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Friday, March 7, 2008

Jewish Mourning

I just haven't felt like writing anything, but that is normal after a loss of anyone in family. I see grieving survivors in my office often having a lot of trouble getting back to their life. Its not necessarily suppose to be easy, but so few people have any coping mechanism for death.

Judaism has many guidelines for death. In a nut shell and very simplistically--No life support. After death the body is suppose to remain in the presence of family as to not be tampered with. Buried as quickly as possible. The family actually digs the dirt and covers the casket with dirt. No cremation. No embalming (ei., dust to dust). No make-up. No viewing (which relieves me greatly, what a terrible and disrespectful thing to do to someone's body). Lighting a shiva candle after a funeral, wearing a black ribbon. Sitting shiva, receiving visitors who are only concerned with the welfare of the survivors and good memories of the deceased. Visitors not making demands on the survivors.

Sounds hard to carry out all that. My family doesn't do all that. My family is not religious. But... I feel good knowing that I understand the rituals and can have some control over lighting a candle and wearing a ribbon. Perhaps I'll come up with other rituals that are meaningful. It gives me control knowing what the rituals are and that I can perhaps understand in my mind why we don't do thing s that way or perhaps never understand but accept.

The shiva candle, a week long candle, burned for someone in your immediate family is symbolic of the time we should focus on our spirituality. It is not a time of going to parties and joy. It does not matter if you got along with or fought with, hated or loved, it is still family and whether or not you like it, we have a flood of feelings and emotions and they need to be faced. I can see how Jewish mourning brings survivors together to remember the good, to strengthen the ties between the survivors. Funerals and mourning are, in a way for survivors to deal and cope... and then gradually move on in appropriate timing. It's a way for us to confront reality and not hide behind our busy life. Its the Jewish ritual that makes most sense to me. You'll know when my Shiva candle burns out. Unless its urgent and related to feeding my family, my thoughts are where they should be.


Nicole D said...

My thoughts and prayers are with you. I am sorry to hear about your loss!

crispy said...

What a great glimpse into the Jewish mourning. I appreciated hearing those traditions.

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