Community BlogYoung Adult Mourning: An Exclusive Club?
After my father passed away, I had trouble connecting with the Mourner’s Kaddish. I felt singled out when I had to stand up to say it at the end of each service, like I had become part of an exclusive club that I didn’t choose to be in. I felt frustrated that I was in a place in my life that required me to say it. At 31, I thought I was too young to have had a parent who passed away.It wasn’t until my Birthright trip to Israel last summer that it finally started to click. When we arrived in Ein Gedi, our counselor told us it was his father’s yartzeit and requested that we say the Mourner’s Kaddish as a group. He asked if any of us wanted to honor a relative. I assumed I would be the only one. When nearly 10 people said yes, I was blown away.I was not alone—other people my age had parents, siblings and other close relatives whom they wanted to remember. I was comforted by the common thread between us. As we said Kaddish together and the tears flowed, I finally felt somewhat connected with the words we were reciting.On the last night of the trip, I shared that our group made me realize I wasn’t dealing with my grief alone. Unfortunately, I am not the only one who has lost a parent as a young adult. When we came together as a group and recited the Kaddish together, I no longer felt singled out. The target on my back had gone away. The “club” wasn’t so exclusive after all.When I returned to Boston, I continued to work through my grief in a variety of ways. It had helped to learn that I am not alone in this process, that I’m not the only one grappling with the experience of losing of a parent. I questioned if there were other young adults in the Boston area who would benefit from talking to other young people dealing with their grief. I brought the idea to CJP, who suggested that Eser might be able to fulfill this important need.That’s how “Finding Your Meaningful Mourning Practice” came about. The Eser Select conversation group is a place we can come together to learn about and discuss Jewish mourning rituals. We’ll ask questions like: Do the Jewish mourning rituals feel compelling to you? Are they not compelling enough? The Jewish tradition offers many models of dealing with grief, but, as I learned, it can be overwhelming to contemplate how to integrate them and even to understand what they are.Together with rabbinical student Batya Ellinoy, we’ll explore what Judaism offers to get through difficult times, learn about Jewish rituals for grief and loss, and cultivate a community of supportive friends. As an Eser Classic alum, I’m really looking forward to this. I hope that our discussion circle provides a place where we can lean on each other and learn how to balance grief while being a young adult—and that the supportive Jewish community that I found through Birthright can extend to my Jewish life in Boston.
Rebecca Speicher is a middle-school teacher. She grew up in Acton, attended college in Washington, D.C., and moved back to the Boston area in 2008. She participated in Eser 2017’s “10 Ethical Dilemmas” series and is an active volunteer with CJP’s young adult programs.