Yahrzeits

January 19, 2012

I use the term loosely, not just to include anniversaries of deaths but of other events, as well.  Even events I don’t know about.

For example, every January at about this time my older son goes through some sort of difficulty, and this year is no exception.  (I got the phone call last night.)  I honestly don’t know if anything ever happened to him in mid January, perhaps during his first two years of life and before he was our son, but this pattern reminds me of when people struggle around the time of year of the anniversary of a difficult event.

I know from my own experience and from the stories of others that this happens even if the event itself is not being consciously remembered — I will find myself struggling and then wonder why something doesn’t add up, why I feel far worse than whatever is currently going on would warrant, and then I remember the date and the event.  Going through those days almost feels like entering a pocket of turbulence or something.

Anyway, I’m going to visit Jonas tomorrow (as we had previously planned).   I doubt he could tell me what he might still be reacting to from his life back then at this time of year, so I don’t think I’m going to ask him what it might be.  At some point, he reported that he no longer remembered directly things from that period and only remembered what we could tell him he had previously told us.  I sometimes wonder if it would help to know such things, or whether we can remove those emotional splinters some other way, for example, from patterns in relationships, or in our reactions to events, that repeat in our lives.  For me, the lesson usually is to learn incrementally to handle such relationships and events with a little bit more (compassionate) detachment each time.

 

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3 Responses to “Yahrzeits”

  1. Rich Says:

    I worked for a social work agency once and the counselors were always stressing the importance of anniversary date as an important part of the psychological process
    I just hate January and February in the Northeast Ohio area and it gets worse each year as I age. Time to seriously consider leaving for the winter
    What is the origin of this word?

    • Diana Moses Says:

      Yahrzeit is Yiddish, it’s the word used for referring to the anniversary of a death. When it’s the anniversary of the death of a parent, the person may observe that occasion by going to services at a synagogue and reciting the mourner’s kaddish, and by lighting a candle for 24 hours (sundown to sundown) at home in remembrance of the person. I’m not sure what the rules are for other ritual observances for parents’ deaths or for rituals of observance for other relatives’, or other people’s, deaths. “Zeit” in German means time, “Jahr” (the “J” pronounced the way we pronounce a “Y” in English) means year in German. Yahrzeit means anniversary in Yiddish; in modern German, I believe the word for anniversary is Jahrestag. Yiddish evolved out of Middle German, as I understand it, so there is overlap with modern German but some divergence, and Yiddish also contains elements from other languages.

      • richard Says:

        Makes sense. This was a Jewish Family Service agency. Anniversaries of all sorts were contemplated in the process- i.e. traumatic events, both personal and social, births-particularly regarding a disabled child, parents divorce, accidents etc. 9/11 is a good example of a social grieving of an event that affected relatively few (compared to, say the subsequent warfare) but media is also effective about bring the trauma of others into our living rooms and lives.
        That said, the denial or repression of trauma and grieving probably causes subconscious manifestations of their own ilk


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