A Guten Chodesh!
Shevat conjures up thoughts and hopes of spring, newness, and rebirth. It’s always a boost when it’s cold outside and the days are short.
And Shevat comes at a time when we turn the corner on the calendar, the days are slowly getting a few minutes longer each day. (Giving us a few extra minutes each week on Erev Shabbos too!)
As I was thinking about this pivot, I read a beautiful article written by Sara Chana Radcliffe, and then, in the same week, as always happens, got two calls about just this.
The article was on ambiguous loss, unconventional losses. Losses of relationships, uncertain losses, and loss of life as one knows it. It was very powerful and relevant to everyone at some point in their lives; about circumstances or people changing (moving away, a divorce in the family, an illness either physical or emotional, financial circumstances drastically reduced etc.), and the new reality seems bleak, or way more than that.
The first phone call was from a young mother who was moving to a new neighborhood shortly. Her family had outgrown their “starter” home and they bought a larger home in another area of the same town. She was feeling terribly ungrateful, and upset with herself that the bracha of outgrowing her home, and being able to buy a larger home, was being eclipsed by her loving her present neighborhood, the families that she had raised her young children alongside with, and the comfort of being, well…. Comfortable where she had been. She was disappointed in herself that she was focusing on her “loss’ ‘, actually crying about it, and unable to project positivity to her family, causing them to dread the move.
The second phone call was from a young mother who had just found out that she was expecting a baby. When she realized that her due date would completely change the families summer plans, which they had thrived on in years’ past, she was struggling with her disappointment in herself for not focusing solely on the bracha of expecting a baby, and being so disappointed in the loss of an opportunity in which everyone in the family grew and enjoyed so much. “What’s wrong with me?” She wanted to know,
Instead of beating themselves up, or condemning their own thoughts, we talked about holding two things at once. Holding two emotions at once is something that we need to learn, and do over and over and over again. It means that I can feel two very different emotions, both valid, both powerful, both “right”, at the same time. By acknowledging the emotions, and naming them, I can learn to hold them both.
“Yes, I am grateful for this new home, the gift of a large family, the blessing of being able to afford a larger home” and “yes, this is hard, I feel a loss of what is familiar and comforting” I feel both.
“Yes, I am grateful for this pregnancy, for this new life”, and “Yes, that summer experience was so good for all of us. I saw the best in my husband, my children, and myself. This is sad for me”.
When we can do this, we stop judging ourselves. We understand, acknowledge, and accept the loss, while making space for gratitude.
As our lives expand, and our families grow, with all of the beauty and all of the complexity, learning to hold two things will help us develop greater menuchas hanefesh and simchas hachaim.
Wishing you a wonderful month!