“Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the o’er-wrought heart and bids it break.” — William Shakespeare (MacBeth)
I love the simple pleasure of sitting in my backyard at sunrise and in the evening, when the sun’s rays are diffused softly through the green leaves of summer, and the birds and trilling insects provide the soundtrack. It is a peaceful, contemplative time, time for being alone with my thoughts and prayers, or time for just being.
But those times have been few and far between lately for me, despite having so much to reflect on in my life right now! It seems the universe has busted me wide open with the events of the past 8 months! But I also recognize that this time is fertile ground for healing and spiritual growth, and growth needs nurturing and community – thus the reason for this blog.
My wif’e’s passing has left two children without a mom, a husband without a partner and best friend, a household with befuddled boys at the helm, and a huge void filled with sorrow and loss; it’s time to start working through and recognizing these issues and feelings and emotions, both as a salve for my spirit, and as an example to my children.
It’s interesting how different cultures handle these issues. The Jewish shiva is a week long period of official mourning, and mourners do not attend weddings, bar/bat-mitzvahs or other events that include music for up to 30 days after the burial. Additionally, the children of the deceased do not attend these events or cut their hair for up to 12 months following the death of a parent. In Chinese culture, after the funeral is over, the period of mourning by the family continues for another 100 days. A piece of colored cloth is worn on the sleeve of each of the family members for 100 days to signify mourning; black is worn by the deceased’s children, blue by the grandchildren and green by the great grandchildren. More traditional families will wear the pieces if cloth for up to three years.
But in American culture, mourning periods are much shorter, with the bereaved expected to return to their daily lives far too soon. Work allows for only three days off, despite the funeral being on the forth day; and in those four days those closest to the deceased have to make decisions on caskets and vaults, burial plots and flowers, eulogies and wakes, while balancing the good intentions of a plethora of well-wishers. Sleep isn’t even an option during this brief time, let alone real grieving.
So for the past few weeks I’ve done what I’ve should, taking care of the house, keeping the bill collectors at bay, and mostly, trying to instill in my sons some confidence that dad can take care of them. My to do list is almost down to manageable, which has finally freed up some time to reflect. And now there is a wellspring of thoughts, emotions and grieving that needs attention…
So I’m going to to give my sorrow words – what I’ll say I don’t know, where to conversation goes is unknown. But I’ll extend this invitation to join, for “Grief shared is grief diminished” – Rabbi Grollman