Sep 20, 2021 • 36M

Merissa Nathan Gerson

 
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Two years ago I trained as a Death Doula and it wasn't until recently that I realized I'm missing the knowledge about what my religion, Judaism, has to offer around dying. When death is imminent what rituals and wisdom can the Jewish tradition provide? Listen in on conversations with incredible people and join me in shifting how we perceive and talk about dying.
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In this episode, Merissa talks about her new book, “Forget Prayers, Bring Cake: A Single Woman’s Guide to Grieving”, and about her experience of her father’s death.

Merissa’s book is part memoir and part a roadmap to navigating grief. A theme in her writing, and in our conversation, is innovating when rituals and practices no longer work for us. Merissa has a way of investigating the relationship between feelings and actions/rituals that I found interesting and helpful. This reflective practice can help us understand what to do with religious rituals when they cease to feel purposeful or connective.

I’m also thinking about how we might use this practice for personal long-held beliefs, specifically about end of life things. I hope this can be an opportunity and invitation to check-in, to really pay attention to what feelings bubble up, and to consider the possibility of rewriting the script.

I hope you enjoy listening to Merissa’s stories and reflections.

About Merissa Nathan Gerson:

Merissa is a writer, speaker, and spiritual consultant. Her work focuses on grief and grieving, inherited trauma, sex and intimacy, and how these themes relate to religion, disability, and identity.

She was the intergenerational trauma consultant to Amazon's hit show Transparent and has writing featured in The New York Times, Playboy Magazine, The Atlantic, Elle.com, Tablet Magazine, Lilith Magazine, and beyond. After releasing a 2018 ELI Talk on consent and Talmud, she founded www.KenMeansYes.org to address the need for consent education in Jewish spaces.

Merissa lives, writes and works in New Orleans, Louisiana. She teaches Alternative Journalism at Tulane University.

Hebrew and Jewish References Explained:

Aninut: The period of time from when one learns about the death of a loved one until burial. Learn more about aninut and being an onen here.

Kaddish: Aramaic for “sanctification”, it is the name of a type of prayer. There are a few types of kaddish including the Mourner’s Kaddish traditionally recited daily for a year by someone mourning the death of a loved one.

Minyan: A Hebrew word for the quorum of ten Jewish adults required for certain religious obligations including specific prayers like the mourner kaddish.

Rosh Hashanah: The Jewish New Year.

Shiva: Hebrew for “seven” and it is the week-long ritual period of mourning after a burial. 

Yahrtzeit: Yiddish for “anniversary of a death”.