Navigating Loss as a Community

Last night I went to yet another shiva. In the Jewish tradition we practice the ritual of shiva when somebody dies. Family, neighbors and members of the community visit the person in mourning – in this case it was a close friend whose father died. We sit together, say prayers, share memories about the lost beloved and eat. We eat to remind us that there is still sweetness and pleasure to be derived for the living. Invariably the shiva turns to reflection, conversation, and sometimes laughter. The energy shifts to one of connection and love. Community is at the core of sitting shiva.

flickering candleMy friends and I have entered a new phase of life. We are a group of friends that evolved over the years from the countless carpools, school committees, fundraisers, sports activities, and back-to-school nights that we shared in raising our children. Most of us also shared the passages of our children as they went through religious rituals. Together we celebrate the happy occasions and blessings in our lives, help each other through difficult transitions and we mourn our losses together.

Now, we are smack in the middle of “the sandwich generation.” Our children are going off to college and launching into their own adulthoods while our aging parents are grappling with illness and death. It is a time of loss. Moreover it is a time when it behooves each of us to enjoy every sweet moment possible. The cycle of life has never been more apparent.

The last six months I have mourned the deaths of seven elders, two from my own family and the others from families of dear friends. Not only do we mourn the loss of our parents and elders but also the link with the earlier parts of our lives. We become more keenly aware of our own mortality, for we know as they die we move closer to the front lines.

We come together during this time of mourning, because it softens our pain and experience of bereavement in untold ways. It gives us strength and solace. We join in honoring a life well lived and appreciate our close friendships all the more. Loss is a guarantee as we move through life. The question is how do we navigate this extraordinarily difficult time with compassion and courage, without losing our balance?

How do you move through your own losses?

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