2021 - October - CDT - Active Life

By: Jackie Naginey Hook
Sunday, October 3, 2021

Community

I’ve been thinking about the beauty of “community” lately. In my work, I have the privilege of seeing it time and time again. We invite people to gather together around a specific event, topic or theme, they show up, we set some ground rules, we hold the space and then the community “magic” happens. People start to share their stories, they are witnessed by others, they recognize that they aren’t alone and they are heard. A small piece of their grief has moved from the inside to the outside.

This can happen at a funeral or memorial service, an educational and support gathering, or a bedside vigil. I saw it happen in September as we started our fall A Walk with Grief outings – a series of walks through local parks that we hold in partnership with Centre Region Parks and Recreation (CRPR). We offer an invitation to gather at a local park and walk alone or with others. On the appointed morning a group appeared. I explained the purpose of our time, shared a poem and a little about the grief journey, and invited everyone to introduce themselves and provide a piece of the story that brought them there. We walked together and organically conversations began. As we neared the end of our time, we gathered together and offered words to describe what we felt and were taking with us. Words from these walks have included peacefulness, calm, wonder, thankful, more relaxed - “magic.”

People often tell me they couldn’t do the work I do with dying, death and grief. My reply is that one of the many reasons I appreciate this work is I get to spend time with people who are paying attention to what matters most, just like the A Walk with Grief group. The people I work with are face-to-face with dying, death and grief and aren’t worried about the superficial things in life. They’re recognizing what truly matters and being present to it. My day is full of this presence – “magic.” This is such a gift to me.

As the director of the Othering & Belonging Institute at the University of California, Berkeley, John A. Powell said, “The human condition is one about belonging. We simply cannot thrive unless we are in relationship.” Safe communities provide opportunities to have those relationships. Some of the ground rules we follow to make our communities safe are based on the agreements of Healing Circles Global:

  • We treat each other with kindness and respect.
  • We listen with compassion and curiosity.
  • We honor each other’s unique ways to healing and don’t presume to advise, fix, or save one another.
  • We hold all stories shared in the circle confidential.
  • We trust that each of us has the guidance we need within us, and we rely on the power of silence to access it.

If you are grieving a loss, we invite you to participate in one of our gatherings. We have some in-person, some online, some in small groups, some in larger ones, some with education, some with deep sharing, etc.  We offer choices so you can find what best meets your needs at any given time. It is our belief that Happy Valley can’t be truly happy if we don’t also allow ourselves to grieve and heal.

Below are our upcoming offerings:

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 814-237-2712 or visit the Koch Funeral Home Facebook page at @kochFH. If there are changes to our in-person gatherings because of COVID, we will provide updates on the website.

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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