My recently turned 5 years old grandson taught me a lesson this week.
We spent a wonderful afternoon at Wonderscope, an extraordinary playground for children. There’s no way for me to describe his joy at playing there. He entertains himself for hours, literally.
Toward the end of the afternoon he chose to go outside to play in their sand house (that’s my description. There’s a playhouse, and sand). By that time I’d already said that we needed to leave, but he wanted to stay and I relented. He was soooo happy.
But when 4:45 rolled around, Wonderscope started playing a song that said they were closing and everyone needed to leave. My grandson had made 5 friends, and was really enjoying himself. (Does it matter that they were older girls?) He didn’t want to give it up, but I explained (I’m the realistic adult in this story) that regardless of his remorse we had to go, because the place was closing, and his friends were leaving also. He didn’t care for realism. He was sad.
Here’s the lesson:
He started to both whine and cry. I wanted him to be realistic. That’s the adult. He needed to grieve his loss. He was more right than I.
We are so conditioned to our disappointments that I didn’t allow him to grieve his necessary loss. Crying wasn’t realistic I felt. But his grief at loss was real, and he didn’t want to let go, regardless of the requirements of the world.
But grief accumulates. We train ourselves not to grieve by telling ourselves our losses are “the way of life,” and we need to let go. And we do, but we also need to grieve our losses before we move on, no matter how realistic those losses may be.
I took him home. His sister was there. Soon he was all smiles and laughter again, having replaced the sadness of his loss with the relationship he cherishes.
In our realism, we tend to skip the step of grieving, to our detriment. Yes, we must move on. But let’s allow ourselves to cherish what we once had, and before turning from darkness back to light, to give ourselves that moment of reflection and cherishing what we had, and even be sad. There’s nearly always sunlight ahead, but let’s not deny the past in order to get there.
Rabbi Mark H. Levin is a native of Baltimore, Maryland. Graduated in 1971 from Boston University, magna cum laude with distinction in religion, Rabbi Levin received his Master of Arts in Hebrew letters from Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) in 1974, his Certificate in Jewish Communal Studies in 1974(L.A.), and was ordained in 1976 (Cincinnati).
Most recently, Rabbi Levin completed his Doctorate of Hebrew Letters through HUC-JIR in New York in May, 2001, and his honorary Doctor of Divinity in 2001 in Cincinnati. He has been the congregational Pulpit Rabbi for Congregation Beth Torah since its inception in 1988 up until his retirement from this position in June 2014. In July 2014 he accepted the position of Beth Torah’s Founding Rabbi.
Rabbi Levin is the father of three children and grandfather of one child. He is married to the former Kacy Childs-Winston, the mother of Kyle and Seth Winston. Rabbi Levin serves on several local boards and writes religion columns for the Kansas City Star, and answers questions for the “Ask the Rabbi” service of the Union of Reform Judaism. To email Rabbi Levin, email@example.com.