The Gift of Grief #2 – Waves Can Sneak Up On You

I did not see it coming. Actually, I thought it had already come and gone. Grief can be that way.

My father’s 50th yartzeit (anniversary of his death) was on the second night of Rosh Hashanah. And I wrote about that here.  But this next wave snuck up on me – and has lingered- first, with no clue as to what was going on, and just yesterday, decided to reveal itself. And it is still there.  Tears and fears, hopes and dreams, missed opportunities. When your father gets diagnosed with cancer when you are five weeks old and then dies when you are six months old, even at 50 years old and with a masters degree, you still don’t have a clue as to what you missed.

You would think that a woman who works as a hospice social worker, I would have this grief thing down to a science. And I do to a degree..I support the families I work with by holding the space for all of their feelings, giving them permission to let whatever comes when it comes, let whatever go when it goes. And it is helpful to them.  I sometimes forget that I need that support too.

And grief does not just not emerge from losing someone to death. A month ago my daughter left to study for a year in Israel. What a gift for her, for our family, for the Jewish people, and the world.  What she will learn there will change her and the world for the better. But I miss her. We all miss her. It is not the same in our house without her here. Especially since she is the family cook! While there is joy in knowing she is in Eretz Yisroel, there is grief in missing her.

And changes in our community have brought waves of grief.  While ultimately EVERYTHING God does is for the good, due to my limited HUMAN capability to understand His ways, it doesn’t always look good to me. It think I am going to add a stage to the grief model that Elizabeth Kubler-Ross articulated.  When she first came out with it, we thought the stages moved in a linear fashion.

Denial
Anger
Bargaining
Depression
Acceptance.

We now know that the stages are not linear, but are fluid. They come and go and mix themselves up.

I would add another stage.
Insight.

And unfortunately insight does not come “on demand” like last season’s “This Is Us” episodes. But it is always streaming, waiting for an opening.  I have seen time and time again that there is always insight to be gained from ALL experiences in life. And the gift of grief is that it brings the gift of insight. Insight that can bring healing to ones own heart and the hearts of others when shared.

The insights I have gained from this latest wave of grief is not a curse, but a gift. It means that I am ALIVE because I am FEELING.  And God gave us the gift to feel a myriad of emotions. Judaism teaches me that. Try going to a bris, a funeral and wedding all in the same day.  Judaism also teaches me that the default setting for humans is SIMCHA/JOY.  In the month of Adar we raise our joy, and in the month of Av we lower it. But the default is joy.  And there can be joy in grief.  What got me through this last week or so was knowing that there is ALWAYS light at the end of the tunnel (and it is not an oncoming train, for the pessimists out there!).  I just don’t know when I will see the light but I do know that the light is always there.  That is a FACT.  Don’t just believe me. Get curious. And you will see it for yourself.

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