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grief 

03/29/2020 02:02:53 PM

Mar29

Wisdom can be found in unexpected places.  I have watched some of Governor Cuomo’s press briefings because I trust the information that he gives us about how New Yorkers are managing this crisis and what we can do to help. Along with this good information, I’ve noticed that the governor offers insights of a different sort.

During one briefing, he said that we must be “Physically distant, but spiritually connected.” And in another briefing, the governor reminded us that during times of hardship, we learn who we truly are.  Difficult times build character in a way that good times do not.

Wisdom.

I have found wisdom in another surprising place too: in an article written by Scott Berinto and published in the Harvard Business Review.  The article is called “That Discomfort You Are Feeling is Grief.”

Yes. Grief. 

Grief over what we have lost:  we have lost our workplaces, our classrooms, our spiritual and recreational spaces.  We have lost our long-anticipated celebrations:  bar/bat mitzvahs, proms, graduations, vacations, Passover seders with family and friends, weddings.

And grief over what others have lost:  Jobs. Good health.  Loved ones. 

This article was based on an interview with David Kessler, called “the world’s greatest expert on grief.”

He summed it up perfectly:
We’re feeling a number of different griefs. We feel the world has changed, and it has. We know this is temporary, but it doesn’t feel that way, and we realize things will be different. Just as going to the airport is forever different from how it was before 9/11, things will change and this is the point at which they changed. The loss of normalcy; the fear of economic toll; the loss of connection. This is hitting us and we’re grieving. Collectively. We are not used to this kind of collective grief in the air.

When I read this article, to my surprise, I found myself tearing up.  I realized that I have held back my tears these past couple of weeks.  I’ve tried to push forward and do all that needs to be done.

But I would never tell a grieving person not to feel his grief.  When I read that the emotion I was feeling was “grief,” I knew that this is true.  So I allowed myself to cry. 
 
As I thought more about this collective grief we are feeling, I felt grateful – once again – to be connected to a Jewish community and to the wisdom found in the Jewish tradition.

Judaism teaches us that grief is part of life. We must accept the fact that we will all suffer losses.  We are allowed – in fact, we are prompted –  to feel the grief that will come with those losses.

At a traditional Jewish funeral, it is considered a mitzvah and an act of loving kindness to fill the grave of the loved one who has died. The sound of the earth striking the coffin is enough to make the tears flow (if they haven’t already).  This is a moment we are meant to feel the grief of our loss. The act of filling the grave, the act of exerting ourselves for a sacred purpose, gives an outlet to the pain, the sorrow, or even the anger we may feel when a loved one dies.

After the burial, we move to shiva. In these days of shiva, we have “full permission” to feel our sadness in the embrace of our community.

Shiva ends, and we resume the activities of our life. During the next three weeks of sheloshim, we don’t return to our normal activities all at once.  We return gradually.

And when the year of mourning draws to a close, we gather again to place a marker on the grave.  This is a moment in which we reflect on the legacy of our loved one, and the ways in which our loved one remains in our hearts.

Jewish tradition teaches us to feel grief, and embrace life. Generations have done so before us.  

And so, after I let my tears flow, I went outside to breathe the fresh air. I looked at the budding trees, at the cheerful daffodils that had pushed through the mud. I stood for a moment and listened to the music of the birds, as they busied themselves with building their nests for their coming young.
 

Thu, June 30 2022 1 Tammuz 5782