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Grief: the Sad Frontier

Anger unresolved is grief, I’ve been taught. Rage is unresolved collective anger. The greatest challenge before us today (speaking as spirit-friend of beloved spirit-friends) seems to be metabolizing grief without violence, without blame or projection. But what does it even mean to resolve anger

I arrive onto the page this morning from a birthday weekend trip, Brian and I visiting friends in NYC I had not seen since Covid.* I knew I was going for me, to be in Shabbos spaces with dear friends, to reconnect with them, to enjoy a weekend “away” with my beloved Brian. In that sense, it didn’t matter what they would do or not do regarding “my birthday.” Brian celebrated the actual day with me perfectly, and I enjoyed the digital traffic that birthdays can offer today–Facebook, Messenger-texts, iMessages and more. It was a good trip.

At the same time, I come home from the long-anticipated trip drenched in grief. Is it mine? My friends’? Theirs alone? Mine alone? The belly sensation is one of deep sadness, cusp of tears, being drawn back to the page to come to some initial words about it all, without blame, shame or projection. Am I tending to my grief or avoiding it? 

One of the most significant questions asked of me in the last decades came from an elder I’ve quoted here often, Quanita Roberson: what sadness are you not letting yourself feel? (She’s also the source of the anger/rage unresolved--grief's wisdom). We were having one of our never-ending conversations about the newest thing to have nicked my rage. I don’t remember today what it was, and it really doesn’t matter. I was angry. Righteously so. What sadness are you not letting yourself feel? I know to ask myself the question these days, though I seem no less unskilled in letting myself feel things I’m well conditioned to suppress. 

Grief and fear have overwhelmed my friends, though we only danced around it in terms of politics and protests. I became exquisitely aware of my own impotence to do anything or say anything that could lessen any of it. I felt my own sadness too, as there was really no room for anything else. I departed realizing there was no capacity to connect, belong-together like we once had. Now is a time of Jewish-insularities, isolationism amidst a world flaring its anti-semitism and refusal to consider long-histories of this beloved community. I hear it. I see it. I feel it. 

And it’s my own grief that tempted me to add, if we ever did belong-together. This morning shines light on the origin of that: my own sadness, my own fear. I jump to my own not-belonging fears when I feel unseen, unheard. Grief makes no room for any other. Unresolved, angers project outward into “bring them home” or “you support genocide.” And no one hears the Hebrew wisdom that is really true for all of us: “our hearts are imprisoned.”

So this morning, I bow to my own heart’s imprisonment, unbearable yet unavoidable. I bow to Spirit’s invitation to finally write the book-chapter on grief, resolving angers, allowing grief...? Maybe I’ll finally learn more about what those words even mean.

* I’d relinquished the habit of blogging here for months, devoting those energies to my next book project. Pleased to say that is nearing completion of creation-phase, if not stewardship of it into the world… It therefore arises in me with some force to return here, at least to jumpstart the chapter on grief I’ve not been able to write. It does not go unrecognized that this weekend, I’ve been given a sizeable Teaching I’ve apparently needed.

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