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.
Last year to prepare for the holiday, I held a special " The Mending Word Holiday session" to tap into my grief and the holiday feeling. I meditated and thought about the past holidays and wrote about my favorite memories and sweet moments throughout the years with my parents. It was the first holiday without my dad, and I remember I felt very strongly to be intentional about the holiday and the prayers. I spent lots of time in the synagogue in my family neighborhood. I hosted the holiday meals with friends and used my mom’s dishes for the honey, her vase for the flowers, my father’s challah cover for the bread, both of their booklet of prayers to be said during the meal, and my very own Machzor to pray with (jewish prayer book used for the High Holidays) that my parents picked out for me and had my full hebrew name on it. I spent the holiday in my brand new apartment which I just moved into with my sister. It was a holiday full of hope - of good things and cherished memories. It was absolutely lovely.
And I knew that this year would be different. I wasn’t feeling very hopeful or connected this time around, and I don’t know if it’s anything specific that has changed, maybe it’s just been another year of grief and another year of realizing some things will never be the same, no matter how hard you try. Maybe I’m just feeling tired of trying to be connected all the time to my parents. Maybe I don’t actually want to try and recreate memories that are too painful to sit and remember.
One of the most common sayings you’ll hear is that grief comes in waves. Yes, that is true. But what about the times the grief is the same - the same overbearing, overwhelming, and exhausting ocean of darkness - but this time, you’re the one that's different? I would add to the previous statement and say the way you relate to your grief, the way you listen to it, tune it in or shut it out, will come in waves. You won’t always want to be remembering your dead loved ones during the holiday and you won’t always want to shut it out and completely ignore it either, but you may want to sometimes. At times you may want to let go, and at others you may want to hold on. And it's okay if that changes every day, month, or holiday.
Last year I was all in. And this year, though I did make an effort to spend it with family and partake in the traditions of the holiday, I stepped out. I left town, with my father’s favorite synagogue around the corner and memories of both of them with every step I turned, and I left my apartment, with photos of them all over the walls and their keepsakes on every shelf and counter. Sometimes you need to take a step back before you can jump in. And choosing to live with your grief every day, facing it and acknowledging it and doing what you will with it, is jumping in - all the way.
Here’s to jumping into our grief, in this new year, no matter the wave that finds us. Shanah Tovah U’Metuka to all.
We invite you to share your experiences, questions, and resource suggestions with the WYG community in the discussion section below.
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What’s Your Grief? Lists to Help you Through Any Loss is for people experiencing any type of loss. This book discusses some of the most common grief experiences and breaks down psychological concepts to help you understand your thoughts and emotions. It also shares useful coping tools, and helps the reader reflect on their unique relationship with grief and loss.
You can find What’s Your Grief? Lists to Help you Through Any Loss wherever you buy books: