Today’s guest author is Michal Baitz. Michal is the founder and facilitator of The Mending Word, a healing space for grieving and connecting. The Mending Word is a grief writing workshop created for those who have lost a loved one. Through grief-related materials and guided prompts, the members discuss, write and share their experiences. New series begin throughout the year with weekly or bimonthly sessions to choose from. Learn more and register here.
Since September, the holidays have felt a little different for me. In my personal life, I have recently gotten engaged and am embarking on a new journey that is both terrifying and exciting at the same time.
I am moving communities, leaving the one that I have lived in my entire life – or more importantly, the one where my parents have lived for almost 45 years of their marriage. Every day I pass by these reminders as I walk to the train or go to the grocery store. They are beautiful and yet heartbreaking to have to constantly see – a reminder of them, and yet a reminder of what I’ve lost.
It has been a long and hard struggle for me to allow myself to get comfortable with the idea of leaving and starting anew. Many people might not relate to this struggle, but if you are grieving two parents you could possibly understand my sadness in having to truly say goodbye.
Even the thought of leaving the state of their gravesites saddens me, as I always promised my dad I would visit him and my mom often. Although honestly, in the almost two years since he died, I have not truly kept good on this promise.
I have written about this many times because it is truly an internal struggle that I believe we grievers have to go through on the daily. The pull of keeping them close and letting them go. Keeping them alive within us and yet acknowledging they are gone.
This dichotomy of life and death is something we will always have to face, whether we choose to remember our loved ones or ignore them completely. I believe there is a middle ground, though it takes time to find that balance within ourselves. It may even take an entire lifetime.
The beautiful thing about Jewish holidays is you’ll always have them during your lifetime to help you find this balance along the way.
In this holiday of Sukkot, we are told to “live” in a hut (a “Sukkah”) for 7 days, rain or shine – people do their utmost to keep this tradition. This is our way of leaving our physical boundaries that we set for ourselves during the year – all of the requirements in our homes, our financial and security needs, and instead lean into our trust of G-d and the universe. We take a break from worldly pressures and lean into our spiritual selves through “living” outside of our homes.
For these 7 days, the Sukkah invites us to come as we are. Leave everything behind, and just be. Be with your grief. Be with your Joy. Be alone. Be together. Grief and all, pain and all, struggles and conflicts and all, sit in the sukkah and partake in this Mitzvah, in this holiday. Sit inside with your grief and find your joy once again. The sukkah invites us to find this beautiful balance of truly living.
This holiday, as I prepare to begin on this new journey, I am grateful for the opportunity to find my balance in the ancient traditions of my religion, where my grief is welcomed – rain or shine.
We invite you to share your experiences, questions, and resource suggestions with the WYG community in the discussion section below.