Life in death

We live life to the full at L'Arche. And we hope to celebrate people's lives, even in the face of diminishment and death. We have forty year's experience in accompanying people who are aging or dying. This is our story: celebrating life

Integrating the reality of loss and death into daily experience

It is essential for any healthy Community to be allowed to speak openly about death and to acknowledge the sadness and other complex emotions we feel when someone we love dies. This openness to the subject of death should be part of the culture of daily life whenever it arises spontaneously.

The familiar rites and rituals that a Community follows in the event of death can help to prepare a person in thinking about their own death and the death of those who are especially close. Speaking about death, without dogma or confusing euphemisms, makes it easier to talk openly.

When fears or anxieties are faced and shared it is easier to rest in ‘not knowing’ and to find freedom in the present moment.

People who have died continue to be remembered - through stories, images and simple rituals, like visiting a grave with flowers.

This is also a sign to others that, after death, they too will live on the memories of their friends and in their place of belonging.

The process of grieving and recovery

Grieving can take a very long time, even ten or more years.

Some people might refuse to visit the grave of a loved one or to attend other funerals. They might be unable to tolerate any mention of death, or a particular hymn, or anything which triggers sadness. People responsible for their support and care should be told if there is a history of significant loss that might surface even after a long time and not just assume that all is well.

For others, talking at every opportunity about a relative who die long ago might be a habit of seeking to meet a deeper (life-long) need for sympathy or attention, not related to that particular loss. But it could reflect the pain of exclusion from the funeral of a parent or a friend (for whatever reason) or some other lack of understanding or support at the time of death. Counsellors who are skilled in supporting people with learning disabilities can often help to attend delayed or unresolved grief. The faithful presence of a long-term friend or assistant who can be alongside someone in their daily life can also be supportive.

How we respond to loss, death and grief is a sign of how we share life together – our search to find life in death.

If you would like to see parts 2 – 4 mentioned in the resource, please email:

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Celebrating life in the face of death (PDF)


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