2019 - April - Gazette - Stories of Loss
Stories of Loss
I sat in a circle of nearly twenty women. Our facilitator looked at one of the women and asked, “What are you most present to?” That woman began to share a story about herself which answered the facilitator’s question. When the participant said as much as she needed to in that moment, the woman to her right began to share. This continued around the circle until everyone had the opportunity to say what they needed to say. Women shared about broken relationships, health issues, financial concerns and deaths – losses of all kinds. When the circle of sharing was done, we moved to another activity without processing any of what had been said. Yet, healing had occurred. I was struck by the power of storytelling.
Years later, I had the honor of creating and officiating a memorial service for a beloved wife, mother, grandmother and sister. I shared stories of her life as did others who were there. Her husband of more than 50 years told me afterwards that he thought he would cry a lot during the service, but instead he mostly smiled. Hearing the stories of his wife’s life comforted him. Again, I was struck by the healing power of storytelling.
Every month at our Monday’s Moments Luncheon, I invite people to share what they want about the loss that brought them to the gathering. A widow who had been attending for several months spoke of her husband’s lengthy illness, his death, and the gifts he gave her along the way. Later she told me she now understood the power of sharing her story. It helped her reconcile her grief and make her life new again. More reasons to believe in the healing power of storytelling.
It’s not just my experiences that support this power, research does as well. Our mental and physical health can be positively affected by storytelling and listening. And when it comes to storytelling about loss, it is known as a healing art.
We are offering an opportunity for those who have lost loved ones to participate in this healing art through Stories of Loss: A Grief Education and Support Group. Using Alan Wolfelt, PhD’s book, Understanding Your Grief: Ten Essential Touchstones for Finding Hope and Healing Your Heart, as a guide, we will meet for six sessions and discuss the following topics:
- Opening to the presence of our losses.
- Dispelling misconceptions about grief.
- Embracing the uniqueness of our grief.
- Exploring what we might experience.
- Recognizing we are not crazy.
- Understanding the six needs of mourning.
- Nurturing ourselves.
- Reaching out for help.
- Seeking reconciliation, not resolution.
- Appreciating our transformations.
This series will be held every Wednesday from May 15 through June 19 from 3:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. at Juniper Village at Brookline, 1950 Cliffside Drive, State College, PA 16801. I will be co-facilitating this series with Brenda Oyler Kim, MSW, LCSW, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker at Juniper.
When you lose a loved one, having support helps you on your healing journey and it is powerful to realize you are not alone. In this Grief Education and Support Group, sharing your stories is by invitation, not demand. Simply hearing others stories can be healing too. Please RSVP by calling Brenda at (814) 235-2010.
In addition to the Stories of Loss, other upcoming events are:
- Monday’s Moments Complimentary Luncheon – “Loss. What Never Changes?” Monday, May 6 from 12:00 to 1:30 p.m. at the Courtyard by Marriott, 1730 University Drive, State College – Author Elizabeth Gilbert once said, “The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.” These strange jewels are there when we lose a loved one and although the world around us totally changes, the jewels remain the same. At this gathering, we’ll discuss how to attend to these deepest parts of ourselves as we journey through grief. Please email Jackie@JackieHook.com, call 814-404-0546 to RSVP by Wednesday, May 1.
- Monday’s Moments Complimentary Luncheon – “Grief. Companions Come in Many Forms,” Monday, June 3 from 12:00 to 1:30 p.m. at the Courtyard by Marriott, 1730 University Drive, State College – Having companions with us on our grief journeys is incredibly helpful. And these companions come in many shapes and sizes, for example, loved ones, friends, support group members, mental health professionals, clergy members, spiritual directors, pets and other animals. At this gathering, we’ll discuss the importance of grief companions and the variety of places to find them. Please email Jackie@JackieHook.com, call 814-404-0546 to RSVP by Wednesday, May 29.
For more information about these programs, please visit the Koch Funeral Home website’s Bereavement Gatherings and Events section under the Local Resources tab. All of these events are open to the public and space is limited. And if you want to learn about other grief support programs in our community, including faith-based ones, please visit www.griefconnection.org.
We hope you join us. Your story matters!
Jackie 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