Day 1

It’s been over a week since my mom passed away. Her burial and memorial services were yesterday. It still feels unreal.

Now that my mom has been laid to rest, I am in what is known as the shiva period, which lasts for seven days after burial and is the most intense period of mourning. Personally, this part really started for me when I got the call from the care home that my mom was gone, though technically that was the aninut period, the time between death and burial. I immediately covered the sole mirror in the house and only left the apartment to make the funeral arrangements and take care of some other details.

Part of the Jewish mourning process is to recite the Mourner’s Kaddish every day for the first year. I attended morning minyan today for the first time and also went to Shabbat services for the first time since my mom died. These acts are part of my mourning process, one that is based around Jewish customs and modified in ways that are meaningful for me and honor my mom. I will also wear the black ribbon that I tore yesterday as part of kriah for at least this first week of ”official” mourning, though I am not wearing it now as it is Shabbat. There is also a shiva candle burning right now and I will keep it lit (when I’m at home) for seven days.

A coworker texted me something that he found helped him in his grief and it hit hard when I first read the words.

As for grief, you’ll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you’re drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it’s some physical thing. Maybe it’s a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it’s a person who is also floating. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive.

In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don’t even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float…

There is more, but this part resonates deeply. It is not lost on me that I am clinging onto Jewish tradition to get through this grief. I have lost so much in the past eight months and I am trying to make sure that I don’t let the depression completely overtake me. Mom wouldn’t want that and I want to honor her memory.

To honor my mom, I have decided that I am going to write my way through my grief. She always encouraged my writing and was so proud when I published my first essay in an anthology. Plus, writing has always been a refuge for me and yes, I am clinging onto it for dear life as I navigate this shipwreck. But I also have my community who will keep me afloat, whether it is by bringing food (my fridge is so full right now) or dragging me out of my apartment or letting me cry and share memories. I am grateful for that.

Shabbat Shalom!

One comment

  1. With you always. Thank you for sharing those words, they are so very true…and even 21 years later a 100 foot wave can come crashing down, but not very often. Most of the time it’s just a wave that covers you briefly then is gone… Here for you any time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *