2023 - June - Gazette - What Is Enough?

By: Jackie Naginey Hook
Thursday, June 29, 2023

What Is Enough?

What is enough? During a recent gathering for elders, I posed this question to the group and was impressed by the wise answers. One woman said that as far as “stuff” was concerned, she had enough. When friends and relatives come to visit, she tells them that if they are planning to bring gifts to only bring ones she can eat, drink, read, or water. Another woman said she is challenged to keep just enough “stuff” for herself, and give the rest away. One participant spoke about not having enough time, while a different person said each day is enough. A sixth participant said she never gets enough of the things in her heart. The elders agreed that we each know when we’ve experienced enough.

This particular group talked about enough in terms of possessions, time, and love. But there are many ways to measure enough. I’ve had conversations with other groups where the discussion led to what it means to do enough, or simply be enough. People who wonder if they are doing or did enough for their families. People who struggle with whether they themselves are enough.

Enough comes up a lot in my work around dying, death, and grief. I remember a conversation I had with a family while sitting on the floor of their den as the family patriarch was actively dying in the next room. There is something about being on the floor, as close to the ground as possible, when we process the deep work of what it means to be human.  I was struck by the concerns of one of the grandchildren. What did it mean to be doing enough for her grandfather at this time? Did it mean being there every possible minute? Or did it mean trusting that enough had already been said and shared over the years so no more needed to be done? Only she could decide.

When it comes to end-of-life concerns, conversations about wishes and desires can really help in deciding what is enough. Sadly, I’ve had many bereaved people share with me that they felt they didn’t do enough for their deceased loved ones. These regrets are painful. Conversely, I’ve had many people describe the comfort they had knowing they did what their loved one wanted. That was enough.

However, please know that it’s never too late to do enough. I encourage people who feel regrets to continue to have “conversations” with their loved ones after they are gone. For example, they can write letters to express their thoughts. They can also write letters they think their loved ones would say back to them. Continuing bonds are important and healthy as long as you don’t get stuck there and stop engaging with life. In this case and countless others, professional support can help. 

In our culture of consumerism, advertisers want us to believe that we never have enough. But when it comes to dying, death, and grief, is there enough? Enough is what the bodies, minds, hearts, and souls of those involved determine.

Contemplating dying, death, and grief can feel like more than enough for many of us. There is no one right way to do these things. There are only our individual ways. Allowing ourselves to experience the full spectrum of human emotions is hard but it also opens us to the alchemy of these emotions, even the obscure, dark ones. As psychotherapist and author, Miriam Greenspan, wrote in Healing through the Dark Emotions: The Wisdom of Grief, Fear, and Despair, “In the alchemy of dark emotions, the feelings we resist most are the leaden ore with which we begin. Our ability to attend to, befriend, and mindfully surrender to them is the means by which this lead is alchemized to the gold of spiritual wisdom.” For me, spiritual wisdom is enough.

We hope you join us at one of our upcoming grief education and support gatherings where we’ll continue this conversation about enough:

More information can be found on the Bereavement Gatherings and Events page of 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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