Sitting shiva and keeping up with the three rounds of daily prayers, highlighted by the Mourner’s Kaddish, can be an intense experience. The feeling when this intensity begins to lift is difficult to explain, but the Velveteen Rabbi has captured its essence:
“During the first week of mourning one’s life may contract to a very small space. Perhaps you haven’t left the shiva house at all. Or even if you’ve gone in and out of your home, you may have felt constricted, your life seemingly shrunken. Once shiva has ended, it is time to start expanding again. Open yourself to seeing more people. Allow yourself to immerse in your work life again. Expand your self-perception: you are not only a mourner, not only someone who grieves, but also someone who lives, works, struggles, and loves.
This may feel impossible. If it does, that’s okay. Just know that our tradition believes that it is good for a mourner to try to open themselves to life again after that first most-intense week of grief. Your sorrow may ebb and flow. You may experience times when you think you’re close to okay again, and times when the floodwaters of emotion threaten to swamp you. Keep breathing. The emotional rollercoaster is normal. You won’t always feel this way, but — as the saying goes — the only way out is through.”
No matter how one plans, there are loose ends in death’s aftermath. Although the suffix of aftermath derives from the Old English word “mæth”, meaning mowing – as in post-harvesting after the original crop – it can be taken as well for the mathematical calculations one must deal with in settling the departed’s financial affairs. Social security changes, pooled trust dissolution, outstanding medical bills and other lingering expenses. A blended family, and a spouse left behind who cannot compute or comprehend, only complicates matters. While life slowly tries to turn toward whatever normalcy there is after death, the Sheloshim or 30 day period serves an epoch that continues to mark the generation gone by.