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Grief Revisited

Monday, 20 September 2010

The firsts are always the hardest. The first family birthday party. The first Pesach seder. The first Mother’s Day. Her birthday.

Nothing could have prepared me for the first Yom Kippur.

Truth-be-told, I expected it to be hard, though if pressed, I would have been unable to articulate what that meant before the fact. I certainly would not have anticipated the crushing sensation that enveloped me as we moved into the afternoon service.

How can I describe the way she would sit with her legs gracefully crossed at her ankles? Or the way she would nod and bob her perfectly-coiffed head in time with certain melodies? How many years did I sit next to her, transfixed at the rhythmic way she would twirl her thumbs? In one direction and then the other. Were there any pages during the middle of the Mincha service that she had not read at some point over the years? How I missed seeing her sweet, round face turned up towards me, smiling with pride.

And then Yizkor. It was then that the reality of the loss slammed into me. My mother had always gone outside during the memorial service. But now, with the death of her mother, she no longer had that option. Observing this life transition was just so sad, seeing her take her place amongst those who have been a primary mourner.

To lead the service as one who has recently experienced a loss is to grieve in a raw and public way. Sitting in the pews provides a modicum of privacy. Being on the bimah…

The sadness is palpable. Tonight, in the midst of dinner, Poppyseed describe what she calls “the AfterLand.”

It is a place where you go after you die after your mom dies too. And then you start all over again. You are in her belly again and then you are born. As yourself. Reliving your life. It doesn’t matter about the dad, she said, because the mom is the one who is pregnant. Sometimes it looks a little different. Sometimes it looks like stuff is floating. You know…like different levels on a video game.

Here’s the thing: Yizkor gives us the time and space to reach all the way down and grieve again. And then put it away. It allows us permission to live life fully, free of guilt for going on without our loved one, because we know that there will be moments set aside to remember.

I am glad that the first Yom Kippur has come and gone. To have emerged on the other side, knowing that the edges of sadness will be softened with the passage of time. And that the opportunity will come, in its appropriate times, to reflect, to mourn, and to remember.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Tuesday, 21 September 2010 3:41 am

    Deepest condolences to you and your family. Yes, with this first hurdle behind us, I think the sharp edges of grief may be softening just a teeny-tiny bit. Hope the same is true for you.

  2. Tuesday, 21 September 2010 11:05 am

    My grandfather considers himself an atheist- but I watched as the first set of chagim without grandma weighed upon him. Their absence is palpable.

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  1. If Theres Anything I Can Do: How To Help Someone Cope With Grief | Uncategorized | Information about Social Bookmarking Software, Social Bookmarking Tool

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