by Rabbi Baruch HaLevi
My grandmother killed herself over a quarter century ago, and yet, I remember it as if it were yesterday. The sights. The sounds. The horror. The grief. However, what I don't remember were conversations about the grief. Maybe they were had, but not by me or with me.
Instead, life forged ahead as if everything was "fine." "I'm fine" became my father's mantra, whether he said it or not.
After her death, my father seemed to "suck it up" and deal with his darkness the only way he knew how- by getting back to his routines, his work and his life.
Like many people in the aftermath of a loss, he believed he was too busy for grief; busy raising a family, building a business and playing his part within a larger community. I think he believed he was doing us a favor by not delving into the darkness. So, he put his head down and focused on providing for his family and said,"everything is fine," in the way he lived his life. This determination carried him forward for a while and to an outsider looking in, everything probably appeared fine.
However, everything was not fine.
The unprocessed suffering, guilt, grief, regret and anger over his mother's suicide was growing louder in his soul. Indeed, everything was far from fine and roughly two decades later my father killed himself.
Everything could have been fine for my dad if only he would have stopped pretending that it was fine. There is simply nothing "fine" about avoidance, a-void-dance, a dance around the void (see previous blog).
When a loved one dies, no matter how much you want everything to be fine - it is not.
Rushing back to work does not make everything fine.
Speeding back into the routines does not make everything fine.
Jumping back into action does not make everything fine.
Everything can be "fine" - someday, but not today.
When death's darkness casts it's shadow upon your life, make sure you aren't simply responding "I'm fine;" "It's fine;" "Everything is fine," to simply avoid facing the darkness.
It can be "fine" again.
It will be "fine" again.
Repeating "everything is fine," however, when it is not, is not how you will get there.
Things will only return to "fine" when you are honest, real and face, your darkness, work through your grief and share your pain.
Carry The Fire,
Rabbi Baruch HaLevi lost his grandmother to suicide as a teenager and eighteen years later, his father too. He lives in the Boston, MA area with his wife and four children. He is devoted to his Congregation Shirat Hayam and building spiritual bridges. This article is reprinted with permission from his blog.