You can learn the most amazing facts about people at their funerals. Things that you never knew about their hobbies or interests, or the detail of what they did throughout their career that in some cases, made a real difference to the lives of others. There is that moment of regret, with a moistness in the eye, that you never got to speak to them about these things, and that the opportunity has now, in this life, been lost for ever.
Whilst these recollections are generally humorous or poignant, very occasionally you learn about an issue or set of circumstances that impacted on the deceased to such an extent that you wonder how they managed to keep it all together, in the face of such adversity. How you never knew about the pain, emotional or physical, that dogged them for so long. Here the regret is about not knowing how you might have been able to help or supply advice, or offer care, even in a small way.
Our safeguarding training emphasises the fact that it’s hard to tell someone else what may have happened to you. Whether as a child or adult, the process of disclosing abuse is surrounded by a complex set of familial, personal and situational factors that can make it so difficult to speak out, that the power of secrecy which infects so many abusive relationships wins out again.
The Church is working hard to make the process of disclosure easier, linked to the idea of swift and easy access to advice, guidance and appropriate pastoral care. There are examples in the courts just now that illustrate how in later life, it is possible to speak about what happened in childhood and seek justice. But equally we know that many people will carry their painful secrets to the end, and these are the type of stories that will never work their way into funereal tributes.
Whether it’s about enabling children to be confident about telling someone straightaway or providing space for an adult to disclose past hurt when they are feel safe and ready to do so, it’s essential for the Church to make sure the opportunity and the practical arrangements are fully in place before it’s too late.