Wednesday, November 23, 2011

mourning mourning

At a certain point, I suppose, one just gets sick of the whole damned enterprise. And that's the time to step back and write a paper about it. Which we did. And presented at the Annual Meetings of the American Anthropological Association in Montréal. We just got back. The presentation went really well. Maybe a little too well. It was good to step back and take stock and have something academic to say about the one year experiment.

But this is what I'd say here:

Our Kaddish in Two-Part Harmony was not just a success, it was a grand failure as well.  We set up rules to mourn by—and broke all the rules that really counted.  Maybe if we'd stuck to our guns, we'd still be in mourning-mode today. But instead of immersing in our sorrows and staying there, our sorrows lifted. And after a while, impossible as it seems to me, the sorrow's just plain gone. I mean, is that fair?

Not that that means that we don't miss our dearly departed. No, not that. But we're no longer in mourning.

And I kinda feel guilty about that.  I've put those photos away. I've stopped lighting candles. I no longer say kaddish unless I'm coerced.  The loss is there, but it's not the same black cloud looming overhead. And worst of all: I'm just plain happy. We both are.

Now what kind of mourning project is that?

So. What it tells me is that ritual works. It does the job if you stick to it on a daily basis. And just that doing, day after day, is enough to do the trick.  For us, it did the trick a month early. We were both ready to stop. Stop and move on. But my Kaddish partner is better at keeping on than I am. And because of her, we'll finish the year's experiment in formal mourning on November 27th. Will it feel any different then than it does now?

The main problem is that I've been happy.  Now what kind of mourning is that? And as a result, I haven't written a single word in a month. Except for the paper we presented at the AAA Conference.  But not a word on our blogs. Almost as if writing and unhappiness go together, which has to be absurd, right? Or a very bad habit.

For one month, it's been analysis rather than wallowing in death and dying.

But now, it's time to switch gears. And I can feel those gears heading into some new, strange, and dangerous territory...


  1. Did we mourn so well that we actually pre-mourned your mom?

  2. You know, the first year after my father's death I was in too much shock to mourn. I think I'm almost ready to mourn my mom. As soon as I believe that she's really really gone.

    And now, Roshi! Ten deaths in four years is, well, just too too much.