One of the things that scares me most is when people I love feel loss. My pattern of feelings when I hear of a loss, is first a feeling of weakness and then a feeling of fear.
Weakness . . . because nothing I can do can bring back what they had.
Fear . . . because I might say the wrong thing when I see them.
After these feelings, my next instinct is to stay out of the lives of those that have lost. Give them space so as not to be a burden to them.
My mom lost her mom, my Nana, this Summer. When I asked my mom how she was doing after the memorial service, she told me that the most nurturing time for her in the month after my Nana’s death, was the visit of two old friends. They came to my mom’s house and sat with her for 2 hours. They didn’t ask her loss-related questions. They told her stories of their lives. They looked at old pictures. They ate together.
Listening to her, reminded me of the Jewish tradition of Shiva – the first structured period of mourning when friends and family come and sit with those that have lost.
In comparing my natural instincts to loss to the tradition of Shiva, I realized that my common sense has me all turned around. My approach leaves those hurting by themselves in the monologues of their own minds. Shiva provides a pathway for people to effectively give their presence to those who have nothing to give. It says “if you have fallen down in grief, I will be with you to help you get back up.”
I’m ready to ditch my old response and adopt Shiva as my tradition too.