Moving into grief instead of moving on from it

This past weekend (from Saturday night to Sunday night) was Tisha B’Av, the Jewish date for communal mourning of the destruction of the temples in the Jerusalem as well as all other tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people through history.

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to experience Tisha B’Av in Jerusalem and perhaps that will provide inspiration for another post.

Today, however, I wanted to share something I heard on Yocheved Davidowitz A Deeper Conversation podcast episode for Tisha B’Av.

In it, she discusses the solidarity Jews experience in mourning loss collectively and also the profound rituals Jews have for funerals and the grieving process.

Yocheved then discusses how, in her work as a therapist, she would notice the sense of dread people have about feeling sadness and mourning.

She recalled doing grief counselling with secular clients who, she says, when they experienced a loss, would feel very much at sea in their mourning because their friends were mistakenly trying to cheer them up or distract them.

Here’s that story:

I had a client once who had lost her mother and she came in to see me and she said, “I just feel so sad.”

And I said, “Okay.”

And she’s like, “Yeah, but I’m like really sad.”

And I said, “Yeah, yeah you are.”

Then she said, “But why can’t I stop feeling sad?”

And I said, “Well, because your mother died so why should you be happy right now?”

And she said, “Okay.”

Of course her friends were trying to take her out and she didn’t want to go with them. And I said, “You know, you don’t have to go out with your friends. I think it’s okay for you to stay home and be sad about your mom.”

And she was like, “Really?”

And I said, “Listen, think about it this way: You loved your mom. She was a big part of your life and you had a really good relationship, right?”

She said, “Yeah.”

And I said, “What would it say about your relationship with your mother and how important she was in your life if you could lose her and then a month later go back to the way things were as if nothing happened? What does that say about your relationship with your mother?”

Yocheved noted that, of course, grief can be prolonged. But her main takeaway for her listeners is: the more that we can mourn when we experience a real loss, the more we affirm that value in our lives.

Tisha B’Av is a school in mourning, an occasion to practice living with the right amount of affectivity toward loss. It is countercultural because, rather than expecting people to simply move on from tragedy, the day provides the context and community to deliberately enter into it.

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