Monday, June 21, 2010

People of the (Mourning) Book

Last week on Facebook, I pondered this question: JanetheWriter wonders when she'll regain enough patience and concentration to read again. Of course, I’d like to be able to dig into some of the many “to read” books that I wrote about here and here, but that doesn’t seem as though it will happen anytime soon.

In the months since some of those books joined the many others on my shelves, life has taken some unexpected twists and turns and a whole new collection of books is taking shape in my home, brought to me through the thoughtful generosity of friends, following my mother’s death.

The first two, Grief in Our Seasons and Mourning and Mitzvah: A Guided Journal for Walking the Mourner’s Path Through Grief to Healing, came directly and promptly from a friend who also happens to be the founder of Jewish Lights Publishing. I’m making my way through the first, a pocket-sized companion, just as its author intended – weaving together text study and mourning one page each day – and expect to get to the second one in due time.

The third -- Leon Wieseltier’s Kaddish, which according to the dust jacket, is “a record of the inner life of one of America’s most brilliant intellectuals during a year of mourning” – was lent to me by a friend when we had lunch last week. Thumbing through its nearly 600 pages, I found small, dense print, limited white space, and seemingly endless paragraphs on which my eyes cannot yet focus. Perhaps I’ll pick it up in a few weeks…

In contrast, each page in Earl Grollman’s slim volume -- Living When a Loved One Has Died, recommended by another friend -- is mostly white and dotted with just a few printed words or a poignant black and white photograph. Some of his words, I am convinced, were written just for me at this very moment:
The Many Faces of Grief

Your grief is not only frightening
but erratic.

Even though each of us faces
a death in different ways,
we share some points of reference.

You may recognize these feelings:
numbness
denial
anger
panic
physical illness
guilt
depression

These emotions are your
variations on the theme of grief.

If you experience these reactions
You are not abnormal.

There is no detour around
bereavement.
And so it is that surrounded by beloved friends, by treasured books and by the wisdom of both, I will continue to walk the bereavement path that lies ahead.