2021 - March - CDT - Active Life

By: Jackie Naginey Hook
Thursday, March 11, 2021

Comfort on Both Sides of the Parting

A very wise woman recently told me that many wedding vows are inaccurate. When the couple commits to “until death do us part,” that doesn’t include the whole story. You see, this woman’s husband died suddenly and unexpectedly and she’s learned that the love and relationship they shared didn’t stop with death.

In many parts of the non-western world, people have been caring for the dead and maintaining ongoing attachments to them for centuries. Fortunately, this concept has been gaining in popularity in the west with academic works like the book, Continuing Bonds: New Understandings of Grief, that proposes grievers should not detach from the deceased. This theory validates the healthy need to adapt and change your relationship with your deceased loved ones over time – you are connected in life and in death.

This doesn’t mean that death is not sad or that you won’t grieve. It instead means that you’ll still mourn but that the mourning will change in time as will your relationship.

If this concept feels strange, understand that there can be a continuum of these bonds. At one end might be a change from a relationship of presence to a relationship of memory – a mother who holds onto the memories of being pregnant after her baby was stillborn. In the middle might be one-way conversations – an adult child who writes a letter to her deceased mother. And at the other end might be a mystical experience – a widow who awakes in the middle of the night and feels her husband’s presence. 

As with grief, there is no right or wrong way to continue these bonds -- you will have your own comfort levels with it. For some, mystical experiences might push your rational mind. When people relay these types of experiences to me, I ask them if it brought them comfort. The reply is usually, “Yes.” I then encourage them to take it for that. Continuing bonds become a concern when people get stuck there and stop engaging in life. Mental health professionals can help in these situations. For most bereaved people, the simple knowledge that continuing bonds are healthy brings relief.

So, maybe it isn’t really “until death do us part.” And maybe we want to intentionally prepare to find comfort on both sides of that parting. Thankful, Thoughtful Tuesdays is a safe place to do just that.

Thankful, Thoughtful Tuesdays is a six-week, virtual series where we discuss end-of-life issues, such as: what happens as we die and hospice; companioning ourselves and others through grief; appropriate legal documents; instructions to the funeral director; Have the Talk of a Lifetime; and many more. This series grew out of conversations with Sandy Schuckers of the Centre County Office of Aging, Holly Reigh with A Ray of Care and me and has been held at the Bellefonte Senior Resource Center, the Active Adult Center, other locations around Centre County and online during the pandemic.

I will facilitate these virtual gatherings on Tuesdays, April 6 through May 11 from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Guest speakers will include: Faith Lucchesi, an attorney with DeBoef Lucchesi; Holly Reigh, founder of A Ray of Care; and, F. Glenn Fleming, a funeral director and supervisor with Koch Funeral Home. You’re encouraged but not required to attend all sessions. Please RSVP by Monday before the class.

Other upcoming gatherings include:

​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.

We hope you find comfort on both sides of your partings!

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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