Yahrtzeit: Easing the Pain of Difficult Emotions with Mindful Practices

On February 28, right before sunset, I was backing out of the driveway in my car, anxious to get to my Dad’s apartment to take him to the dining room of his beautiful senior residence in La Jolla, California.

“Wait, stop!” Danielle said, running up to my car window. “What about lighting the candle? It’s almost sunset.”

“Oh my God. Thanks for reminding me,” I said through the open window as I pulled back into the garage.

We ran inside and again she said, “Wait” as she placed a figurine of a cow with many arms, like a Ganesh, next to the Yahrtzeit candle.

In 2003, when my mom had her aortic valve replaced with a cow valve, she began getting cows as gifts from her friends and family. She had an extensive owl collection from her many years as Vice President of Mt. Sinai Hospital in Cleveland, from friends and family bringing her owls from their travels. So now, her collection moved from owls to cows, and it was really fun seeing the cow collection grow.

owl and cow collection on display

When Danielle was in high school, she brought this cow Ganesh home from a class trip to Europe. My mom was so touched that Danielle thought of her, and that she carried this breakable cow home all the way home from Europe for her. My mom kept that cow on her kitchen counter, and often said how amazing it was that “that kid carried that all the home from Europe for me.”

After my mom passed away, my sister Jan and I split up the cow collection. I tried to give the cow Ganesh back to Danielle but it was too painful for her to keep it, so I keep it with my totem objects on my vanity. Danielle held the cow Ganesh last night and mused how great it is that I have tools to handle this type of pain.

That’s what we wish for our loved ones, right? We wish them the tools to ease the pain of difficult emotions that arise because we are human. We have suffering because there is no escaping that suffering is part and parcel of the human condition.

Ganesh statue next to Yahrzeit memorial candle

But what I know and what I teach is that we can change our relationship to that suffering to make it easier to bear.

“Aren’t we supposed to say the Kaddish?” she asked.

“No, not really. I’m just saying prayers in my head,” I tell her.

“I think we are supposed to say the Kaddish prayer, mom.”

“Okay… Yitgadal, v’yit adash, shemai raba,” I begin, from memory.

“Mom, you are really screwing up that prayer.”

So I stop, give her a hug, and run back up to my car to get to my Dad’s in time to join him for dinner.

The prayers I was saying in my head were loving kindness prayers for my mom’s spirit, wishing her ease and health wherever she now resides – telling her I love her and miss her and I hope that she can somehow experience our lives here on earth.

I put my hand on my heart and wished myself ease, and connected myself to the billions of other souls who are in mourning. I said a prayer of gratitude that I made it to the 2-year mark, still missing my mom, but finding the waves of grief further apart and the seas less choppy.

That old saying that “time heals wounds” is true, but it can be helped along a great deal by Mindful Methods practice.

Wishing all who are in mourning Peace and Ease.

Love,

Julie

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By | 2018-03-08T09:30:05+00:00 March 10th, 2018|Mindful Methods|

About the Author:

Julie Potiker
Author and mindfulness expert Julie Potiker is an attorney who began her serious study and investigation of mindfulness after graduating from the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program at the University of California, San Diego. She was trained by Kristin Neff, Christopher Germer and UCSD as a Mindful Self-Compassion Teacher. She went on to study with Rick Hanson, becoming a graduate of his Positive Neuroplasticity Training Professional Course. Potiker also completed Brené Brown’s Living Brave Semester. Now, she shares these and other mindfulness techniques with the world through her Mindful Methods for Life trainings and her new book: “Life Falls Apart, but You Don’t Have To: Mindful Methods for Staying Calm In the Midst of Chaos.” She holds a B.G.S. from the University of Michigan and a J.D. from George Washington University.

2 Comments

  1. Susan Rosenberg March 10, 2018 at 9:01 am - Reply

    I too lit a candle for Ruth and said Kaddish at Saturday morning service.love to you all, Aunt Susie.

  2. Karen Van Dyke April 1, 2018 at 11:49 pm - Reply

    I love this story. I miss Ruth. Thank you for writing this and give that wise Danielle of yours a hug from me. Karen

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