2022 - January - Gazette - Stories of the Heart

By: Jackie Naginey Hook
Thursday, January 27, 2022

Stories of the Heart

I love it when a plan comes together. My husband was behind the wheel and I was in the passenger seat as we drove our son to train with a punting coach. While I sat there, I was pondering our February theme, “Stories of the Heart,” and seeing what ideas came to me for this article. Different thoughts about the power of storytelling were percolating.

I took a look at my phone’s email inbox and saw this quote from john a. powell (according to his website, no capitalization is used), the Director of the Othering & Belonging Institute, “When people’s stories are recognized, it does something: it creates a possibility.” There was affirmation for my article ideas. As I was reading that quote, the Beatles “All You Need Is Love” began to play on our car’s stereo (or as my son told me, “kids these days” would say it played on my husband’s phone through the “Aux” – silly me).

Stories and love. That’s pretty simple, but maybe john a. powell and the Beatles are right and it is that simple to create possibility.

It’s that simple at our monthly Grief Healing Circles. As part of the Healing Circles Global initiative, Meghan McGraw and I facilitate a virtual healing circle for those who’ve lost loved ones. These circles are based on the ancient tradition of sharing stories around cook-fires and providing possibilities for healing.

Each healing circle has four parts - a welcome, a heart-sharing round, a harvesting, and a closing. The welcome includes reading a poem or quote, and explaining the healing circle model. The model asks for agreement of the five guidelines that make healing circles a safe place – treating one another with kindness and respect; listening with compassion and curiosity; honoring each other’s unique ways to healing and not advising, fixing or saving one another; holding all stories shared confidential; and, trusting that each participant has the guidance needed within and relying on the power of silence to access it. After the welcome, participants are invited to speak the story of their hearts as it relates to their grief and loss in that moment. While they do that, they are listened to deeply and generously by the others. During the harvesting round, each participant is invited to share again about what touched them during the circle and/or what insights they gained. We then close with another reading.

Grief Healing Circles are about stories and love. I’m continually surprised at the possibilities of healing for both the storytellers and the listeners. Given the time, space and silence to go within, we never know what might surface. And we never know how what surfaces will touch others. Some describe it as “magical.” I appreciate writer, speaker and activist Parker J. Palmer’s thoughts and think they fit these Circles:

“Suffering breaks our hearts, but the heart can break in two different ways. There's the brittle heart that breaks into shards, shattering the one who suffers as it explodes, and sometimes taking others down when it's thrown like a grenade at the ostensible source of its pain. Then there's the supple heart, the one that breaks open, not apart, the one that can grow into greater capacity for the many forms of love. Only the supple heart can hold suffering in a way that opens to new life.”

You and your “supple heart” are invited to join us with your stories and love at these virtual second Wednesday of the month, February 9 and March 9, gatherings from 6 to 7 p.m.

In addition, you are invited to our other educational and support gatherings with safe spaces to tell your stories of loss:

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, @kochFH. If there are changes to our in-person gatherings because of COVID, we will provide updates on the website.

We hope you have opportunities for stories, love and possibilities in your life!

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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