Today marks the end of the shloshim period for my father; he died thirty days ago today. In the various stages of ritual mourning, I have moved down a notch today.
It’s odd how strongly I feel about this, since I have not been observing the rituals of shloshim anyway. It’s not even technically true—one should traditionally count from the funeral service, not the death, and the funeral service for my father was delayed for various reasons, so the shloshim period doesn’t properly end until Thursday. Still, somehow, it is very much in my mind today.
Some of y’all know the traditions, but just in case and in brief: there is a week after the funeral for sitting shiva (meaning seven), which is intense mourning and really nothing but intense mourning. Then there is the following 23 days of shloshim (meaning thirty) during which one still mourns, but not as intensely—a mourner is expected to return to work and to daily life, but is still addressed as a mourner and is expected to avoid most kinds of parties and celebrations, and other aspects of ‘newness’ such as wearing new clothes or making major purchases. Then, at the end of the shloshim period, someone mourning a parent has until the end of the year to be considered a mourner and treated as one, although they can still engage in most aspects of the world. More or less. It’s complicated. There are rules.
And as I said, I haven’t been following the rules and I don’t expect to start now. I came back to work after less than a week. I celebrated Khanike (and Christmas, too). I have worn new clothes during the last month, and enjoyed wearing them, and in fact I am wearing a rather snazzy new waistcoat as I type this. I don’t think that has slowed down my grieving process. Although, to be sure, I could be wrong about that.
By the way, among my favorite rules for mourning: the (male) mourner does not cut his hair during the shloshim period, and may cut his hair after the end of that period only when someone has said to him “you look terrible, get a haircut already.” No getting a haircut just because you think you look terrible, or because you generally get a haircut every eight weeks or whatever. I do look terrible, as it happens, but no-one has told me so yet. I may get a haircut this week anyway.
As with a lot of traditional Jewish ritual, I find a certain comfort in learning and knowing the ritual, without participating in it. I also have passed through several stages of wanting to tell strangers that my father has died, not wanting to have to have that discussion, wanting again to tell people, being surprised that people I haven’t told don’t somehow know, wanting, and then not wanting, and then wanting, and then not wanting to be asked how I and my grieving are doing. I am mentioning it in this Tohu Bohu for the first time, anyway.
Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,