Last year I wrote a lot about my experiences mourning for my mother. It was an intense and exhausting year, and it still feels very raw to me, though her yahrzeit was in August. Last night I was babysitting a baby who threw up, and then was given the baby equivalent of Ensure. When my mom was sick she was constantly vomiting and then I would give her an Ensure or a Boost to make sure she didn’t lose all of the calories. The child I was caring for was fine, but I the whole scene was a real trigger for me of all of the painful times immediately before and after her death.
I knew all along that grieving was a long term thing, but I don’t think I realized how it creeps up on you the way it did last night, leaving me in tears as I tried to clean up a baby and a high chair.
I’ve also been thinking a lot about grief because I read a wonderful interview in the Philadelphia Jewish Voice about a family coping with the loss of their teenage daughter. The interview talks about a lot of the tough choices we make in the immediate aftermath of a loss, and also the helpful and hurtful things people say and do.
Rabbi Milgram: First, let’s talk about what kind of support those experiencing such a trauma need, then how you resolved the Jewish ritual and ethical issues.
Amy: The hardest thing for me was, and is, people giving advice, often unwanted, about how and how long we should grieve and what is considered normal. The victim’s unit of the state police was ineffective; the only resource they left us with was information about a self help group that meets once a month. Friends and family were very helpful in driving us where we needed to go and easing our burdens, but we also needed someone who could understand what we were going through. The woman assigned to us from the victim’s unit was young and didn’t have children. How could she possibly even begin to understand how parents feel when they learn they must outlive their child? This isn’t something we can get over or recover from; our anguish is a reflection of our love.