Elie's Expositions

A bereaved father blogging for catharsis... and for distraction. Accordingly, you'll see a diverse set of topics and posts here, from the affecting to the analytical to the absurd. Something for everyone, but all, at the core, meeting a personal need.

Powered by WebAds

Monday, February 27, 2006

Retreat Reflections

As I mentioned on Friday, we attended a retreat for bereaved families this past weekend. I'm still processing my overall feelings about this unique event and will try to share a few initial ones below.

First and foremost, I want to say how much I appreciate Glen and family for all their hard work bringing this unique experience to fruition. I already knew from Glen's blog that's he's a sensitive, insightful, caring person - and of course, a fine writer. Now I know that's he's also a dynamo of energy and a planner extraordinaire who leaves no detail unaddressed. Thanks again, friend.

The event itself was, as I said above, unique, and by that token, hard to pigeonhole. It was both an exquisite pleasure and relief, and at the same time deeply taxing and painful. I can't describe the liberating feeling of being able to talk with people who have shared the same unspeakable trauma, of not having to hold back, of being temporarily freed from that constant background hesitancy that we generally have even with those closest to us. That need to steer away, to shield the scary and uncomfortable truth from others who can't, and - we pray! - won't ever understand.

Even when we weren't talking about our grief, even when we weren't taking at all - just to be among so many others who went through it too. Just to be surrounded by them. There's only one way to say it with full honesty: We felt less like freaks than we have for a long time.

But while this freedom was exhilarating, it was also exhausting. Pain shared is pain divided, or so the cliché goes. But when seventeen other families are also sharing their horrific pain, you walk away with a piece of everyone's burden in addition to your own. To some, this may be primarily a comfort, but Debbie and I felt like we were reliving not just Aaron's loss but so many others as well.

Most importantly, we met a lot of very nice people, most from somewhat different Jewish backgrounds/perspectives than us (nearly all very yeshivish or chassidish*), but all sharing a bond much more profound than our differences. And one particular family, who happened to be seated at our table (was this mere happenstance, or more of Glen's careful planning?) had a story so eerily like ours that I was literally floored. An oldest teenage son who died suddenly, with no warning, from an undiscovered medical condition. Three surviving children, two boys and a girl. And many more similar experiences to ours. Their daughter and Shayna hit it off within moments like lifelong friends - and I hope the rest of us can follow suit.

All things considered, the experience was a positive one, and we're very glad that we overcame our trepidations and attended this event with the other freaks - excuse me, bereaved parents. And I fervently pray that there come a time when there is no more need for such events.

* A sociological observation/question: Debbie and I found it curious that the vast majority of families attending were of the RW Orthodox/Chareidi group, with a couple of centrist to Modern-O and zero non-O. I have a few guesses but no real theory. Not that it really mattered, but as is my wont, I do wonder why.


Post a Comment

<< Home