The nation reels again and again after the recent shootings in Dayton and in El Paso, these of course not very far in time from other such tragedies. All this while our neighbors are deported, their children left sitting on sidewalks wailing. To try to list all of our national causes for mourning would be impossible, and of course all these stand beside our personal grief and loss of children, spouses, friends. Grief is heavy in the air.
As a grief counselor, I encourage us to welcome the feelings of grief. If you need to cry, feel free. If you need to talk and write or paint your grief do it. If you haven’t tried these, it could really help. Whatever you do, give grief it’s due. It’s natural and normal and part of being human.
Our Jewish friends have seven days of grieving (shiva) after they bury their dead. People receive visitors in their homes during these days opening themselves to the consolation of time with others who come to show respect and to embrace the remaining family with love.
After those days, it is traditional for the grievers to go for a short walk, as a way of slowly re-entering the world.
Rituals are not formulas but they do point up the importance of allowing ourselves to grieve out loud, and they provide that vehicle. We need each other from start to finish in our lives and grieving together provides some of the healing we need.
The psalms are Israel’s prayer book offering unshackled emotions of grief and lamentation. Sometimes the words may shock us, but when we recognize that these words are not commands for our lives, but rather the cries of people caught in some of the many distresses of life, we find resonance.
As if to answer someone who tries to rush the griever through her pain, Psalm 137 answers,
“How can we sing the songs of the Lord in a foreign land?’
Israel was in exile, away from home, away from family and familiarity. Grief takes us into that exile sometimes, and the changes in our world that frighten us and coax us into dreams of better days feel like exile.
There is always plenty of advice to be given and taken around our grief, but for today I only offer — let grief have its time in our life. Grieve with others, listen and talk. It’s part of our common humanity.