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Taking Out My Box of Grief

July 21, 2020 | by Chanie Stavsky

Why I'm looking forward to Tisha B'Av this year.

I’m looking forward to Tisha B’Av this year. I’m yearning for the mourning. You see, during the height of the pandemic, I had to stay strong for my family and students. Even though I shook with fear when I checked the news, there was still breakfast, lunch and supper to be made that day. There were lessons to prepare and classes to teach, tables to clear and floors to mop. Breaking down and mourning for the newly bereft family members of our nation was simply not an option. I had to stay strong.

When there were horror stories of loss and devastation, there were classes my children needed to call into on time. I had to be available and in control of myself.

So I put the grief in a box called "When there’s time." Pesach cleaning began. The weeks flew by even though the days seemed endless. And suddenly Shavuot meals needed to be cooked. My kids still needed those daily meals. Children don’t stop needing to be taken care of because their parents are distraught.

So the box remains unopened. From time to time a flap becomes undone, like when I see a fundraiser for the bride whose father died a week before her wedding. Or when I read a synopsis of an obituary about some of the great people that we have lost.

But how can I take out that box when there are more loads of laundry to fold? My kids need an emotionally stable mother.

So I tape up the flap and say to myself, one day I will allow my heart to feel the pain of what happened and the sorrow of who we’ve lost.

When I was younger, I disdained the Three Weeks and especially the Nine Days and all of their mourning restrictions. Smack in middle of the summer, just at the height of vacation time, there’s a period of mourning. No music! Then no more water activities which were my favorite. Why couldn't the mourning period be during a dark winter month?

Now that I’m older and hopefully wiser, I see that few things are black and white. Mourning doesn’t have distinct walls and times. Neither does joy. There’s the brand new healthy baby that can come with the challenge of exhaustion and colic. There’s the glowing bride and the ecstatic groom and yet years which are followed with learning about communication, compromise and hard-earned growth. There’s the proud Bar Mitzvah boy reading the Torah but the missing Zaidy who passed away too young.

So too, there are the beautiful summer days but still no Third Temple in Jerusalem. There are children frolicking in the pool but the world around them is disintegrating. There are too many young ladies waiting to build a home and too many ill with terrible diseases. And yet, the sun shines brightly in the summer.

The period leading up to Tisha B'Av brings it all to a halt. Is it truly ever light or truly ever dark? In the midst of the pandemic, we saw misery beyond belief. But that also came with unprecedented kindness, creativity and unity. The dire times brought out the exceptional work of so many in our holy nation.

Soon the time will come for me to take out that box of grief during the time dedicated to mourning. Right in middle of summer as usual. But this year brings a deeper, stronger connection to that halt. I pray that next year I will look forward to Tisha B’Av for a very different reason. May we see an end to all tragedy and may God speedily redeem us.

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