What hurts the most?
This article first appeared in the October 2017 edition of Itchen Valley News
Most of us like to think we are people who care. We like to think we care about our families, our friends, our neighbours and our colleagues at work. Sometimes we know what is going on in another person’s life and sometimes we don’t. Many of us put on a brave face and don’t let on what is really going on beneath the surface. It’s much the same for us as a church. We want to care for people in our communities and we want to show that God cares, but do we really know what is going on under the surface of people’s lives? In order to find out the things that people in our local community are really finding difficult in life, we joined with 59 churches across Hampshire in stepping outside of our church buildings to find out what really hurts the people around us.
The first stage has been to listen to what people say is going on in their lives. We asked people one question in an anonymous survey. The question was, ‘What hurts you the most?’ The question was asked by taking question cards into our community and asking people to fill in their answers. Some churches took the cards to shops and cafes and local events. We decided to go door to door. A group of people from our village churches walked around our four villages. I’m so grateful to everyone who took part in this and I want to say a big thank you both to everybody who took the cards around and to everybody who answered question. The reception we got as we went around was almost always one of great warmth and interest. The most unexpected thing was how long it took to do the survey because so many people wanted to have a chat and find out more about what we were doing. We think we received replies from about half of the households in our four villages.
Once we had gathered in all the cards, the next stage was to enter the response into a computer programme. The responses were allocated categories and sub-categories so they could be analysed. The main categories were: ‘Death’, ‘Relationships’, ‘Family’, ‘Physical Suffering’, ‘Money’, ‘Negative emotions’, ‘Loneliness’, ‘Injustice’ and ‘Other’.
The whole survey of Hampshire had 11,798 responses and here in Itchen Valley we had 283 responses. These responses were then categorised into one of the 8 main categories.
Death included hurts such as death of family and friends, fear of death, abortion and death of people around the world.
Relationships included friendships, romantic relationships, lies and betrayal, arguments, rejection, bullying, selfishness, unkindness and seeing loved ones in pain.
Family included hurts such as family death, family illness, parenting, money related problems, time and work-life balance, marriage, absence of family, broken relationships and family members hurting.
Physical Suffering included illness, physical injury, fear of illness, being a carer, additional needs such as disability or learning difficulties, NHS, addiction, pain and suffering, aging and tiredness.
Money included family, housing, poverty, bills and living costs, work and income, debt, food and retirement.
Negative Emotions included mental health, fear and anxiety, stress, age, work and time, addiction, lack of support, family, sadness, anger, pressure and love and hate.
Loneliness included loneliness caused by death, illness, family, age, friendship, living alone and lack of a partner.
Injustice included suffering, war, terrorism, homelessness, poverty, crime, politics, local issues, inequality, natural disasters.
Other included responses which didn’t fit into any of the above categories.
Where there was crossover between the categories in the responses, the responses were allocated more than one category. In total there were 15,123 categorisations in the Hampshire wide survey.
The largest areas of hurt in Itchen Valley were Negative Emotions, Family and Relationships. The same results were found across Hampshire with slightly different percentages. Locally 15.93% of the overall number of categorisations were Negative Emotions, 18.88% were Family and 22.12% were Relationships. The smallest areas of hurt in Itchen Valley were Loneliness at 5.01% and Money at 3.38%. Again this was similar to the findings across Hampshire. It’s important to note that the survey did not record the level of pain or the level of urgency. Although Loneliness and Money seem to affect the fewest people, it will often be these areas where people need most help and love and support.
The pie chart and table below show the percentages of responses in each category out of the total number of categorisations.
It is also important to consider what the most prevalent hurts are within each of these categories, as they are quite broad. These results are reflected across Hampshire. I’m going to quote below some responses from the Hampshire survey, together with an exploration of what came up under each category, but we had very similar responses locally.
Relationships was the most common category in Itchen valley. Across the survey, a quarter of the responses that linked to Relationships were of Unkindness. These responses ranged from people being unkind to the individual or to their friends and family as well as them witnessing others being unkind to each other. Examples of responses linked to unkindness included; ‘How thoughtless and nasty people can be to each other’, ‘and ‘It hurts when people are unkind to my friends.’
The second largest thread within Relationships was Friendships.
Lastly another big issue within Relationships was lies and betrayal which highlighted issues of trust, cheating, betrayal and effects of lying. Examples of responses within lies and betrayal include ‘People being untruthful and not trustworthy when I was relying on them’ and ‘People are telling lies about me at work.’
Other areas of relationship which were highlighted within the survey were arguments, selfishness, concern for other people’s relationships, bullying, rejection and people treating each other with inequality.
The second most popular category in Itchen Valley was Family, of which Family Illness was the most common hurt. Family Illness included responses such as ‘My mum has dementia and there is nothing I can do to help’ and ‘I am worried about how my children are coping because I have cancer’. After Family Illness, the next most common sub-category was parenting. These responses were either from people who were currently experiencing problems with their parenting such as ‘I worry about how to keep my children safe’ or from people who have or are experiencing issues with their parent’s parenting like ‘My Mummy and Daddy shout at me when I am naughty. It makes me feel scared’ or ‘My parents didn’t show me love when I was growing up.’ There were also hurts within Family linked to money, time, death, family members hurting, absence of family, marriage, concerns over their family’s future and broken relationships within families.
Within the category of Negative Emotions we can see that Negative Emotions linked to Family were the most common hurt. These were responses such as, ‘Worrying about my Elderly Parents’, ‘I’m finding it hard to cope with the worries that come with being a parent’ and ‘Watching my children suffer from anxiety due to the pressures from school and society’.
This was followed by Feelings about Work and Time such as ‘I find work-life balance difficult to manage’ and ‘Work is too stressful.’ Other issues that were raised in the category of Negative Emotions were fear and anxiety, mental health, stress, addiction, feelings about age, lack of support, sadness, anger and aggression, pressure and feelings of love and hate.
The next step for us as a church is to reflect on how to respond to the answers we received in the survey. The survey shows that the main area that people are finding hardest to cope with are relationships. We are going to have two talks in the autumn in our church services directly linked to this.
Talk on Negative Emotions ‘Finding hope – when I feel blue’ Sunday 8th October 10am at St John’s Itchen Abbas
Talk on Relationships Finding hope – when relationships are difficult – Sunday 26th November 10am at Martyr Worthy
Please do come along. You are very welcome whether you normally come to church or not.
Our church also runs several groups that might be of interest to you or to someone you know locally. All are groups where you can find friendship and support. Please contact the Parish Office for more information (01962 779845 Tues-Thurs 10am-1pm firstname.lastname@example.org)
Little Rainbows Our group for parents (or carers) and babies/toddlers Monday 10-11am St John’s Itchen Abbas
CAMEO Monthly lunch (with informal communion) on Tuesdays for over 65s St John’s Itchen Abbas
Free to Be provides a place of neutrality for those struggling with their emotional well being; to meet together to talk and share their personal stories in a safe, anonymous and non-judgemental environment.
Free to Be is not a place for treatment or counselling. The meetings are not about therapy. They provide a space where people can talk openly with others who understand how they are feeling without worrying about judgement.
Wednesday mornings St John’s Church, Itchen Abbas during school term dates.
Bereavement Journey 6 week course on Monday evenings starting in November 6th St John’s Itchen Abbas