2023 - September - Gazette - Existing Elsewhere
A few years ago I sat with a handful of adults’s in a grief gathering and listened as one mother shared her story. She told us about the moments before and after her young child’s unexpected and sudden death. Her descriptions brought us into those memories with her. Every word was infused with the love and sorrow she felt. We felt honored to have been invited into her story. I don’t think any one of us will ever forget that night. Nothing else existed for us as she spoke. We were totally present.
Similarly, at a recent grief education and support group gathering, eleven of us sat around a table and checked in with one another. Everyone spoke about the losses that brought them to this group. They also spoke about what was on their hearts at that time. There were tears and there was laughter. Everyone recognized parts of themselves in the others’ stories. Some of the grief moved from the inside to the outside and was lightened a little. The room was full of stories of love and loss. Again, nothing else existed as we all shared. We were totally present.
I read that the Aramaic word for death translates as “existing elsewhere.” At these support gatherings, none of us existed elsewhere. We were very much present to every minute and very much alive. I see this again and again as we come together in our grief. So many of us fear the death that means the end of our lives in these bodies. But what about the death we experience all of the time when we “exist elsewhere?”
I encourage you to think through your days. Where do you spend most of your time? When I was asked this question recently, I realized I spent much of my time in my head – sometimes with thoughts about the future and worries about the past. I was existing elsewhere. Instead, when I got in touch with my body, heart, and soul, I moved into the present.
As we all know and talk about, our world is full of many distractions that take us out of the present. We have technology at our fingertips and interacting with that makes us exist elsewhere almost the entire time – maybe not for example, when we’re talking to someone, writing from our heart, listening to a guided meditation, etc. But much of our modern world causes us to exist elsewhere.
That is one of the gifts I’ve found in my work around dying, death, and grief. Conversations about these topics bring people into the now. It doesn’t mean that the now is always happy. But it does mean that people are engaging with their emotions and feelings. That’s part of what it means to be human. Grief is a natural reaction to loss. It is messy and hard and when you allow yourself to be present to it, grief becomes healing, as you exist, right here, right now.
When it comes to dying, death, and grief, it’s not only conversations that move the grief and bring you into the here and now. Spending time in nature, with animals, in a safe community, meditating, creating something, journaling, and practicing gratitude are other ways as well.
Footprints in the Field is offering one such opportunity each day in October during Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. If you and/or anyone you know has experienced a pregnancy or infant loss, you’re invited to stop by the remembrance garden on the grounds of Harvest Fields, 150 Harvest Fields Drive, Boalsburg. While there you can honor the losses, enjoy the beautiful surroundings, and receive some material to help you participate in the Global Way of Light on October 15th, Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.
You’ve probably heard some version of the expression, “Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. But today is a gift, and that is why it’s called the present.” I’m grateful for the many times people have given me the present of being in the moment as they’ve shared their stories of love and loss. We invite you to join us at the following gatherings where you’ll be given this same present to move some of your grief.
- A Walk with Grief in partnership with Centre Region Parks & Recreation on Tuesdays, October 3 and 10 from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. at local parks.
- Monday’s Moments Virtual Gathering on Mondays October 9 from noon to 1:30 p.m..
- Stories of Loss In-Person Gathering on Tuesdays, October 10 and 24 from 4:30 to 6:00 p.m. at Juniper at Brookline, 1950 Cliffside Drive, State College.
- Virtual Grief Healing Circle on Wednesdays, October 11 from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m..
- Monday’s Moments In-Person Gathering in partnership with Centre Region Parks & Recreation Program on Mondays, October 16 from noon to 1:30 p.m. at Sunset Park, 850 McKee St., State College.
- Death Café Virtual Gathering on Mondays, October 16 from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m..
- Med-Knit-ations: Knitting Our Hearts Back Together in partnership with Centre Region Parks & Recreation on Tuesdays, October 17 from 12:00 to 1:30 p.m. at Tom Tudek Memorial Park, Pavilion 1, 400 Herman Drive, State College.
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.