2022 - May - Gazette - Embrace the Journey

By: Jackie Naginey Hook
Thursday, May 26, 2022

Embrace the Journey

I was facilitating a grief support group and discussing Alan Wolfelt’s six needs of mourners – acknowledge the reality of the death; embrace the pain of the loss; remember the person who died; develop a new self-identity; search for meaning; and receive ongoing support from others. During a brief break in the gathering, one participant approached me and said, “Embrace is too kind of a word in relation to the pain of loss. I don’t want to embrace the pain.”

Embrace is from the Old French word embracier that means to “clasp in the arms.” Is it too kind to clasp the pain of the loss in your arms? And what does that really mean?

Although it is counterintuitive, my own experience and that of others I’ve companioned on grief journeys has taught me that clasping the pain in our arms is one of the ways we can move it from the inside to the outside. Grief is what we feel on the inside and mourning is moving it to the outside. Embracing our pain enables us to begin to mourn.

Clasping the pain of the loss in our arms can take many forms – we can talk, cry, scream, shout, write, run, create art, etc. I remember when I began to really trust that clasping the pain of loss in my arms was ultimately a kindness to myself.

It was on a beautiful blue sky day in September 2012. On that day, for the first time ever, both of our children chose to go to school instead of homeschooling. While my husband was out of town, our daughter drove herself to high school and I walked with our son to his sixth grade class at our neighborhood charter school. I felt excitement for all of us as well as a sadness for the loss of a way of life we enjoyed together for 12 years. On my walk home, I could sense the grief following me, trying to settle in.

I didn’t want anything to do with it. My pace quickened as I tried to outrun the grief. I arrived at home and entered an empty house – an empty house was extremely rare since my husband worked from home and as I said, we had been a homeschooling family. I made a beeline for my favorite spot in the house and sat on the couch in our master bedroom while looking out at the mountain range. I was trying hard to keep the grief away, but eventually decided to clasp it in my arms. I felt it take over all of me and in an empty house that meant I didn’t have to worry about someone hearing me and being concerned. I clasped that grief and took my time. I moved it for as long as I needed. I moved it to the outside in whatever way that felt right. I moved it until there was nothing left to move.

I then got up from the couch and went about my day feeling lighter and without the grief lingering. Obviously, this loss was less consuming than the death of a loved one and I’m not implying that feeling grief in one morning means you’ll be done with it. Grief takes the time it takes and every loss is different. My point is simply to share that for this one situation, having the freedom to clasp my grief in my arms afforded me the opportunity to release much of it. I once read that grief needs to be contained in order to be released. Clasping the pain in my arms contained it enough to release much of it.

Many people have told me that the fear of grief is often harder than the grief itself. When I feel the pain following me now, I try to remember to contain it in my arms and then release it piece by piece.

We invite you to the following upcoming gatherings where you’ll find safe containers to release some of your pain of loss:

For more information, please visit the Bereavement Gatherings and Events page on the Koch Funeral Home website. To reserve your spot and receive the invitation links, email Jackie@JackieHook.com, call 814-237-2712 or visit the Koch Funeral Home Facebook page @kochFH. If there are changes to our in-person gatherings because of COVID, we will provide updates on the website.

Jackie Naginey Hook, MA, is a spiritual director, celebrant and end-of-life doula.  She coordinates the Helping Grieving Hearts Heal program through Koch Funeral Home in State College.  For more information, please call 814-237-2712 or visit www.kochfuneralhome.com.


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