By Jackie Naginey Hook, March 29, 2020
One day last week, my husband and I were out on our morning walk through the neighborhood. The air was crisp and the sky a vivid, cloudless blue. Each time we came upon a neighbor, we made sure to maintain the appropriate social distance. During the walk, we talked about the global pandemic. One of us, and I won’t mention any names, was speculating about how long the stay-at-home lifestyle was going to last. These projections were much longer than the other one of us wanted to hear. My walking pace quickened.
I didn’t want to think that far ahead. I spoke about holding onto the hope that our current work and lifestyle restrictions would “flatten the curve” and we’d return to our normal life relatively quickly. After we both expressed our feelings, we walked in silence for a little while. Thankfully, three miles was long enough for me to open my heart to see how we were stressed and grieving. We both fell into our default systems.
My husband’s was to imagine the worst case scenario and then usually be pleasantly surprised. My default system was to imagine a more optimistic outcome and adjust as necessary. Neither way of thinking is right or wrong. What mattered was we both got to share and be heard. We felt connected. That morning we moved our bodies, our grief and our hearts.
The purpose of this “Learning to Live” column is to provide space for people to share how they learn to live with loss. These days we are all learning how to do that in new and unusual ways. Some of us have lost being with family, friends and co-workers. Others have lost a sense of security and safety. Others, jobs, livelihoods and/or businesses. Still others, the life of a loved one.
How we move through these losses is unique to each of us.
I’m learning to live with the pandemic losses by moving just as I did with my husband on that morning walk – moving my body, my grief and my heart.
Moving my body feels good, especially when outside. Science has provided us proof about the importance of walking. It improves our physical health in a variety of ways, including boosting our immune system which is of great importance with the coronavirus. Walking improves our psychological health by enhancing our mood and decreasing anxiety – these benefits are also important in our current reality.
Moving my grief feels painful while I’m doing it, but feels better afterwards. It is only natural to feel grief at this time because it is the natural reaction to loss. Grief is what we feel on the inside and mourning is moving it to the outside. We need to find ways to mourn. Ways such as talking, writing, crying, screaming, creating, walking, dancing, meditating, praying, to name a few.
If you’re like me, you’ve received countless emails, seen countless social media posts and been invited to countless webinars, vlogs and Facebook Live videos about how to get through current times. As you take part in these many suggestions, don’t forget to allow your grief.
Allow yourself to feel what you’re feeling and sink into it. Then invite love, compassion and kindness into it. Go back and forth between the two, sinking and inviting in love. In time you’ll feel some release.
Moving my heart feels meaningful as I learn to live with the pandemic losses. And really, it’s more like my heart moves me and does so in countless ways. My heart moves me when I open to really hear others’ perspectives, concerns, hopes and fears about the future. My heart moves me when I see firsthand the courageous, compassionate, professional and safe acts of the Koch Funeral Home staff as they continue to care for families at a time of greater risk. My heart moves me as I discern ways to help in our community and touch base with family and friends.
It moves me as I enjoy time with my immediate family, having thoughtful conversations, sharing laughter and simply being together. It moves me as I pay special attention to those people and things for which I’m grateful. And my heart moves me as I deepen spiritually. Kent Ira Groff said, “A human emergency can be the occasion for spiritual emergence.”
To learn more about my 4-3-2-1-! for Hope, Healing and Wholeness, please visit the Koch Funeral Home website, www.kochfuneralhome.com, click on Services and then Helping Grieving Hearts Heal.
Lastly, there is a popular writing challenge that asks you to write a story – by only using six words. Moving words across the page can also be healing. So far, my six-word story for this global pandemic is: Moving body, grief, heart for peace.
What’s your six-word story? Please share it on the @learningtolivewhatsyourstory Facebook page.
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.learningtolivewhatsyourstory.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 March 29, 2020.