2021 - November - Gazette - Collective Grief, Collective Gratitude

By: Jackie Naginey Hook
Thursday, November 25, 2021

Collective Grief, Collective Gratitude

Our Monday’s Moments at Millbrook Marsh program, in conjunction with Centre Region Parks and Recreation (CRPR), includes time for sharing, talking about different dimensions of the grief journey and engaging with nature. As we near the end of the session, we take part in a stone ritual I first read about in Francis Weller’s book, The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work.

We begin with a bowl of water on a stool in the center of the room. Around the outside of the bowl are placed a number of small stones.  One at a time, each of us comes forward, picks up a stone, holds it in our hands and names silently or aloud a grief we are carrying in our hearts. After naming the grief, we place the stone in the water. This continues until everyone who wishes to take part has had a turn. As the sorrows are placed together in the water, it becomes clear that this is collective grief. We might be carrying the grief as individuals, but we belong to a community and our community holds the sorrows of us all.

Next, we walk outside together and pour the water from the bowl onto a plant, turning our collective grief into nourishment for the plant world. The final step is that one of us becomes responsible for taking all the stones to a creek, pond, river or ocean and tossing them in, “so the movements of the water can scour the stones clean once again.”

It is difficult to convey the depth of this ritual in words. Once when I took responsibility for the stones, I took them to a stream and threw them in one at a time, naming the sorrows shared as I did. There was something about the naming, the action of my arm, and watching them hit the water that was healing. The entire ritual was healing - naming our sorrows, using our collective grief to nourish a plant and returning our sorrows to the water to be cleansed.

Collective grief is something we’ve all been experiencing since the beginning of the pandemic; the losses are countless. What can we all do to name these sorrows, use our grief to nourish the world and cleanse the sorrows away? In the documentary Koch Funeral Home sponsored and I share with groups, Voices of Grief: Honoring the Sacred Journey, pranic healer and author, Master Stephen Co says, “The cure for depression is service. If you’re so busy helping someone in pain, somebody in need, your own stuff doesn’t seem to be as bad anymore. And at some point, when your heart is so focused on making somebody feel better, making their life better, it has a strong therapeutic effect.” Please know, Co was referring to depression from a loss, not clinical depression, and he brings to mind the role that service and caring for others can have on the giver.

Perhaps, this Thanksgiving holiday, we can take our collective grief and meet it with collective gratitude - we can take our thanks and give it away. Participating in Giving Tuesday, might be one way.

We’re grateful for the many people and organizations who have put themselves in harm’s way to help others during the pandemic – those who care for the sick, the dying and the dead and their families, to name a few. We’re also grateful for the many people and organizations who help others in a myriad of ways. One that Koch Funeral Home supports is Footprints in the Field. This organization is creating a beautiful garden to remember and honor pregnancy and early infant losses. You can find more details and learn how to donate and get involved at www.footprintsinthefield.org.

We can choose a cause, name our sorrows, contribute to the cause in some way, thereby using our grief to nourish the world, and as we make that contribution and with an intentional exhale, imagine the air cleansing the thought that was carrying that grief. Or you could make your own stone ritual. Whatever works for you. My hope is you begin to feel the release and healing individually and consequently, we feel it collectively.

Below is more information about Monday’s Moments at Millbrook Marsh and other programs we offer:

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. 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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