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“Helping Grieving Hearts Heal”

AUTHOR: Jackie Naginey Hook


PHONE: 814-404-0546

AGENCY: Koch Funeral Home


One of my roles with Koch Funeral Home’s “Helping Grieving Hearts Heal” program is to create safe places to give people an opportunity to move their grief from the inside to the outside. Each time I do that, I’m never certain how the moving of grief will happen. On a Tuesday morning last year, nature provided a beautiful example.

Several individuals who had lost loved ones joined me for “Walk with Grief” session in a local park. At the end of our walk, my eyes were drawn to a tree with two blue jays, and I commented to the others that I didn’t see many blue jays in my neighborhood. A mother whose son had died responded by saying she really wanted to see a cardinal, and one of the other walkers, a widow, asked why. The mother said she believed cardinals were a message from the deceased, a belief I’ve heard many times.

In the very next moment, a cardinal flew in and landed in the tree. Our mouths fell open. We looked at the cardinal and the cardinal looked back at us. Then the cardinal flew to another tree and looked at us from a different angle. Finally, it flew out of sight.

Nature gave us all a gift. And for this mother, it felt like a personal gift from her son. This provided her with comfort and the opportunity to release a little grief. This is just one of the many examples of grief moving from the inside to the outside that happen when we create safe places for people.

Spending time in nature, joining with others, and creatively expressing grief are just a couple of the ways that these examples occur. If you’ve lost a loved one, you can join us at two new programs to live your own examples of moving grief.

The first is our yearly Stories of Loss: A Grief Education and Support Group held on Tuesdays, March 28 through April 18 from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. at Juniper at Brookline, 1950 Cliffside Drive, State College. This is a time to learn about the grief journey and recognize that you’re not alone. Brenda Oyler Kim, a social worker at Juniper, and I will be facilitating.

And the second, in partnership with Centre Region Parks and Recreation, is our biannual A Walk with Grief program held on Tuesdays, April 4 through May 9 from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. for ages 18 and over. These walks are a time of coming together with others grieving a loss and walking to benefit from physical activity, connect with the healing aspects of nature, and again know that you’re not alone.

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

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