Honouring lost loved ones during November

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Bridget Sakr and Anthony Cleary in Bridget’s home. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

A bereavement support initiative of Bridget Sakr, whose young daughter Veronique was killed along with three cousins by a car in 2020, will be launched in Sydney Catholic Schools this November.

It is aimed at supporting the ‘forgotten grievers’ – children who experience grief and loss. Bridget also hopes it will foster understanding in wider school communities as well as a healthy spirituality around grief that is based on faith in Jesus Christ.

Bridget launched heartFELT (Families Experiencing Loss and Trauma) last November with support from the Grief Care team at Catholic Cemeteries and Crematoria. She wanted to address a gap in the services of many grief counsellors and psychologists that she became aware of after her family’s tragedy due to an intoxicated driver in which Antony, Angelique and Sienna Abdallah also died.

‘we want to let kids know that sadness and grief is a normal part of life.’ – Bridget Sakr

Anthony Cleary, Director of the Mission and Identity Directorate at Sydney Catholic Schools, said that the collaboration with heartFELT “will enrich our school communities during the month of November as we remember those who we have lost and encourage accompaniment and sharing through grief”.

He is encouraging schools to include all or even just one or two suggested heartFELT initiatives during the month, which begins with the feasts of All Saints (1 November) and All Souls (2 November) and is traditionally a time of remembering loved ones and all who have died.

“One of the realities of life is our mortality, and the Church offers us an opportunity during this month to recover a sense of the joy and gratitude in celebrating the person who is no longer with us in a physical way, to pray for them and for all who mourn them,” Anthony said.

Bridget Sakr holds photos of her daughter, Veronique, and her nephew and nieces Anthony, Angelique and Sienna Abdallah. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

“It’s also important to pray for the people who have no one to remember or pray for them. People who are grieving also need to be well-supported, particularly when there is an unexpected loss as there is a chance that a person may react in a way that fractures their relationship with God and others.

“Each year we have school communities that have tragically lost students or parents so November is another opportunity the Church gives us to acknowledge and celebrate those who died.”

Bridget said she is delighted that heartFELT has the support of Catholic schools, because its values are perfectly suited to their communities.

“It is about creating hope, peace and kindness towards one another in a community of faith, because we all have these experiences,” she said. “If we look at Jesus, who is our role model, he was sad and cried at times, so we want to let kids know that sadness and grief is a normal part of life.

“They can express their grief or sadness about someone they love who is no longer with them and that can be done in as many different ways the school may like to facilitate. We just want to encourage them to be open about how they are feeling, and reassure them that’s it’s ok and they don’t need to feel that they can’t talk about it.”

The Mission and Identity Team will also launch an uplifting song produced by John Burland and Dominique Farah, and sung by a virtual choir, commemorating lost loved ones during November.

Suggestions for schools during November include:

– Holding a Celebration of Liturgy or Prayer Service around 1 November, All Souls’ Day, for loved ones who have died

– Creating a digital Book of Remembrance

– Creating prayer spaces dedicated to loved lost ones in classrooms or other places around the school

– A mufti day focused on the colour blue (Veronique’s favourite colour and the heartFELT signature colour)

– Asking children to share stories of grief and loss through creative writing or art activities

– Inviting a member of the wider community such a refugee to share some of their story of loss, grief and hope

Connect with the HeartFELT prayer and support community:

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/heartfeltprayerandsupport
Instagram https://www.instagram.com/heartfeltcommunity/?hl=en