Monday, May 24, 2021

A Club No One Wants to Join

The experience of loss is jarring.  Whether preceded by a long illness or a sudden, unexpected parting, it is impossible for the survivors to return to a place of blythe ignorance of the pain induced by the mourning process.

What I learned from my own experience of mourning my father makes me feel both more hesitant and more determined to do my part in offering comfort when the time arises.  

As a friend commented to me in the aftermath of losing her father, "the worst possible thing has happened - how can there be any more sorrow left in the world!"  So true.  It is unthinkable that so much pain can exist, and knowledge and understanding of the toll my own pain took and the road I've had to travel since only makes such news even harder to bear.

I know I cannot comprehend anyone else's feelings of grief and loss.  There are so many many human variables at play.  

And yet, I feel. 

From the other side of the curtain, I find myself tearing up at news of the death of a stranger's aged parent.  I cry for a bereft adult child who has lost a parental confident after many years of love and support.  And I cannot fathom the loss endured by young children with so many milestones to be experienced in the absence of a beloved parent.  And other unspeakable losses... There are no words.

And yet, I feel. 

I feel news of loss more deeply and more keenly than I ever did.  Making it simultaneously easier to empathize and harder to offer comfort, because I know that platitudes are not helpful.  

It is a painful conundrum. 

I cannot offer happy hopes that the pain will swiftly go away... because I know it will not.  I cannot visit a shiva house without experiencing flashbacks of my own period of intense grief and I wish with all my heart that there was any kind of fix - something I could offer that would make a real impact and lesson the pain of the other.  And yet, when I was sitting shiva, I found the greatest comfort from those whose faces showed that they understood - and my heart cried for them too.  

The experience of losing a family member inducts you into a club that no one wants to join - and even so, we are lucky that Jewish tradition offers beautiful mechanisms such as shiva, kaddish & community/shabbat meals, etc. to help us connect to each other.   I feel truly grateful to have found support from my community during my most difficult time and I hope that my experience has, in some way, helped others to find some solace from their own pain.  And in my heart of hearts, I wish I could close the club membership so no one would experience further loss or pain.  At least not until 120 years. 

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I am an educator who is trained to reflect, not a rabbi or any type of halachic authority. These writings are in no way binding, and may not represent all approaches to and experiences in navigating grief. In fact, there will likely be those who disagree with me or can offer additional suggestions and reflections. For this reason, I am leaving the comments section open so that together as a community, we can broaden the scope of this blog to include a majority of human experience.

One important request: Please be respectful in posting your comments and be sure to frame your tips in the most positive phrasing possible. I reserve the right to delete any unkind comments and plan to update the original posts occasionally to include additional insights and reflections from our combined experience.

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