Helping Hands

As we near the end of August, changes are getting ready to happen.  Kids will go to school, families will have different schedules and routines, Penn State students will return to Happy Valley and fall sports will begin.  Whether you look forward to these changes or not, each of them involves some kind of loss, right? For one, kids, families, Penn State students and athletes all lose their summer free time.  These changes also include the beginning of something new, a birth - a new school year, a new routine, a new living space, a new season.

The pattern of birth, loss, birth, loss, plays out all around us.  It begins at our own birth – we lose a quiet comfortable environment where we’re continually fed, supplied with oxygen and kept at a comfortable temperature – and continues from there.   You can see it in the hours of the day; each day begins and then ends. And you can see it in nature: we have the season of spring with new life and growth, summer with fullness and heat, fall with harvesting and letting go and winter with stillness and waiting.

Some of the losses are small and easy to release.  Others are huge and life changing. How we live with the small losses can help us prepare for the bigger ones.  As Dr. Nancy Copeland-Payton said, “When we intentionally enter into our everyday walk through small losses, understanding their layers and how often we experience them, the terrain of larger loss is not completely unknown.”

The natural reaction to loss is grief.  Regardless of the size of loss, if we are to continue on, we learn to grieve and live through it.  If you allow yourself to journey through it, growth and transformation can occur. As Wayne Muller said, “When we come close to those things that break us down, we touch those things that also break us open."

In our loss-avoidant culture, however, we have few productive conversations about how we’ve done that.  Learning to Live: What’s Your Story? is a collaborative partnership between Penn State units and several Centre County community organizations and businesses whose goal is to facilitate just such interactions.  Our mission is to create educational and conversational opportunities for meaningful intergenerational exchanges on loss, grief, growth and transformation.  We will offer a variety of chances for you to hear how others have learned to live, and share how you’ve done it yourself. 

This article has been adapted and originally appeared in the Centre Daily Times.