What Happens When Grief Comes to Lunch?

By Jackie Naginey Hook, December 22, 2019

What would happen if Grief Came to Lunch? A group of local professionals recently found out when Grief came to the TIDES Grief Matters’ educational seminar for school faculty, counselors, therapists and clinicians. Grief was played by one of the presenters who wore a white t-shirt with large block letters spelling G-R-I-E-F and was silently in everyone’s presence throughout the day. As another presenter shared at the beginning of the seminar, externalizing Grief like this is based on narrative therapy, a strength-based way to reframe challenges and maintain a sense of curiosity in our lives. Looking at Grief outside of ourselves provides distance so we could be our own experts in compassionately understanding the stories we tell ourselves about loss.

Participants interacted with Grief in various ways – some were uncomfortable, some ignored Grief, some walked over and shared their thoughts, and some even offered hugs. The participants, as well as the venue staff, explored their relationships personally and professionally with Grief. This was in addition to a day of educational sessions covering topics such as: stigmatized losses related to suicide, drug overdose, HIV and pregnancy and infant loss; everyday losses and loss of hopes, dreams and faith; writing to uncover your story; courageous conversations; mindfulness/resilience; children and grief; and end of life.

The group activity in the closing session of the day was for everyone to create a poem together. The opening line of the poem was “When Grief came to lunch.” The first person in the activity then wrote a line in response to that and folded the paper so the second person could only see the last written line. That person then wrote a line in response to the line of the first person, folded the paper and so on. This continued until everyone in the circle had a chance to contribute. Below is the poem we created. May this poem encourage all of us this holiday season – that even in Grief we find hope and love!

When Grief came to lunch…
I decided to start my diet…
My diet includes letting go of my fear of Grief.
This kind of dieting will be testing, as letting go of my Grief requires strong motivation.
I recognize that this strong motivation will come and go like the wind blowing down the trees.
Grief hit me so fast, so young, that I lost how to be me.
And when I found myself, I found Grief.
Grief, you are welcome to come and go, but don’t stay with me for too long and don’t leave me for too long.
Grief, it’s MY decision to work with you.
And I thank you for being present with me…
through the good memories and the difficult times.
We choose how we engage with you, Grief.
Even when you come out of nowhere and force us to face you,
I fully understand that you are worth it and so am I.
I am only worth it because of Jesus, my hope.
My faith and trust in God gives me the strength to cope.
My belief in the kindness of others allows me to try
to remain gentle and keep peace in stormy waters.
The waters may be rough but you are strong.
Strong enough to untangle the many pieces.
Grief and loss are much broader than death.
Death is not a period but a comma in the sentence of life.
Grief provides hope and reminds us of our love.

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. This column is coordinated by www.ltlwys.org, whose mission is to create educational and conversational opportunities for meaningful intergenerational exchanges on loss, grief, growth and transformation.

This article was published in the Centre Daily Times on December 22, 2019.