Moorings, 9 months

Rooting yourself as you walk in grief

leonid-9mo-waterfall


Hear my cry. Attend to my prayer,

From the ends of the earth I call You...

For You are a refuge for me, a tower of strength before my fears.

I will live in Your tent forever,  I will take shelter in the secret place under Your wings

-Adapted Psalm 61: 2, 3a. 4-5


Symbol of Sustenance: Shechina:

In the nights of our lives, our souls seek refuge under the Shechina's wings.
Resting in her embrace, we find the sustenance needed.
May this image, of the feminine presence of God Who stays with us, shelters us, and
travels with us through our passage, succor you
as you walk into this powerful time.

The 9th Month of Bereavement:

The realities of our loss now becomes known in our bones, on a very different level, on a very different plane
than it did previously.

We feel the approach of rituals, as the unveiling and the Yahrzeit near.
We know these markers will soon come our way and
we sit needing to ask ourselves now how it is that we wish to meet them.

This is a time to walk gently and in which to take special care.

Be gracious to me God, be gracious to me,
for my soul seeks shelter.
In the shadow of Your wings will I take refuge
until my hardships pass by.


-Adapted Psalm 57:2

Common Grief Reactions and Tips on Coping:

Loneliness:
Many during this time suffer feelings of keen loneliness.
Many feel sharply that empty space, where that unique person we love sits,
knowing that there will never again
be anyone like them in our lives.

These moments remind us poignantly of how connected we are to the person who has died
and of the role they played in our lives.
These times of loneliness we weather just like we do the storms that sweep through the seasons.

Despair:
Some experience feelings of despair, feeling as if grief will never leave them.
Often this feeling rises when we are worn out.
Sometimes it surfaces as the anniversary nears.

Memories arise now with a different type of intensity,
especially knowing that a year ago at this time our loved one was yet in life.

Just knowing that these feelings are a natural part of this time can help us move with and through them.
Should you feel concerned about the intensity of your feelings, seek extra support for this time.

Lack of meaning and waiting.Being in an in-between time:
There are times when our world as we know it ends and we can't yet see the new one
that is in process of coming into being.
There are times when that which gave meaning dies and the new frame has yet to be born.
Just as in nature, there are times when fields need lay fallow and pause before the earth can regenerate itself
to produce once more, so too with us.

There can be value in lying empty and being in a place of not knowing.
There can be power in resting, waiting, and trusting that life and direction will return to us,
just as life returns to the land as she reposes.

That's where the scouting mantra can be helpful: When you are lost stay in one place and don't move.
The way will become clearer in time.

Important tasks during this time:

Begin to think on how you want to mark the unveiling and the Yahrzeit in a way that feels right to you.
See the following sections.

A lot of feelings stir up at this time of readying to ritualize the closing of the first year of mourning and the anniversary
of the death of your loved one.

Once again, this time of preparation and grief continues to invite us to simplify life, slow down, and to attend to the very
basics of life; eating nutritionally, sleeping, exercising, and doing that which we need to do to sustain ourselves.

michael-9mo-forest

 

For You
does my soul wait in stillness
from Whom
my help comes


-Psalm 62:2

 

 

 


Natural Questions and Responses:

As I come closer to the anniversary of my
loved ones death, I thought I would have
been past all the hard parts now and back
on my feet.
But I'm not.  Sometimes I feel worse than I
did earlier.
Is there something wrong with me?


Many expect they would be "over it" by the anniversary of their loved ones death. 
However most people feel their grief intensify as the anniversary nears, as memories return
of what took place a year ago at this time.

What is true is that the first year of grief is nearing its close.
Although many feel they are at the same place as they were at the beginning of their loss and that they have made no "progress," changes have taken place.
We can see these more vividly when in the presence of someone who is very newly bereaved 
It is not the same as it was at the very beginning.

This is it's own step in the process. And it can be a hard and painful one.

I sometimes fear that I am wallowing in my grief, that I am indulging in self-pity. Yet I have such
powerful sweeps of grief still.  How do you tell what is what?

Our feelings are communications from our body and soul.
These can shift more quickly if they are acknowledged and honored than if they are pushed away.

Imagine being in a swimming pool and pushing down on a kick board, holding it underwater.
It takes a lot of energy to keep it submerged. 
So too with feelings.  Releasing them is like letting go of the kick board. 
It leaps up and then floats on top of the water. 
So too with emotions. They rise, make themselves known, and then find their place in their own time.

Healing takes more time than we want or think it will.

You've suffered the loss of someone key in your world. And as you approach yet another first marker this year,
the anniversary of the death of your loved one, your body and soul know this and are carrying this, both consciously
and unconsciously

Sometimes I feel jealous of others who still have their loved ones.  I feel badly about feeling this way. 
How do people deal with this?

To feel jealous of those who are still blessed with the physical presence of their loved ones while we mourn
our loved ones physical absence is a natural response.
This vacancy can be painful. And seeing others who have the relationships that we are missing
brings our loss up yet again.

Those others have an innocence that we've lost and we may yearn to turn time back on some levels just to be
with those we miss and love and for our worlds to turn back to relatively gentler times.

Staying in contact with those who give us heart, being with people we love,
and letting in their care and companionship can help in this time.
We need that water for our souls that people who are dear to us bring into our lives all the time and especially now.

People tell me I need to say "goodbye" to my loved one.  I know I need to create new parts to my life,
but I don't want to say goodbye.  Am I not "letting go" when I should be?

There are times we run up against the limits of  language.

Our memories and our relationships with our loved one will be with us throughout our lives.
They are our treasures,
part of us, and planted deeply in our bones.
They have made us who we are. And this will never leave us.

At the same time we need connection with living people with whom we can spend time, talk and laugh with, and
embrace.

Our challenge is to hold our loved ones within ourselves yet to not let our relationship with them prevent us from
creating new life-giving relations.

We need cherish our relationships with those who have died while staying in life.

Journaling Questions:

What follows are some questions.  Explore what most draws you.

Concerning your loved one:

  • What has been the hardest part about being without your loved one this year?
  • What has time without them taught you?
  • If there was something you'd want her/him to know what would that be?

Concerning the time since the last newsletter:

  • What has been the most challenging for you?
  • What have you learned generally? about yourself?
  • What questions have risen for you?
  • What has surprised you?

Concerning the closing of this first year of mourning:

  • What are your concerns for yourself in the next few months?
  • What help or support do you need?
  • What helps you calm and soothe your soul that you might want to add to your routine these next few months?

kathy-9mo-lake 

You are my protecting tower
A refuge
in my time of distress

-Psalm 59: 17b

 

 

 

Creating Rituals for Healing:

Our tradition holds much wisdom around the
power of ritual.

Rituals that are real for us and that resonate
can hold profound healing.

You are getting ready to honor the conclusion of
the cycle of your first year of mourning. 

And Jewish tradition offers routes to help
you mark this time as you approach the anniversary
of your loved ones dying and death, and as you close the formal cycle of walking as mourner within the Jewish
community.

This does not mean that one is completed and finished mourning,
but rather that our tradition beckons us saying that soon it will be time to re-enter society's circles. 
Soon we will need to formally leave the spiral path of mourner and
pick up pieces that we have left behind us this year in our move to basic and simplified living. 
Soon it will be time to re-enter life in a new way and to widen our circle of life.

As you approach planning this time, some things to think about are:
What observances do you need to do by yourself? which with others?
Do you need help in planning this time?
Whom do you want to be with you?

Families are composed of individuals with differing and sometimes conflicting needs and desires.
Know what it is you want and need in marking this time.
For rituals which involve others, think about what options are comfortable for you.
If you are in charge of planning, try to create markings that include and respect others needs
as well as your own.
Sometimes what others need is nowhere near what we ourselves may need.

In those situations where people take part in rites that their family designs which do not include what they personally
need, then it is wise to create supplemental rituals.
These can be created with friends, a counselor, or a rabbi.

The Unveiling:
The unveiling usually takes place 11 months after the death.

This ritual takes us to the physical resting place of our loved one so that we can better absorb
that this year without them is nearing its close.
This is a time to be with those we love who have died, mark their specialness,
as well as honor the passage of this year.

An unveiling is a simple ceremony that does not require the presence of a rabbi, cantor or a minyan.
We can create this ritual ourselves.
Many share this time with those who are close to them and/or to their loved one who has died.

The cemetery personnel or a friend can cover the headstone with a cloth before you approach the grave.

Below are also ideas for marking this time if you are not able to go to the graveside or if your loved one chose
other options than burial.

A sample of an unveiling follows:

G'vurot:
You ever constantly go, breathing life into the dead, Great Reviver,
nourishing life compassionately.
With overflowing tenderness, You infuse the dead with life,
supporting those who have fallen, healing those who are ill,
untying those bound, seeding hope for those in need.

Who is like You, One Who transcends strength itself?
Who can even come close to You, Powerful One,
Who guides us both out of and into life,
Who causes unseen sources of help to spring up,
Who unceasingly folds life into the dead?

Blessing to You, Who sows life into the dead.

Psalm 23
You are my shepherd. I shall not want.
You bring me to green pastures and lead me beside still waters.
You guide me on paths of righteousness, restoring my soul.

Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for You are with me.
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You have arranged a table before me in the presence of my enemies,
You have anointed my head with oil, my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and loving kindness will follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in Your house forever.

*At this juncture you may want to speak of the legacies you've received from your loved one,
the lessons and gifts you've gained from them.

In the name of ______ and in the presence of her/his family and friends, we consecrate this monument to
her/his memory.

May her/her soul be bound up in the bond of life.
And may we say, Amen.

Psalm 121
I lift up my eyes to the mountains
from where shall my help come?

From You, Who makes heaven and earth,
Who will not allow my foot to slip,
my Guardian does not slumber.
Behold the Guardian of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps.

You are with me, thus
the sun will not smite me by day, nor the moon by night.
You sustain me and tend my soul.

Guard my going out and my coming in
from this time forth and forever.

You Who tends those with tender hearts,
Who mends those whose bones ache,
be with those who mourn.

Walk by their sides and be with them compassionately.
Surround them with the mysteries and beauties of life.
Touch their hearts and hold them close to You.
Comfort them and cloak them with peace.
Amen.

Read silently:
May God remember _________
May s/he be at peace.
May the beauty of her/his life shine and
may my life bring honor to her/his memory.

Add your own prayers/thoughts silently

El Malei Rachamim:
God filled with compassion,
grant rest under the wings of the Shechina
among those who shine in brightness,
for ____ daughter/son of _______who walked to her/his next world,
may s/he rest in the garden of Eden.

One of Compassion, hold her/him in the shelter of Your wings,
and enfold her soul in the bonds of life.
May s/he rest in peace.
And let us say,
Amen.

Kaddish (See a siddur, a prayerbook)

May the Source of peace, send peace to all who mourn
and comfort to all who are bereaved, among us, in Tzion V'rushalayim
and throughout the world, and let us say,
Amen.

*Traditionally if you close with the Kaddish, a minyan should be present.
The Kaddish does not need to be said at this ritual.
*If you are alone at this time you can change the voice in these prayers so they can speak for you.

Other things to think about:
Some of us may not be able to return to the cemetery in which our loved one was buried for the unveiling.
For some who mourn there is no physical marker.
Thus we need to create ritual in our day for the different circumstances we face in our lives.

You may find going to the Jewish cemetery in the city where you live may give you comfort. 
Others may find going to a spot in nature best suits. And still others sit quietly to reflect in their home.

Think of where you will be, when, with whom. Think of what rituals you wish to observe as you ready to create
a time of marking that fits you and your circumstances.

This time is yours.
It's a time to mark your relationship with your loved one, the way you've come this year,
and to mark that 11 months of mourning are coming to their close.

Preparing for Yahrzeit:
Yahrzeit
marks the anniversary not of the funeral but of the actual date of your loved one's death.
Traditionally this is calculated according to the Hebrew date of the date of death which can be found in Spier's The Comprehensive Hebrew Calendar, housed in most synagogues.

For some people however the English date is etched into their body memories and thus observance of the Yahrzeit
at that date feels most powerful.

It is customary for mourners to receive an aliyah at synagogue on the shabbat before the Yahrzeit.
You may want to contact your rabbi to see what is possible to arrange.

Other ways to ready for this marker:

Thank yous:
Consider sending thank you notes or cards or calling people who extended themselves to you this year and gave you support: family, friends, co-workers, and acquaintances who reached out to you, offered help, called, invited you to
join them, and whose company gave you comfort in this past year.

Thank them for their kindnesses to you.
Let them know that what they did was important to you, made a difference for you.

If there were people involved in your loved one's care that you haven't conveyed your thanks to,
now is a good time to do that as well.

Journal:
You may wish to write a letter to your loved one, conversing with them.

You may want to write of any regrets.
Things you never got to say, or to do, or to experience with them. 
Things that were said or done that may have been hurtful, that they had done to you, or that you may have done to them.
Tell them that you are sorry.
Imagine them saying that to you as well.

You may want to write down the gifts you most cherish that you've received from them:
gifts that have deepened your life, things you've learned from them, and thank them.

You may want to write down what you love about them, what you treasure about them:
what about their spirit you most cherish, tell them again that you love them.

You may want to write down that which was hard about your relationship, what was difficult for you.
If you are ready, tell them you forgive them.

You may want to write about how your relationship with them has changed since their death.

Say anything else you need to say to them as you ready to close this year and enter into Yahrzeit time.

Tzedakah:
It's customary to contribute tzedakah (funds for justice making) at this time.
Think of a fund to which you'd like to contribute.
Enclose a note with your check telling the organization that this donation is in memory of your loved one,
as you approach the anniversary of their death.
Tell the organization of your desire to honor your loved one and of your hope that your contribution in memory of them
will benefit others lives. Thank the agency for the good work they do.

Yahrzeit Candle:
Buy a Yahrzeit candle (in synagogue gift shops, on-line in Judaica sites).  Give yourself time to find one.
Try not to wait until the last moment to be sure you find a candle in time.

Time of Yahrzeit:

The Yahrzeit candle is lit the evening of the day before Yahrzeit and burns throughout the day.

This ritual is linked with Proverbs 20:27 which you may wish to say as you light your candle,
"The soul of human kind is the lamp of God."

Traditionally this is a day of prayer and meditation wherein the Kaddish is recited.

This day is a time to move with what feels right for you and your relationship.

Some people journal.  Some write a letter to their loved one.  Some go to the cemetery.  Some walk in nature.
Some rest and look at the sky.  Some look at photographs.  Some create rituals like floating a flower in the water on a
beach and watching it depart.  Some call or email family members or friends dear to them and/or who knew their loved ones.  Some just move slowly and rest and nap and tend themselves gently that day.  Some get together with friends who've experienced a similar loss.  Some find the warmth of community and prayer comforts their souls.

As your life allows you, Yahrzeit invites you to make a space to remember and to mourn.
It offers a marker, a resting place in which to stop and connect with the one you love.

vicki-9m-resized

Resources for Comfort and Support:

Books can sometimes nourish the spirit, and take
one to new places. Some good reading for the soul:

  • BenShea, Noah. Jacob the Baker, Gentle Wisdom for a Complicated World. NY: Villard Books, 1989.
  • Kushner, Harold. When Bad Things Happen to Good People. NY: Schocken Books, 1981. ( Also in VHS)
  • Margolies, Morris. A Gathering of Angels, Angels in Jewish Life and Literature. NY: Ballantine Books, 1994.
  • Siegel, Danny. "The Angels" Angels. Essays. NY: The Town House Press, 1980.

We relearn during this time of mourning that while
there are some things we can control, there's much
in life that we can not.

As you prepare to leave this part of this route, carry this with you.

Traditionally we enacted this wisdom in ancient times through the making of sacrificial offerings, which after the
destruction of the Temples was translated into the offering up of prayer.

What follows is a meditation I wrote for morning prayer, before entering the Pesukei Dezimra, Verses of Song:

My Daily Offering:

From the wholeness of my heart I bring to You as a peace offering my self, my being.
As I enter this day
I release all that I hold onto.
I place myself into Your hands
I surrender myself to Your will.

As we close I include a translation of an evening prayer, Hashkiveinu,
that also appears in the prayers before sleep at night.
It speaks of the type of care we may need in our lives now as we walk in this juncture of time.

Hashkiveinu:

Enable me to lie down in peace, and
to rise up again to life.

Spread over me the tent of Your peace.

Guide me with Your good counsel.
Save me.  Shield me.
Remove from around me and within me enemies, pestilence, sword, famine and anguish.
Melt away the forces that lie before me and follow me, that block me on my way.
Shelter me in the shadow of Your wings.

Watch over me and aid me with grace and compassion.
Enable my going out and my coming in to life and to peace
from this time
and always.

leonid-9mo-waterfall

 

Take good care.

You may wish to prepare for the next upcoming
holiday or check back with the 14th month newsletter.

Walk gently in this time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guide to Hebrew words

Shechina: feminine presence of God that dwells with us, traveling where we wander

Yahrzeit: Yiddish, meaning 'time of year' wherein we mark the Anniversary of our loved one's death

Minyan: quorum of 10 people in the liberal community, 10 men in traditional community, needed in order to recite
certain prayers in the liturgy.

El Malei Rachamim: a prayer which translates as "God filled with Compassion"

Siddur: prayer book

Kaddish: Here referring to the mourner's kaddish, a prayer of praise of God, as we stand before death
in the sight of mystery.

Tzion V'yrushalayim: Hebrew for Zion and Jerusalem

Tzedakah: Funds used to create justice in the world

Photography Credits

First and last photograph: Leonid Rozenfeld
Second photograph: Michael Moriarity
Third photograph: Kathy Berendt
Fourth photograph: Vicki Hollander