Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Orthodox Know How to Do This

No social events for a year? Yeah, I wish that were our rule.

When I taught in an Orthodox Jewish school and one of the teachers couldn't go to any social events, including a wedding, for an entire year after her father died, the practice seemed a bit extreme to me. When I talked to one of the administrators last year after his wife's death, it seemed about right for him as an adult, but awfully hard on his son, a former student of mine, who was not going to have much contact with friends outside of school for the end of his junior and most of his senior year.

Now that I am in this place, a year seems barely enough time. Every invitation is fraught with complications. I know that friends do not understand how it is that an informal Saturday night gathering can seem burdensome, or how we can decide to skip the celebrations of major milestones in the lives of others. How I wish we had an official rule, one that marked at least this first year as off limits, as a time of encasement in a cocoon of grief not to be invaded by either the trivial or the momentous.

10 comments:

Gannet Girl said...

Joan Calvin left this comment on my orginal post, which I've moved since I realized my first title could be interpreted as unintentionally offensive:

There is so much wisdom in Jewish traditions. We have much to learn. You are in my prayers. I pray that God will grant you what you need for today.

Cynthia said...

A year of seclusion after a death used to be a social standard, not just a religious standard. I've wished for it as well, even though I'm glad I don't have to abide by it. The isolation, while I frequently desire it and often need it, is dangerous for me at times. I think it's a shame we've given up social customes for mourning. I feel like the bereaved are thrown to the winds without ritual and tradition to guide and protect them.

Carol said...

The flip side of the Orthodox rule is that at the end of the year you are "expected" to resume your life in full again. In my experience, orthodoxy of any type creates unreasonable rules, regulations, and expectations. I believe that each of us has been given the tools with which to make our own choices, decisions, and rules. None more critical than how we mourn and grieve and on what timetable.

Mary Beth said...

(o)

Magdalene6127 said...

I agree: there is much wisdom in the orthodox mourning traditions...

Love you you (((Gannet Girl)))

alto artist said...

Your blog is so true and honest, and has been a source of comfort for me--thank you, once again.

I have been mourning the death of my brother, for which the Jewish tradition allots 30 days. (I am not Orthodox, so these laws are somewhat open to interpretation for me.) Although he was very important in my life, we were not extremely close, and I didn't think I would need a long time to "deal with it," or whatever words can be use to describe the process. I was wrong--it was all completely alien territory--and I am was grateful for the rule about refraining from social events, concerts, etc. for a month, which I did. That month ends on Tues., and although I am not yet whole, I have at least been able to catch my breath thanks to the gift of solitude.

--aa.

Anonymous said...

I do hope that your friends and family are okay with offering you open invitations so that you can feel alright about not going to an event if you don't feel up to it or just showing up if you do. No doubt feelings change moment to moment.

But I can see where a built-in custom could relieve some of that social stress, for a spell anyhow.

Mich

Stratoz said...

encasements--- like a nematode in a dry pond, waiting for the gift of rain to come back to another life. sorry, I have nematodes and rotifers on the brain.

actually, I have nematodes in my fridge at work, a million. The kind that eat fungus gnat larvae.

If M died, I would want to encase myself at Wernersville. I can imagine this.

Diane said...

((GG)) you are are right. there is so much truth in Orthdox traditions.

and wisdom...

lisaram said...

We often find that ancient customs were formed by wisdom and knowledge of human nature, rather than the desire to control simply for the sake of control.

As modern society has sped up, we have felt compelled to speed up everything, including the process of grieving. Now, we just say, "Grief is different for everyone. You will know when you are ready to do (fill in the blank.)" When what we really mean is, "Get over it as quickly as you can."

Not very nice, actually...