Helping Grieving Hearts Heal

I recently officiated at a funeral service for a long time State College resident.  The family’s desire was to create a small and intimate experience. We gathered in a circle and I shared pieces of her life to our group of about 15 people.  Then, at the request of the family, I asked each person to say their name and how they knew this woman and her family. It was beautiful. The participants told how she had become a part of their life, and the family learned more about how their loved one had touched others.  It was simple, personalized and meaningful.

About that same time I officiated at a memorial service for a man whose life was cut short in his middle years.  This family’s desire was to create a rich tribute for a large audience. We gathered in a hall and I along with others shared pieces of this man’s life story.  Family members spoke, musicians performed and a video was shown. This too was beautiful. The participants learned about the impact of his life and the family felt the support of so many friends and family members.  Following the ceremony, the guests joined together to share more stories at a reception. It was festive, personalized and meaningful.

Two entirely different services, honoring two unique individuals with families and friends moving forward on their grief journeys.  These services begin to describe some of what is offered by Helping Grieving Hearts Heal – a program through Koch Funeral Home in State College and John B. Brown Funeral Home in Huntingdon designed to support individuals as they grieve.  Grief is the natural reaction to loss. Just as your body knows how to heal from physical injuries, you heart knows how to heal from loss, but we need to provide it with a safe place to do so.  Helping Grieving Hearts Heal (HGHH) provides that place.

For example, the two services described above took advantage of the Memorable Funeral Ceremony Creation offering through HGHH.  This included me, as a celebrant, sitting with the families and hearing the many stories of their loved one’s lives.  We talked about their childhoods, young adolescence and adulthoods, the type of music they enjoyed, the literature they read, favorite sayings and music.  We also talked about what the family knew they wanted and didn’t want in the service. I then wrote a personalized service, word for word, and gave it to the family for their comments.  This process continued until the family was completely satisfied with the end result. On the day of the service, I officiated.

As Alan Wolfelt, Ph.D., an author, educator and grief counselor has said, “What happens at the funeral greatly affects how the bereaved go on to find meaning and purpose in their continued living.”  HGHH helps you begin to find that meaning and purpose.  It also includes:

  • Catered Reception Coordination – more time for healing through supporting one another and sharing stories after a service, as with one of the ceremonies described above;

  • Grief Companioning – another safe place to tell your grief story and learn about the grief journey;  

  • Have the Talk of a Lifetime – help with conversations about your life, the things that matter to you and how you want to be remembered, and

  • Community Outreach – presentations to groups and businesses about grief, transitions and loss.


We understand how hard loss can be and want to support you throughout your journey.  Below are a few things you can do:

  • Visit our website at to learn more about HGHH and read our Monday Moments blog with supportive ideas.  

  • Join us for daily informational posts on our Facebook page.

  • Get involved with a new effort we’re a part of, Learning to Live: What’s Your Story?  Healing can happen through sharing your story and this effort is all about that.  Check out their Facebook page for more details.

I wish you well on your healing journey.

This article has been adapted and originally appeared in The Centre County Gazette