Grief undefined

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By Blumie Raskin Abend

For days now, I lie sleepless in bed at night, unfinished sentences and wild phrases filling my mind, polluting it with tips of ideas and echoes of tangibility. 

Each morning, I wake up determined to put words to paper, to offload some of the heaviness of my heart. And then the voices in my head stop me once again, barring any kind of writing development.

For who am I to define the word Grief?

It’s only mid-July, but I have already coined this summer the Summer of Loss. I will forever remember the blows, one after the other, that hit us every time we loaded a news website, each phone call that brought with it a feasible broadcast of dread. Every corner, around every bend, loss seems to lie in waiting and the Grief that follows it is heart wrenching.

It’s the closeness of the Grief that makes it particularly poignant. For the first time in my life, the term ‘blood runs thicker than water’ actually means something to me. Because there is a part of my heart that broke when my sweet cousin, sixteen year old Shmuel passed away suddenly on a Monday morning. There is a constant bucket of tears ready to be tipped over at any moment in my day when I read the raw anguish of his father’s mourning on the family WhatsApp chat. My big, older cousin whom we all hold in so much respect and awe, sharing the deepest emotions and tears that only a father who lost his son, can share. There is a pounding in my heart when I meet my aunt and uncle in London the first Shabbos they are back from their trip to New York, where they accompanied their grandchild to his final resting place. And the tears fall when my aunt hugs my grandmother, a searing pain of unfairness and reeling shock, the tragedy setting in, for how can my grandmother be comforting her daughter for the loss of one of her own great-grandchildren?

Grief has never seemed so close and so real. It tears at me, wretched fingers closing in on my heart. It’s the closeness of the searing pain I can feel when I imagine my sister holding her tiny, pure baby in her arms. The baby we had plans to come and see at the end of the summer. The baby that my kids and hers were talking about all Pesach. The baby that had one short mission from Hashem- to spend nine months in the womb of a Jewish, special woman. The baby that did not get to experience any time in this world and will never know how much he would have been loved by his adoring parents, his excited siblings and his smitten aunts and uncles. It’s that feeling again of disbelief- that numbness that wears off into gut wrenching emptiness and the wonder of why and how.

Within days of each event, another seems to follow right on its heels. Grief isn’t done yet. It snatches a young father, the husband of a woman I have just become acquainted with, leaving her to raise five children on her own. It steals away the life of a 62 year old man, the relative of a friend. A father, a grandfather, a husband, a son. It manifests itself in a beast of water, luring a kind, selfless teacher of Torah into its gaping mouth of sharp teeth and whisking him away forever. It strikes down a mother in New York and a mother in London and all I see is tragedy and pain in this Summer of Loss.

Grief has wormed it’s way into my heart and planted a seed of fear. I cannot take anything for granted. I feel small pockets of panic at sporadic moments during the day – please, do not let Grief knock again. Please, we do not understand this masterplan of Yours. We don’t want to hear the reasons and we don’t want to find the silver linings. 

We want our vision of sweetness to be aligned with Yours. 

We don’t want to define grief and try to understand it.

We want a Summer of Joy. 

We still have some time left.

To read the full version of this month’s Chronicle in PDF, click here

To read the editor’s column for this issue, click here

To read the most read story of last month, click here

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