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The month of Av: From grief to love

This Hebrew month tosses our emotions through the ringer, but in pushing us to grieve, it also opens the way for the regenerative love that is to come
Hands make a heart. (iStock)
Hands make a heart. (iStock)

In the month of Av we move from the day of mourning to the celebration of love.

The more we grieve the more we open to love. 

This time of global pandemic leaves us even more aware and exposed to our vulnerability. Some of the ways we usually carry on our lives that shield us from the transience of things have fallen away and we are here left with the starkness of life. We are far away from loved ones. Other may be unwell or in isolation. Our freedoms and celebrations are curtailed for the safety of all.

We have entered into the nine days of mourning before we come to 9 Av, the paradigmatic day of mourning for the Jewish people. We commemorate the destruction of the temples, and we mourn also the layers underneath that. It is not only the buildings and the divinely inspired vision of life they represented,  we take heed of the disastrous effects of what happens when humans treat each other badly.  We acknowledge the effects of forsaking the sacredness of life and of existence. 

To mourn is to value what we have lost. To have a sense of what is and what could be.

To mourn is part of the praise song of creation. (See the important book on Grief and Praise by Martin Prechtel.) 

On the 15 Av — Tu B’Av — we celebrate the Jewish version of Valentines Day — the celebration of love. The Mishna (Taanit, Chapter 4) teaches  in the name of Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel that there were no better (i.e., happier) days for the people of Israel than the Fifteenth of Av and Yom Kippur since on these days the daughters of Israel/Jerusalem go out dressed in white and dance in the vineyards. What were they saying: Young man, consider whom you choose (to be your wife)? In more recent years this day has taken on added significance on a communal level.

Wearing white. Dancing in the vineyards. Ripe for love.

From grief to love. 

The more we grieve the more we open to love. 

 It is not a one-off movement from grief to love. It is a constant spiral. Like the layers of an onion, deepening in our grief, deepening in our love. Being prepared to feel more, deepening even further into grief and into love.

There is grief that we feel that cracks us open and we have access through this personal heart through to the core of things. 

Grief is a fiery furnace purifying us through to the naked simplicity of what matters.

Grief comes in waves. Welling up inside me. A pressure from my middle back behind my heart. A burning feeling in my chest. Like heartburn. My heart is burning. Every so often I breathe even deeper and allow myself to feel it even more. This morning I notice that with each opening to feel, the beauty of the world gets even brighter. 

It is not only personal. It is an access doorway into the collective feeling function.

So what is the connection between grief and love? 

When there is unfelt grief it doesn’t disappear. It stays in some form in the family system, generation after generation, until it can be metabolized. When there is unprocessed grief , one’s heart is armored, then one is unable to experience the satisfaction of loving and being loved in its depths. When this happens between parents who are the architects of the family, when there is a lack of flow of love in their relationship, then it results in an imbalance which gets expressed in some form of non-optimal inter-generational bonding. 

This pattern repeats itself until someone can finally sufficiently grieve. Once one is cross-generationally bonded with a parent, it becomes difficult to extract oneself to have a balanced love relationship with one’s partner, and this couple also can becomes the architect of the family, the imbalances gets passed forward until the grief in the system can be felt.

I hear many people say they want to feel more alive. When we open ourselves to what we feel the world takes on thicker and deeper existence for us. To the extent that we can feel and take in and receive ourselves, we can receive the world in equal measure. 

The thing is that we have many things that protect our heart in pain so that we don’t feel the grief. We can honor this protection. We can check if indeed it is necessary in the moment or whether we are protecting ourselves from realities that are far gone, but just our system is habituated to protecting ourselves. 

When we can’t feel grief, it’s as if our heart is armored, and this effects our capacity to love us all.

Let us hold gently our hearts and allow them to open to all the grief and the love to which this sacred life exposes us. 

May we embrace the life-death-life cycle of things as we transform and let go and allow renewal and regeneration.

In deep compassion and forgiveness. Breath by breath. Gentle. So gently.

About the Author
Born and raised in Melbourne, Australia, Rabba Dr Melanie Landau has 20 years of experience in guiding individuals and groups in transformative processes.and cultivating the sacred. She is committed to the creativity and vitality of a living breathing expansive Torah. She has specialisations in deep listening, conflict transformation, embodied awareness and thriving with complex trauma in particular transforming relational wounds and addictive patterns. She can be reached on: melanielandau18@gmail.com
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