2023 - March - Gazette - Going Home

By: Jackie Naginey Hook
Thursday, March 30, 2023

Going Home

“Going home is powerful.”

F. Glenn Fleming, Koch Funeral Home funeral director and supervisor, shared these words at a recent community presentation for those interested in preparing for the end of life. He was referring to how families often want their loved ones to “go home” after their deaths – a common innate desire. At Koch Funeral Home, this “going home” sometimes involves bringing people back to State College, and other times it involves sending them to different countries all over the world.

Glenn’s comment made me wonder, what does ”going home” mean?

“Going home” can mean a geographic location as Glenn was describing. That may be a country, city, town, house, or building. I had a strong sense of this type of “going home” when we were living in Orlando, Florida. One weekend I traveled back to State College to attend a good friend’s wedding and as we flew into Happy Valley, I saw the mountains and farmland and knew with every ounce of my being that I was “going home.” Many of us have heard about this kind of “going home” in the lyrics from a familiar Christmas carol, “I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams.”

It can mean that feeling of belonging. According to researchers Roy F. Baumeister and Mark R. Leary, the desire to belong stems from our evolutionary needs to survive and procreate. These needs are met through connections and interpersonal relationships. When we’re with “our people,” it can feel like we’re “going home.” Just as the expression says, “Home is where the heart is.” I experience this kind of “going home” when I’m with my family.

“Going home” can also mean coming home to yourself. Psychologist and author Rick Hanson, Ph.D., writes that, “…our true home is not a physical location, but our fundamental nature as human beings, the resting state of body and mind.” I might include the other dimensions of the self, the resting state of the heart and soul. When my bare feet are sitting on the grass during my husband’s and my daily grounding practice, I come home to myself.

For some religious traditions, “going home” can mean life after death and/or the place deep within where the Divine resides. “Going home” within has been a big part of my spiritual experience.  

And as naturalist and conservationist John Muir wrote, “Going to the woods is going home; for I suppose we came from the woods originally.” This sentiment rings true for me every time I cross the threshold into the woods.

“Going home” can be problematic though. For example, if “home” is not a safe and comfortable place, “going home” isn’t a desirable feeling or thing to do.

When we lose a loved one, “going home” changes. We miss our in-person connections and feel alone in our physical locations.

But in time, when we’re ready, we can start looking for feelings of “going home” that are still possible. Some might be new and found through activities like journaling, meeting others in education and support groups, and creatively expressing our grief. Still others might have always been there and never changed. Author Paula D’Arcy believes, “When you turn inward and see what really can never be touched, and what never died, and what remains unbroken, then you have the ingredients that will take you. They define the path.”

The path to “going home” in grief is different and unique for each of us. It’s important to be kind, compassionate, and nurturing to ourselves along the way. Getting support is important too.

Whether “going home” for you is building relationships, looking within, or going to the woods, we have upcoming programs available for you.

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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