Discover more from Ya'aleh: Holiday Torah for Organizers and Optimists
Tending to The Brokenness
Trauma Stewardship during The Nine Days
The beeping of machines and talking one bed over made it difficult to hear the music streaming through the iPhone 12. I passed it to the young man to my right, who placed it next to his grandfather’s ear. Before the machines went quiet, the family had gathered to say goodbye.
“The family wants to pray with the chaplain at bedside,” the Physician’s Assistant told me. In the liminal space between medical care and post-mortem care, we prayed. For this patient who listened to gospel each night, it was fitting to precede prayer with a final song. I pressed on the little green square, opening a music app that had sat unused but not forgotten over the past few days, as Tisha B’Avapproached.
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Though I felt called to adjust my practice during the Nine Daysin service of a patient’s spiritual life, it was much harder to do so in the service of my own. Three days later, as Tisha B’Av drew closer, the absence of music felt pronounced. Sitting in the car ride home, head pounding and swirling, the weight of visits to incarcerated, suicidal patients remained in the filtered car air making its way through my N95. I thought back to the book Trauma Stewardship and its list of indicators of trauma exposure responses. Faced with headaches and difficulty processing visits, I quickly recognized signs of physical ailments and dissociative moments, two “warning signs.” Earlier in the day, I had said to a colleague that I felt off because I hadn’t been able to listen to music coming and going from the hospital. Yet it wasn’t until that car ride that I considered opening Spotify.
Fluctuating between guilt and a sense of assuredness, I pressed play on the soundtrack to Princess Diaries. The sound of early 2000s nostalgia gently prodded me away from dissociating and towards tears. My breath returned to a deeper rhythm, my heart pointed towards text.
When the Second Temple was destroyed, ascetic practices increased amongst the Jews who did not eat meat nor drink wine. Rabbi Yehoshua said, for what reason do you not eat meat and not drink wine? Shall we eat meat–from which sacrifices are offered–and drink wine–poured upon the altar [as libation]--now that the Temple no longer exists? Rabbi Yehoshua said, if so, eat not of bread–of meal offerings, produce–of first fruits, water–of water libations. They were silent. My children, Rabbi Yehoshua said, come and I will tell you. To not mourn at all is impossible, but to mourn excessively is also impossible.
Perseverate not on handcuffs–with which incarcerated patients are attached to hospital beds, IVs–with morphine thinly veiling pain, plastic bags–containing the entirety of one's possessions. When each patient’s world feels like another hurbanto not mourn at all is impossible, but to mourn excessively is also impossible.
I tend to the brokenness within myself. I help others mourn their own calamities. Maybe we can together move towards consolation.
Lit. Ninth of Av. Day of Jewish communal mourning of the destruction of the Temples and other calamities.
Period of increased mourning practices between the beginning of the month and the Ninth of the month of Av itself.
Babylonian Talmud Bava Batra 60b
Destruction [of the Temple]