The Temple Mount in Jerusalem is one of the holiest spaces in the city. The site is where the Temple once stood before it was destroyed. The largest accessible portion of the retaining wall that enclosed the Temple Mount is the Western Wall. That's probably the space that immediately jumped to mind when I mentioned Jerusalem--that large stone wall where people go to pray. On the southern portion of the Temple Mount, you can see the Hulda Gates. They were the gates used at least three times a year by pilgrims flocking to the Temple during the three festivals: Pesach, Shavout, and the holiday that is happening today--Succot.
Every time a pilgrim came to the Temple, they would enter through the eastern gates and exit through the western ones.
Except when they were in mourning.
Those in mourning entered against the stream of bodies through the western gates and exited out the eastern side, giving everyone a very clear and visible reminder that they were in need of comfort. Most of the time, people did not know one another at the Temple. It was a pilgrimage site, therefore, visitors may have come from Jerusalem, but they may have come as far away as Egypt. And this was how everyone knew to speak to the stranger about their loss.
Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. Some people are mourning today and no one in their workplace has the slightest idea that they've even suffered a loss. Some people are mourning today and are doing so in silence because everyone avoided them when the loss occurred and they don't want to repeat that feeling of separation. Some people are mourning today and no one knows quite how to comfort them.
What we need is a space to walk in through the out door.
Unlike the loss of an adult--who has lived his or her own life, collected friends and family members, built memories--when a baby dies, he or she is often only mourned by the parents and a few close friends or family members. A baby who dies in utero is even more abstract to outside mourners.
Which is why it is even more important to create ritual that allows others into the mourning space. It is a way of honouring the loss as well as gathering comfort from community. The established ritual for this day is to light a candle at 7 p.m. in your own time zone, which creates a wave of light as each candle is lit. I encourage you to also find your own figurative out door to walk through today (or, if you're feeling gutsy, find an actual exit to enter). To reach out to others in mourning as well as let people know that you are remembering someone (or more than one loss) who was very important to you.
Several thousand years ago, mourners were announcing their loss on this day at the Temple Mount. I hope they received the comfort they were seeking. I hope you do as well.