On Tisha B’av, Jewish communities across the globe remember and lament the destruction of the first and second Temples in Jerusalem through a series of mourning practices. These practices, while somber, serve as a reminder that mourning and grief are natural parts of human life. It is important, however, to realize there are different ways to mourn, and some are healthier for your mental wellness than others. Tisha B’av offers some great examples of healthy, productive mourning practices.
The first, and most basic, one is the very practice of having a dedicated day to grieve. It communicates the importance of sorrow and the validity of one’s emotions during their period of melancholy, while allowing a practitioner to feel those emotions within a controlled and dedicated environment—a behavior experts refer to as “active grieving.” Through active grieving, mourners are able to accept their pain without becoming unable to perform their day-to-day duties. They can handle their grief in a healthy, productive way rather than experiencing “ineffective grieving,” where one’s choices and logical responses are impaired from the stress of unstable and uncontrolled grieving. This can lead to unreasonable behavior and unhealthy self-isolation.
Another healthy mourning practice employed on Tisha B’av is the submission to a higher power in arduous situations and communal/personal plights. By turning to a higher power, we put our emotions into perspective and see them through the lens of a creator exhibiting some kind of will on the world, ultimately allowing us to heal from mourning and grief more comfortably. Alcoholics Anonymous employs a similar line of thinking in its 12 Step program, a large part of which is accepting a higher power. When facing challenges, turning to a higher power or G-d can help you make sense of and give meaning to your struggles and make the process smoother and healthier.
Finally, one of the most important pieces of any healthy mourning experience and particularly Tisha B’av is coming together as a community. Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, a modern-day Jewish leader, has written about the benefits of sharing emotions and feelings with community. “I will speak that I may find relief; for there is a redemptive quality for an agitated mind in the spoken word, and a tormented soul finds peace in confessing.” Similarly, Erin Coriell, an end of life care advocate and grief worker, has written that “grief also requires to be felt in the company of other grief…grief is an invisible thread that connects our hearts. It has the power to redefine humanity.” Having a community to grieve with helps mitigate the impact of their grief and engage with their emotions with support and warmth while validating their experience.
Tisha B’av is a yearly reminder that grief and mourning are natural parts of the human condition and a day that can instill the importance of healthy grieving to those who practice it. It is worthwhile to remember that despite the severity of the loss of the Temples and the various tragedies the day commemorates, the best way to honor them is to mourn in a healthy and effective way. It is only through healthy and thoughtful grief that we can truly honor the legacy of our losses.
Esti Klein is an incoming sophomore at the Frankel Center for Judaic Studies and is spending her summer interning with the Blue Dove Foundation. Esti enjoys reading and writing fiction and spending time with her adorable puppy, Zuko.