Last Spring, when my dad was in seemingly full health for an 89-year-old, I wrote an article for L’Chaim Magazine entitled Shiva: A Profoundly Mindful Judaic Ritual. I recounted the depth, sorrow, beauty and profound mindfulness of mourning my mom’s passing two years prior.
Weeks after I submitted the article, my dad was diagnosed with metastatic cancer. The article was published in June, three weeks before he passed away. I remember my brother Eddie quietly reading the article aloud to me, my sister-in-law Blayne and my nephew Ben as we sat around the kitchen table of our childhood home. Our dad was asleep in his recliner in a nearby room. When Eddie finished reading, we were speechless and teary-eyed. We knew another Shiva* (the Jewish 7-day mourning ritual) was around the corner. And we knew with Covid, Shiva would look and feel very different this go-round.
My dad’s funeral was aired on zoom with over 100 people in attendance. Shiva was limited to our large immediate family with the looming awareness that even this was medically risky. We had a few subsequent Shiva zooms with friends and relatives. Though we appreciated the love and support, seeing names and faces on a screen could not replace hugs or the palpable shared grief of a room full of mourners.
Covid also changed my subsequent mourning. Gone was the opportunity to grieve in the quiet and stillness of my synagogue and meditation center. Gone was the presence of others to bear witness to and hold my grief. And though zoom opportunities were plentiful, gone was the in-person intimacy.
By early fall, with Covid not relenting, I realized that I needed to create a dedicated time and space to fully mourn. I decided to meditate in the early morning, when the house is quiet and the sun rising. Being awake and still during the sunrise proved to be as beautiful and powerful as any sanctuary. I resumed hiking my “sacred” Cowles Mtn. in times of sorrow knowing that my friends could safely support me and the earth could hold my grief. And I participate in virtual services and meditation retreats, for longer opportunities of presence.
During one retreat involving movement, I recalled dancing with my father at my wedding as he cried. I realized his tears were his farewell to me. I danced and cried with him alone in that quiet room, this time with me bidding him farewell. It was incredibly healing.
Every single one of us has so much to grieve right now. Even with vaccinations abounding and more and more resumption of pre-Covid life, there has been an inordinate amount of loss, disruption, change, and fatigue. Though some mechanisms for grieving are not available, you may be surprised at what you can create in the sanctity of your home or in nature
- Perhaps you can carve out a space in the corner of a bedroom, your backyard, or porch.
- Maybe the time consists of a half-hour of quiet, before or after your day, to journal, meditate, or simply reflect.
- Maybe it’s creating a little altar with pictures or knickknacks to preserve the memories
- Maybe you capture your current experience by painting, drawing or a collage
- Or perhaps it’s a scheduled phone call with a trusted friend or professional.
The options are limitless. The keys are to find what helps you heal, create a dedicated space and set aside time to do it.
I encourage us all to make time to feel and heal and tend to what we lost and, in doing so, move forward with strength and grace.
*Shiva is the 7-day long Jewish mourning ritual that begins right after the burial. During the week of Shiva, friends and relatives visit and comfort the family of the deceased. Shiva usually begins with a service where the mourner’s recite a special prayer following by a sharing of stories and memories of the deceased. The ritual allows friends and family to support one another and to share their pain and grief.