2021 - January - Gazette - Heartfelt Support

By: Jackie Naginey Hook
Thursday, January 28, 2021

Heartfelt Support

Many of you may know that the root of the word courage is “cor,” the Latin word for heart. It takes courage to listen to our hearts.

Fortunately for us, our brains are used to listening to our hearts all the time. According to the HeartMath Institute, our hearts send more signals to our brains than our brains send to our hearts.

In my work, I have the honor and privilege to be with people nearing death, people who have a loved one dying, and people whose loved one has died. I often invite these people to listen to their hearts. At a time when it feels like their hearts are breaking, it takes courage for them to turn to their heart for guidance. Sometimes I’ve seen that courage lead to heartfelt decisions such as:

  • Families bring loved ones home to spend their final days.
  • A husband welcomes others at his wife’s bedside vigil, then welcomes the time he spends with her alone. 
  • Families have difficult conversations about RUGS – Regrets, Unfinished business, Guilt and Shame.
  • Families hold masked and physically distant services, and open them up with remote viewing to loved ones around the world.
  • Support group participants who share stories, tears, and even laughter.

When we listen to our grieving hearts, they often tell us we need support from others. Grief is an individual journey that is best done in community. However, being a part of that community can be challenging.

In one of our support series, we asked the group to think of the person who had been most supportive of them on their grief journeys. Without fail, each person spoke of someone who had experienced a great loss themselves. But if we haven’t experienced a great loss ourselves, how do we know how to best support ourselves and others?

Here again, we can listen to our hearts. Our hearts know how to be a compassionate and healing presence. Alan Wolfelt, Ph.D., created the philosophy of grief companioning. Companioning is about…

  1. Being present to another person’s pain; it is not about taking away the pain.
  2. Going to the wilderness of the soul with another human being; it is not about thinking you are responsible for finding the way out.
  3. Honoring the spirit; it is not about focusing on the intellect.
  4. Listening with the heart; it is not about analyzing with the head.
  5. Bearing witness to the struggles of others; it is not about judging or directing these struggles.
  6. Walking alongside; it is not about leading.
  7. Discovering the gifts of sacred silence; it is not about filling up every moment with words.
  8. Being still; it is not about frantic movement forward.
  9. Respecting disorder and confusion; it is not about imposing order and logic.
  10. Learning from others; it is not about teaching them.
  11. Compassionate curiosity; it is not about expertise.

Whether we are grieving ourselves or companioning others in their grief, we can listen to our hearts and provide heartfelt support. Humans have been grieving for centuries and are hardwired to do it.

If you would like to learn more about heartfelt support, please visit our blog on the Koch Funeral Home website. And if you would like to attend one of our heartfelt gatherings, more information is below:

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 814-404-0546 or visit the Koch Funeral Home Facebook page @kochFH.

As we think about being courageous and listening to our hearts, consider these words from Henri Nouwen, a writer and Catholic priest:

Drinking our cup is not simply adapting ourselves to a bad situation and trying to use it as well as we can. Drinking our cup is a hopeful, courageous, and self-confident way of living. It is standing in the world with head erect, solidly rooted in the knowledge of who we are, facing the reality that surrounds us and responding to it from our hearts.

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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