A tradition of mourning

Why does it feel harder?

One & a half months since mom's burial...

Why does it feel harder? I expected waves of sadness. I came to understand the blah, tired feelings. But this past week has been the hardest so far. One and a half months since mom’s burial. 

I laid down, alone in my hotel room, tears slowly trickling down my cheeks, and then the torrent came. Snot and tears were all over my face. I could barely catch my breath I was sobbing so hard. I had to blow my nose a hundred times. I even sort-of laughed at one point...how could I possibly still be crying?! It was probably 2 hours of non-stop tears. Crazy. And I didn’t really even understand why. 

Why now? I think perhaps because I was alone finally. And, I was away (on a work trip). And there were lots of late nights, emotional speeches, good conversations. But, wow, it hit hard.

Oh, it hurt so bad. It felt too hard. And then- after hours of sobs- I felt better. Weak. Puffy-eyed. Tired. But better. I sang my mom’s song, looking at the Utah hills, “Bless the LORD oh my soul...10,000 years and then forevermore.”

I had the strength to meet some friends for post-dinner hang out. Work friends, who happen to be REAL friends too. They hugged me. And loved me. And we laughed hard about Kea’s bunny needing essential oils. 

Two of my friends who were there are Jewish. As they told me about the Jewish traditions surrounding death I felt a burden lifting. I realized why I was struggling to celebrate. Why this amazing, inspiring work convention felt wrong. Like I shouldn’t have come. 

Yet, I needed to be there. To realize- it’s still time to mourn. 

Jewish tradition has several periods of mourning. I learned that I was still in the period known as shloshim (thirty, because it lasts until the 30th day after burial). During that period, the mourners do not attend parties or celebrations, do not shave or cut their hair, and do not listen to music. I was breaking all those rules, except the hair cutting one! 

I also learned the following...
“The final period of formal mourning is avelut, which is observed only for a parent’s death. This period lasts for twelve months after the burial. During that time, mourners avoid parties, celebrations, theater and concerts. For eleven months of that period, starting at the time of burial, the son* of the deceased recites the mourner's Kaddish every day.

After a great loss like the death of a parent, you might expect a person to lose faith in G-d, or to cry out against G-d's injustice. Instead, Judaism requires a mourner to stand up every day, publicly (i.e., in front of a minyan, a quorum of 10 adult men*), and reaffirm faith in G-d despite this loss. To do so inures to the merit of the deceased in the eyes of G-d, because the deceased must have been a very good parent to raise a child who could express such faith in the face of personal loss.” 

I find it sad that Americans’ are one of the few societies who do not have a tradition regarding death and mourning. It’s so helpful for both the one mourning and their friends to know what to do! More about Jewish tradition… “When visiting a mourner, a guest should not try to express grief with standard, shallow platitudes. The guest should allow the mourner to initiate conversations. One should not divert the conversation from talking about the deceased; to do so would limit the mourner's ability to fully express grief, which is the purpose of the mourning period. On the contrary, the caller should encourage conversation about the deceased.” (source: http://www.jewfaq.org/death.htm)

It’s not that I felt like I should already be “over” the death of my beloved mommy. But I needed permission to still be “in mourning”. There is something comforting about those two words. So, I give myself permission to still be sad. But also to stand up every day and reaffirm my faith in God, because it shows what a good mom I had and it shows what I good God I serve!

* This source is Orthodox. In the Conservative tradition (and I believe Reform), women also say the Kaddish -so it would be daughters, too, not just the son- and women count in a minyan (10 adult Jews).

Kate HagenComment