Kelly’s faith through childloss and grief

Published: Friday December 2, 2022

Kelly and Abigail OwenToday marks the start of National Grief Awareness Week. Kelly Owen – a mother of five, who works in the Diocese of Gloucester Central Office and lives in Bishop’s Cleeve – shares how she found comfort in Jesus following the death of her eldest child, Abigail, in 2013, and how her faith gave her the courage to live and grieve.

In February 2013, my eldest daughter Abi suddenly collapsed at home and died on our bedroom floor. She’d had a ‘catastrophic’ brain haemorrhage. It was deeply traumatic to witness. Her death was beyond anyone’s understanding, least of all me. She was 12 years old and had been at secondary school just six months – so full of excitement for this new season of her life.

I began to regret every moment I didn’t spend with her, or the times I’d lost my temper, or the missed opportunities just to tell her that I loved her. Guilt overwhelmed me. Her death just didn’t make any sense.

I had chosen to be a Christian as a child but I hadn’t thought much about God for many years. I wasn’t from a religious family and didn’t know many Christians. Life was just too busy. But on the morning that her life support was going to be turned off, at Abi’s bedside, I felt embraced in a deep sense of warmth and love, so much so that I wondered what, or who, it could be.

“…the church welcomed and held our family in those weeks and months after her death.”

Holding our bright, sunny girl’s funeral in our local church seemed the natural choice. Despite not being a member of the worshipping community at that time, the church welcomed and held our family in those weeks and months after her death.

Abi’s death shook not only us but the whole community. We are quite private people, but we knew the funeral was going to be a very public event – it was not just about us, but others too.

The church was packed on the day, the local press waiting at the door to take photos, and while much of the preparation was a blur, we wanted to pay tribute to Abi in a personal way through which everyone could draw comfort.

We chose a wicker coffin covered in gerberas and other bright flowers, and picked songs and readings that were meaningful to us. Seeing so many people coming to say goodbye was heartbreaking and comforting at the same time.

As a family, we felt supported by the strength of the community’s grief; knowing how much she was loved and missed meant a lot to us, and to them too.

Last week, we marked what would be Abi’s 22nd birthday, so it’s poignant that National Grief Awareness Week has followed a week after. Since Abi’s death, and through our grief, we have found a new normal. We’ve had two more children – a son and a daughter. And we’re now part of a worshipping community, living in the hope that being followers of Jesus brings. Through the emotional rollercoaster that is grief, I’ve learned that God uses all things for good. Going from our world falling apart, thinking our own lives were over, I believe that God has continued to bless us. Not to replace our losses, but to ease our sorrow with deeper joy and eternal hope.


Kelly created a colourful version of Doris Stickney’s The Dragonfly Story, available online, which can comfort those losing a loved one.

National Grief Awareness Week runs from 2-8 December 2022, sharing events that open up the conversation around loss and bereavement across the country.

For more information about church funerals in the Diocese of Gloucester, visit: Funerals – Diocese of Gloucester (

National Grief Awareness Week 2022 logo

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