In February 2015, Penn State Schreyer Honors College Dean Christian Brady presented “Survivor: Living Beyond Adversity” for the Schreyer Honors College annual Mark Luchinksy Memorial Lecture. His message was one of encouragement and hope for those experiencing all types of loss. Christian spoke of how within a matter of hours, he and his wife, Elizabeth, tragically lost their son, Mack, just over two years before. He shared about their lamenting, their grieving, their choices and their decision to write a new narrative, a narrative that could bring meaning and even redemption to their suffering. As Christian said, “Hope is the promise of our future and that is what it means to be a survivor. It is not simply continuing to exist after the waves have crashed over us, but to dream, to make new plans, find new and different meaning, to live.”

Jackie Naginey Hook, a spiritual director and celebrant who coordinates the Helping Grieving Hearts Heal program through Koch Funeral Home, was in attendance at Christian’s lecture and was moved by his words. She wanted others to hear his encouraging message and sent an email asking him if the two of them could meet to discuss possibilities. Christian generously agreed and the two of them started brainstorming. Christian suggested that they bring together people from both the community and University to create a year-long initiative around encouraging conversations about learning to live after loss.

The first meeting was held in May 2015 and the work began. The inaugural event was a banner signing activity at LION Bash 2015 – University and community members took time to share pieces of their loss stories on a banner. From there, our work has grown: http://learningtolivewhatsyourstory.org/upcoming-events.