by Rabbi Baruch HaLevi
My grandmother killed herself over a quarter-century ago, and yet, I remember it as if it were yesterday. The sights. The sounds. The horror. The grief. However, what I don’t remember were conversations about the grief. Maybe they were had, but not by me or with me. Instead, life forged ahead as if everything was “fine.”
“I’m fine” became my father’s mantra, whether he said it or not. After his mother’s death, my father seemed to “suck it up” and deal with his darkness the only way he knew how – by getting back to his routines, his work, and his life. Like many people in the aftermath of a loss, he believed he was too busy for grief; busy raising a family, building a business, and playing his part within a larger community. I think he believed he was doing us a favor by not delving into the darkness. So, he put his head down and focused on providing for his family and said, “everything is fine,” in the way he lived his life.
This determination carried him forward for a while, and to an outsider looking in, everything probably appeared fine. However, everything was not fine. The unprocessed suffering, guilt, grief, regret and anger over his mother’s suicide were growing louder in his soul. Indeed, everything was far from fine, and roughly two decades later, my father killed himself.
Everything could have been fine for my dad if only he would have stopped pretending that it was fine. There is simply nothing “fine” about avoidance, a-void-dance, dance around the void.
When a loved one dies, no matter how much you want everything to be fine – it is not. Rushing back to work does not make everything fine. Speeding back into the routines does not make everything fine. Jumping back into action does not make everything fine. Everything can be “fine” – someday, but not today. When death’s darkness casts its shadow upon your life, make sure you aren’t simply responding “I’m fine;” “It’s fine;” “Everything is fine,” to simply avoid facing the darkness. It can be “fine” again. It will be “fine” again. Repeating “everything is fine,” however, when it is not, is not how you will get there. Things will only return to “fine” when you are honest, real, face your darkness, work through your grief and share your pain.