend on you, giving the ability – although not easily – to overcome the multitude of emotions that arise with grief: depression; loneliness; panic; guilt; anger and resentment.
Silent prayer and expressions of the love of God through other people’s kindness have helped Elizabeth to accept the reality of life as it is now, and live with hope.
Elizabeth has found new meaning and comfort in the ancient prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the “Memorare”; it says we are never left unaided when in need of protection.
Elizabeth still finds days and moments when she feels sad and alone, but she had learned, most of the time, to accept those feelings, and to turn to God and her departed loved-one in prayer.
Love never fades, but in bereavement we adjust to a different life.
“Be still my soul, the Lord is on your side.”
Elizabeth concludes her reflection with prayer for those who have died.
Elizabeth recommends to those wanting to know more about silent prayer Fr. Benignus O’Rourke’s book “Finding Your Hidden Treasure: The Way of Silent Prayer” (Darton, Longman & Todd, 2010).