Monday, April 18, 2011

Suspended in Mid Air

By Susan Esther Barnes

Baruch dayan ha'emet.

Everyone's grieving process is different. I wish mine were different than it is, but it isn't something I get to choose; it isn't something I can change. I call mine the Wile E. Coyote style of grieving.

My father, may his memory be a blessing, died on Saturday morning. I found out about it early Saturday evening. It is now very early on Monday morning - so early it is really still Sunday night.

I should be crying. At the very least, I should feel immersed in sadness.

My father was in and out of the hospital for a week before he died, but neither my sister nor I knew that before his death. I should be angry at his wife - now his widow - for depriving us of the opportunity to be there for him during the last days of his life.

Because he died two days before the start of Passover, instead of the normal seven day shiva mourning period (the word shiva even means seven), I only get about 48 hours. I should feel cheated out of the proper shiva period to which I thought I would be entitled.

Because his widow has chosen not to bury him for seven to ten days, I should feel horrified that his body will spend so much time on a cold shelf in a morgue, alone, without a shomer to watch over him.

I thought the shiva minyan (prayer service) we had on Sunday evening would help to move my grieving process along faster. I thought it would bring all these feelings out, but it did not. That is not how my grieving process works, and despite my wishes, it will not be rushed.

Instead, I am still mostly numb. Like in the old Road Runner cartoons, just after Wile E. Coyote has inadvertently run off a cliff, I am suspended in mid air. I am in the midst of a pregnant pause that stretches out beyond credulity, even though, to some extent, I understand something important has gone wrong.

Like Wile E. Coyote, I tentatively reach out with a paw, feeling for the ground which is no longer beneath me. For me, this takes the form of my newfound inability to sleep for more than a couple hours at a time.

Here I will hang, for an unknown period of time, before I am able to look down and suddenly begin my plunge to the valley floor below.

It does me no good to envy those who, in what appears to me to be a more realistic fashion, drop immediatley after running off the cliff edge. It does me no good to tell myself the ground under my feet is gone and I cannot turn around and regain the cliff top.

No, against my will, I must pause here, hanging like Wile E. Coyote in mid air, waiting for the inevitable plunge to come at some random moment of its own choosing.

But I have one thing Wile E. Coyote did not have. And that is the knowledge that when that plunge comes, my husband and my community will be here to catch me.


  1. I'm so sorry that you have such little closure. Second marriages can be so divisive.
    HaMakom yenachem...

  2. Baruch Dayan Haemet, I am so sorry to hear it.

    Hamakom yenachem otach betoch sha'ar avlei tzioyon veyerushalaim.

  3. Baruch dayam emes.

    And yes, we are all here for you...

  4. Thank you for your kind words and support. And Rabbi Fink, thank you especially for reminding me that my support network extends beyond my family, friends, and synagogue to the online community as well.

  5. May you be comforted among the mourners, whenever your mourning begins.