2023 - November - Gazette - Dare! Silence

By: Jackie Naginey Hook
Thursday, November 30, 2023

A lot goes on in the silence.” These are words I often share because silence is a big part of my work. For example, I ask for moments of silence when officiating at memorial and funeral services. During this silence, I invite people to pray or think of a memory of their loved ones. At the funeral of one family’s patriarch, I can still see the son, sitting up very straight and appearing as if he was trying to leave his body. In those moments of silent reflection, he was able to feel some of the emotion he had been keeping at bay. The silence has much to show us.

Other situations where I call for silence are during grief education and support gatherings. As participants share a little piece of their story and introduce us to their deceased loved ones, it becomes a sacred space filled with the essence of those who are gone. After the last person speaks, I sometimes ask for a moment of silence to honor what has been said and give space to transition into the next phase of our discussion. During one recent gathering, several people commented how the introductions kept us all transfixed in time. The silence holds us together.

I also spend time in silence as an end-of-life doula. Conversations about legacies, unfinished business, and vigil planning lend themselves to many moments of silence. When we’re talking about what matters most, silence allows us to listen to our hidden wholeness. For one family, this meant learning to trust the silence instead of trying to fill it with words. The silence invites us to listen to it.

At many of the gatherings mentioned above, natural moments of silence occur as well. People need silence between the words of their stories of loss. They need silence to check in with themselves and be present to their many emotions. And they need silence to take in what others have said. The silence provides space to move the grief from the inside to the outside.

But a lot of us aren’t comfortable with silence. And in today’s world, silence is often a rarity. Even if there isn’t audible sound, we are often engaged with electronic devices and reading or watching something.

Sitting in silence can stir all kinds of emotions. When we’re busy, and in flurry of activity, we can ignore what is moving inside of us. But when we’re sitting in silence it’s harder to run away from what’s going on inside. And sometimes these emotions are painful. On grief journeys, we might feel sadness, fear, or anger. Feeling these emotions means we’re human. It doesn’t make it easy, but it moves us forward through the wilderness of loss.

I appreciate these words from writer Parker Palmer, “Our culture is so fearful of the silence of death that it worships nonstop noise—perhaps as a secular sign of ‘eternal life’! In the midst of all that noise, small silences can help us become more comfortable with the Great Silence toward which we are all headed. Small silences bring us ‘little deaths,’ which, to our surprise, turn out to be deeply fulfilling.”

You are invited to join us at the following gatherings where we hope you’ll be “deeply fulfilled” by moments of silence.

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 at @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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