In Judaism, Shiva is the week-long period of grief and mourning for the immediate family. The process of following the shiva rituals is called sitting shiva. I won't go into the the details of the rituals, but if you are interested...look it up.
This is my first time sitting shiva and it is for my dear brother, Robin. Before, I had a perception of shiva to be a depressing experience. While no one wants to sit shiva, I didn't want to the way I don't "want" to fast for Yom Kippur. I have formed personal opinions and views on religion and sitting shiva was not on my list of traditions I needed or wanted to follow (and not because it involves death). I just don't like the idea of sitting in a house full of mourners (granted I would be one myself). I didn't want to be in a state of constant grief for seven straight days, day in, day out. I am comfortable with death. I am comfortable with my faith. I am confident and believe in "the heart of life is good" and "everything happens for a reason" outlook. But sitting shiva, I always believed would make it harder for me to feel my own feelings, to find my own peace with "my" loss. I would be lost in the grievance of others. I didn't want to experience the pain of others while suffering myself. To see another suffer causes a severe reaction of sympathetic suffering. How would I be able to mourn myself? I like being alone. I like feeling and processing on my own time. It's difficult to witness or even fathom my mother's loss in her eyes. It breaks my heart to know my father's heart is not whole. It troubles me to see my little brother lose his best friend and only brother. How do you bear the pain of all those around you and still find the strength to hold on yourself?
I have to say after sitting shiva for a few days now, I can say my perception of this ritual has changed. I may not be practicing and following all the rituals written in "the book," but there is something to be said about this process of mourning. I wish my son was old enough to be with me through this process. He is my hope and my light in life. To not have him with me, when I need his light most, is challenging. Yet, I happen to have found light and hope in this peculiar process. The immediate family are in the same house sitting shiva for seven days. Family and friends are visiting and surrounding you 24 hours a day for seven days. They are there for you in such big ways, even without anything being said or done. Some have flown from far away cities and countries. Some are here for fifteen minutes and others everyday. Friends you haven't spoken to in fifteen years surprise you with a sense of respect and honor by visiting you during your time of need. It's so comforting having a household full of noise, albeit it may be mostly the noise of hurt. Besides the seven day of grieving, I find it is most importantly the seven days of remembering. We are sifting through pictures, Facebook, and text messages. We are telling stories of the things he's done for one another. We are talking about the places he's seen, the crazy things he's done. We are rehashing childhood stories. We are even mentioning our regrets and wishes. Friends are telling stories we've never heard before. We are talking about Robin every day, every minute...his heart of gold. He is on our mind always. We cry, we laugh, we are sad and happy. We are living. We are moving through the common stages of grieving, together. I believe this will be a lifelong process, but sitting shiva helps us to begin our lives again.
So now, my only fear about sitting shiva is the reality of life afterward. These seven days are unrealistic and uncommon. It's not the normal days of our lives. What will my everyday life be without my brother Robin? I still don't know the answer to that. I'm still sitting shiva. What I do know, is that my life will still be filled with love and happiness and Robin will always be a part of that. He will always be with me and live through me. And no matter what happens after shiva, I know we will all be okay.
Robin, we all miss you terribly so. Please come back to me in my dreams. I want to see you again. I love you!