Dear Mrs. Bluth,
This has been an awful year, one in which I lost several close family members and five of my best friends. Just five weeks ago, I was a pallbearer for my closest childhood friend, one whom I knew for eighty two years, almost since birth. Ever since Emil’s levaya, I have not been myself. It started from the moment I came back from the cemetery and has evolved in the worst ways. My whole family – wife, children and grandchildren – and close friends have noticed and I can no longer explain it away. I am not a foolish old man; on the contrary, at one time I was a successful therapist with enviable degrees from some of the finest colleges in the country. Yet, here I am, completely unable to help myself.
Emil and I were both born in Austria and went to the same yeshiva. We were closer than biological brothers. Our mothers, of blessed memory, would often laugh when explaining to others that they shared a pair of twins between them. We dressed almost alike, ate and slept in each other’s homes and when the Holocaust reached our town, we were transported together to a work camp. Somewhere during those terrible three years, we were separated, but by some miracle found each other in the DP camp. We were all that was left of our individual families. We married two sisters, went into business together. Thank G-d, we were successful and it was a partnership of trust, deep love and boundless respect. We lived on the same block, went to the same shul and our children are intertwined with one another44; anyone that knew and observed us was in awe of the closeness we shared. In fact, our story was written up in many magazines, both Jewish and secular and we would speak at events so people could see for themselves what a close bond and selfless love could achieve.
Then, as if an evil wind passed through our perfect life, Emil went to sleep one night, pleading an upset stomach, and never woke up.
The pain and shock was extraordinary. I moved reflexively, helping my sister-in-law with the burial arrangements and speaking at the levayah, although I don’t have any recall of this. I sat shiva along with the avaylim because he was my brother in almost every sense of the word. I could not eat or sleep nor did I want to be with people. I seemed to find some comfort in having conversations with Emil in my mind, where we would remember past and recent times. Slowly, I found those visits far more desirable than being with the living. I began to look warn, haggard and had no interest for business matters. Thankfully, both Emil’s sons and my own had taken over a while back, so there was no need for my input. Then, about two weeks ago, I could not bring Emil’s spirit up. It was as if he was taken away from me a second time and I began to wish for my own death.
I understand what I am going through, but I cannot combat the mourning and terrible loss of Emil’s passing. I try to treat myself as though I was my own client, but the gnawing desire to be with Emil is the overpowering force. It defeats all logic and reason. And I welcome it.
I reach out to you in the hopes that you can find the words I have not used on myself, that will help me move toward the here and now and find my life in a world without Emil.
My heart aches for your loss. I, too, have just lost a dearly close friend and I feel your pain. Please know that what I say to you comes from one who has tasted the bitter fruit of loss.
I will not belittle your professional expertise in the treatment of loss and mourning, as you have already tried to treat yourself with these therapies. In mourning Emil, you have opened a whole new genre of feelings, emotions and affiliation. Your entire relationship with Emil goes almost unaddressed in the journals of modern mental and emotional study. In understanding your unique relationship to Emil, I have come to believe that it is somewhat akin to what Siamese twins might experience, mentally and emotionally, when they are separated. In some abstract way, both you and Emil were like one person sharing separate bodies. The trauma of loss and separation, it appears, produces the same results.
I also know that you are desperately in need of help to extricate yourself from the dark pit you find yourself, so you can recognize the many blessings which still remain in your life. With help and guidance, you will be able to return to your loved ones and understand how gifted you were to have had the incredible experience of sharing your life with Emil.
It is the way of Creation that man is born and will ultimately die, but the life that is lived between birth and death is what defines us and what gives us strength, comfort and the ability to give and receive love. Be grateful to the Almighty that He has been so kind and benevolent to you, and surely, when Moshiach comes, you and I and all those many of us who have suffered the loss of dear loved ones will be reunited for all time.