2022 - October - Gazette - Healing Through the Holidays

By: Jackie Naginey Hook
Friday, October 28, 2022


Healing Through the Holidays

Growing up, my older sister had a poster of a sad clown in her bedroom with the words, “Share with me my sadness and I’ll share with you my joy.” That sentiment resonated with me. Who knows, maybe it was a foreshadowing of the path my life’s work would take around dying, death and grief.

When you’re grieving a loss, finding people to share your sadness isn’t always easy. Friends and family members have good intentions but they often don’t know how to best be there for you. At one of our grief education and support gatherings we asked the participants to think of the person who had been most helpful to them on their grief journeys. Every person chosen was someone who had experienced a significant loss themselves.

It is hard to know how to be present with someone who is grieving if we haven’t lived with grief in our lives. We naturally want to try to fix and/or take away their pain. The reality is, we can’t do either of these things because we can’t bring their loved ones back.

Author, death educator and grief counselor, Alan Wolfelt, Ph. D., believes that when it comes to providing grief support, the people in our lives can be placed in one of three categories. One third will be helpful, one third will be neutral and one third will be harmful to us.      

Most of us would like to be in that helpful third and Wolfelt offers eleven tenets of companioning the bereaved to help get us there:

  • Tenet One: Companioning is about being present to another person’s pain; it is not about taking away the pain.
  • Tenet Two: Companioning is about going to the wilderness of the soul with another human being’ it is not about thinking you are responsible for finding the way out.
  • Tenet Three: Companioning is about honoring the spirit; it is not about analyzing with the head.
  • Tenet Four: Companioning is about listening with the heart’ it is not about analyzing with the head.
  • Tenet Five: Companioning is about bearing witness to the struggles of others; it is not about judging or directing these struggles.
  • Tenet Six: Companioning is about walking alongside; it is not about leading.
  • Tenet Seven: Companioning is about discovering the gifts of sacred silence; it does not mean filling up every moment with words.
  • Tenet Eight: Companioning is about being still; it is not about frantic movement forward.
  • Tenet Nine: Companioning is about respecting disorder and confusion it is not about imposing order and logic.
  • Tenet Ten: Companioning is about learning from others; it is not about teaching them.
  • Tenet Eleven: Companioning is about compassionate curiosity; it is not about expertise.

These tenets help take the pressure off of when we’re supporting a griever. We can be present to their pain, but we aren’t responsible for saying or doing something to make the pain go away. I believe we all have the power within us to heal, and companioning others with these tenets helps them access that healing.

We can also use these tenets to help companion ourselves. When we stop trying to fix, understand and control what we’re feeling, and instead listen and allow ourselves to experience the grief, we’re on a healing trajectory.

Healing through the Holidays is a six-week series where we’ll each be companioned while discussing how to companion ourselves through the holiday season. The holidays can be a challenging time for those who are mourning and these virtual gatherings provide a safe place to learn and share. We will meet on Tuesdays, November 15 through December 20 from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Zoom.

Healing through the Holidays will also provide the opportunity for sharing our joy, just as my sister’s poster said. When we share our sorrow, it makes sharing our joy even sweeter. As writer and painter Kahlil Gibran wrote in his poem, “On Joy and Sorrow,” “Some of you say, ‘Joy is greater than sorrow,’ and others say, ‘Nay, sorrow is the greater.’ But I say unto you, they are inseparable. Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.”

In that same poem, Gibran writes, “The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.” You are invited to the following upcoming education and support programs to spend time with both your sorrow and joy:

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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