2022 - October - CDT - Active Life - Allowing Nature to Help Us Heal

By: Jackie Naginey Hook
Sunday, October 9, 2022

Allowing Nature to Help Us Heal 

“Instead of seeing natural things as merely objects to be used, we must allow nature to enchant us.” These words of writer and Franciscan priest Richard Rohr ring true for me. Nature always enchants me and helps me heal.

One weekend this fall my husband and I went for a walk on a path along a stream in Amherst, New York before attending our son’s college football game. It was a beautiful morning in a nice park -- one with many trees planted and decorated in honor of lost loved ones. We were appreciating our surroundings while we participated in this blue-green exercise – with both water and flora – and reaping its many benefits.

As we walked down the path, a leaf in front of us caught my eye. It had fallen from its tree and started to fold in on itself due to lack of water. The shape it formed spoke to me. I saw a hand making the American Sign Language sign for “I love you.” Needless to say, this leaf accompanied us back to our hotel room.

Of course I had to share my find with our two children. I took a picture and sent it to our family chat. The reactions were priceless. Our kids normally expect to get pictures from me of all the “hearts” I find in nature, for example stones and leaves in the shape of hearts. But this picture had them befuddled. After they figured it out, one text I got said, “I was so confused for a while. I literally just thought it was a leaf.”

To many people, it was just a leaf. But to me, it was enchanted. It was a leaf in the shape of “I love you,” reminding me of the abundant love in the world. This reminder helped me release a little piece of a small loss I was grieving. Losses come in all different shapes and sizes.

Nature helps us heal. Science has shown that spending time with nature improves both our physical and psychological wellbeing. Nature benefits our emotional and spiritual health as well. When we’re grieving the loss of a loved one, nature shows us countless examples of birth, life, death, and rebirth, providing hope for our journeys. And, as in my case, nature can enchant us.

In conjunction with Centre Region Parks and Recreation (CRPR), Koch Funeral Home’s Helping Grieving Hearts Heal program offers two programs with opportunities for those who lost loved ones to engage with nature. I’ve seen many examples of nature helping participants connect and heal in these programs.

The first is “A Walk with Grief.” A Walk with Grief is not an exercise program but instead a time of coming together with others who are grieving a loss and… walking. Walking to move grief from the inside to the outside. Walking to benefit from physical activity. Walking to connect with the healing aspects of nature. And walking to know you’re not alone. You can speak and share with others, or you can move about in silence. The important thing is to show up. Sessions will be held at different parks in our community from 8 to 9 a.m. on Tuesdays, October 11, 18 and 25.

The second is “Monday’s Moments In-Person Education and Support Gatherings.” When we bring our grief and mourning to nature, it can help decrease our pain in the moment while also helping us heal in the long run. These special “Monday’s Moments In-Person Gatherings” have the added healing benefit of nature. They’ll be held on the third Monday of the month from noon to 1:30 p.m. at various CRPR and downtown State College locations, where we’ll have the opportunity to enjoy the surroundings and spend some time outdoors. Please register for both of these programs at www.CRPR.org.

Below are details on these and other upcoming gatherings:

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.

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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