web analytics
March 31, 2015 / 11 Nisan, 5775
At a Glance
Sponsored Post

A Validating Experience (Part I)


Her tone of voice was no different than usual: demure; calm; in-control. And then she shared with me a couple of ill-conceived statement expressed to her by some “loving” individuals: “Don’t think of her suffering as something bad.” If she suffers now then at least she won’t suffer in The Next World.” And the next one, well, that just went over the top (mind you, this communication took place a couple of months after the High Holidays): “It looks like you didn’t daven too well this past Yom Kippur.”

With that concluding sentence, her pitch changed drastically as she began to recount all that had been transpiring in her life during these past few weeks. I could sense an intense energy-surge leaping through the air, emoting frustration, resentment and anger seeking a safe haven for her pained heart searching for that something she had been unable to secure up until now.

The moment of truth had arrived and I seemed to have been in that moment. To be honest, I do not recall speaking any pearls of wisdom. I offered no answers or solutions. My words were minimal, yet honest and from the heart. With the statements I uttered, and with the tone in my voice, I validated her pain. I simply acknowledged her feelings and situation by trying to stand in her shoes. I tried to imagine what it must be like for her; to watch a parent suffer and to be limited in one’s ability to help. It was obvious; my presence was exactly that which her soul had been aching to experience – warmth, empathy and compassion – a comforting feeling that would fill her void.

By now I was unsure whether or not our phone connection had been severed. What an amazing experience: when silence overcomes passion, it can be deafening! I waited a moment or two. And then it burst forth, a familiar sound – that of weeping – a means to help her express grief, and to echo a sense of relief and gratitude.

The source of her hurt, as benign as it was, had emanated from “well-meaning” friends and family. Theirs were “honest intentions,” meant to help her get through some of her rough times. And that is why she tried to be understanding and fair: “I know they mean no malice; I understand that; but still ” [Interesting word – but – it is such a dead giveaway; you just know the other shoe is about to drop]. These final two words clued me in as to the depth of her anguish; it was a “double whammy!”

When people are grieving, certain statements (as the ones above) are simply insensitive and inappropriate, even if they carry with them truth. Whether they are spoken to a spouse, a child who is caring for a suffering parent, or a parent who is contending with a suffering child, be it physically, emotionally or mentally, the impact can be devastating. Knowing what to say, how to say it, when to say it and equally as important, are you the one suitable to be saying it, must be carefully considered. The bottom line is: there is no one-size-fits-all answer that is applicable to every individual and in all situations.

The state of grief cuts across many landscapes. Of course it is most familiar and profound when the experience of loss revolves around the death of a loved one. During that period the individual requires comfort and consolation.

In the concluding segment of Chayei Sarah, the verse states: “Vayehi acharay mos Avraham vayevorech Elokim es Yitzchok b’no – And it came to pass after the death of Avraham that G-d blessed Yitzchak his son (25:11).” Blessing Yitzchak was G-d’s way of comforting him while he was mourning the death of his father, Avraham. And just as G-d comforts the bereaved, in a similar manner, we, too, are meant to emulate His actions by comforting the bereaved.

One of the most important aspects of a shiva house is for visitors to be attuned to that which the mourner requires. If the mourner wishes to remain silent, then it is incumbent upon the visitors to respect the silence and act likewise. When the mourner speaks, such is the time for visitors to respond, and to do so with care and sensitivity.

The psychology of grief was known to the Sages. Many of the laws clearly take into consideration the emotional state of the individual and his/her needs during this distressing time. The goal at the time of shiva is for the bereaved to feel comforted. And yet, that is not always accomplished. People mean well and express thoughts they perceive will be soothing. And as it turns out, not only are their words not comforting, the bereaved may, in fact, feel further distressed. Such was the case with Rabi Yochanan Ben Zakai when he sat shiva for his son.

Note: The following is a translation by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin (see: Love Your Neighbor) of the original text inMaseches Avos D’Rabi Noson 14:6.

“At the time, Rabi Yochanan’s disciples came to console him. His disciple, Rabi Eliezer entered and said, ‘The first man, Adam, had a son who died, and he was consoled. You also should accept consolation.’ Rabi Yochanan’s response was, ‘Not only do I have my personal suffering, but now you remind me of Adam’s suffering, too.'”

“Then his disciple, Rabi Yehoshua, entered and said, ‘Eyov (Job) had sons and daughters and they all died, and he was consoled.’ To that Rabi Yochanan responded,

‘Not only do I have my personal suffering, but now you remind me of Eyov’s suffering,'”

“Another disciple, Rabi Yosi, entered and said, ‘Aharon the Kohein Gadol had two great sons (Nadav and Avihu), and they both died on the same day, and he was consoled. You also should accept consolation.’ Rabi Yochanan once again responded in a similar manner to the other responses, ‘Not only do I have my personal suffering, but now you remind me of Aharon’s suffering.'”

“The next disciple, Rabi Shimon, entered and spoke, ‘David, the king, had a son who died and he was consoled. You also should accept consolation.’ And again, Rabi Yochanan responded with similar words as he had done earlier, ‘Not only do I have my personal suffering, but now you remind me of David’s suffering.'”

“Rabi Elazer ben Arech entered and began to speak. ‘I will give an analogy to your situation. The king entrusted a precious object with one of his subjects. The subject was in a state of constant worry: ‘When will I be able to return the object undamaged and unsoiled to the king?’ ‘My teacher,’ said Rabi Arech, ‘You are in a similar situation. You had a son who was a Torah scholar and left this world without sin. Be consoled that you have returned him to the King in a perfect state.'”

“‘Elazer, my son, you have properly comforted me,’ said Rabi Yochanan.”

In part two we will explore why Rabi Yochanan accepted consolation from Rabi Arech and not from his other disciples.

Debbie Brown is a certified life coach specializing in parent coaching, and is an NLP Master Practitioner. She is available for private, confidential phone coaching sessions as well as lectures and group workshops. For further information or to express feelings regarding the Parental Perspective topic, Debbie may be contacted at lovetoughcoach@aol.com.

About the Author:

If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “A Validating Experience (Part I)”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Photo from President Barack Obama's past visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Netanyahu’s View of Obama: Trust and Consequences
Latest Sections Stories

While we are all accustomed to the occasional recipe substitutions – swapping milk for creamer, applesauce for oil – gluten-free cooking is a whole different ballgame.


Until the year I decided to put a stop to all my tremors. I realized that if I wanted my family to experience Pesach and its preparations as uplifting and fulfilling, I’d have to relax and loosen up.


David looked up. “Hatzlacha, Dina,” he smiled. “I hope everything goes well.”

In 1756, when the ominous threat of Islamic terror against Jews reached Tunis as well, Friha became one of its tragic victims.

Are we allowed to lie for shalom bayis? It would seem so, but what might be a healthy guideline for when it’s okay and when it’s not?

The connection between what I experienced as a high school teenager and the adult I am today did not come easy to me.

Isn’t therapy about being yourself; aren’t there different ways for people to communicate with each other?

Jack was awarded a blue and gold first-place trophy, appropriately topped off with a golden bee.

Participating in ManiCures during the school day may feel like a break from learning, but the intended message to the students was loud and clear. Learning and chesed come in all forms, and can be fun.

Building campaign chairman Jack Gluck has led the effort over many years.

When using an extension cord always make sure to use the correct rated extension cord.

There was no question that when Mrs. Cohen entered the room to meet the teacher she was hostile from the outset.

Szold was among the founders and leaders (she served on its executive committee) of Ichud (“Unity”), a political group that campaigned against the creation of an independent, sovereign Jewish state in Eretz Yisrael.

My friend is a strong and capable Jewish woman, but she acted with a passivity that seemed out of character.

More Articles from Debbie Brown

Having parented a struggling adolescent for several years, Yael was expecting that life would be different for her now twenty-year old son. She was, and still is, an excellent student, diligently applying the tools she has been gaining in our coaching sessions. Harmony and peace has returned to her home, and the relationship (with her son) she was working on mending has become a reality. Admittedly, she attributes the restored relationship to a parenting methodology she has undertaken — the love-tough approach.


Toxic Language Tishrei — and the yom tov pattern returns! Of which pattern am I speaking, you ask? If we were to identify the main aspects of each of the holidays during this month, generally speaking, and in rather simplistic behavioral terms, the pattern of the night and following day might look something along the […]

Recently, I asked a family friend, a financial advisor, to share with me his perspective on the importance of rapport in the world of sales. In a general way, I knew that successful salespeople maintain good rapport with their clients. And so I was curious. Was the need for developing rapport in business any different than doing so in a parent-child relationship? To that end, I posed the following questions: “How do you establish rapport with a new client? And what do you believe is a key issue to creating rapport?

A political figure refuses to comment on a current news story in which he is involved.. In the hope of avoiding a scuffle with her parents, a teenager, who has broken curfew, quietly opens up the front door. As she makes a mad dash to her room, she tries to avoid being noticed and questioned. In both situations, a lack of communication may be perceived as failure on the part of the individual to take responsibility for his/her actions, and/or an admission of guilt. In such cases when the person does not say yes, the message being conveyed to others can be perceived as noby default, and vice versa.

The Meaning of The Communication Is The Response It Elicits

In most homes, as women prepare to join the Seder (hopefully, somewhat rested), the anticipatory anxiety associated with the “P” word (pre-Pesach angst) is no longer. The cleaning, preparations, shopping and cooking are now a thing of the past. And finally, the Hagaddah’s legacy of yetzias Mitzrayim (exodus from Egypt) takes front stage.

What does it mean to be validated? In what areas of life can one expect to be validated? What attitude, behaviors or actions convey a message (or feeling) to someone that s/he is being validated? How does one validate, or invalidate? What benefits are there to validating and being validated – in the short term as well as long term?

In the first two parts of this four-part series, we discussed the need to validate someone who is mourning the loss of a loved one. Utilizing a Rabbinic illustration, we presented the story of Rav Yochanan ben Zakai when he sat shivah for his son. The focus was on his receiving consolation: why he received comfort from his one student, Rav Elazer ben Aruch, and not from his other four students. Now let us move to a Biblical backdrop as we continue.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/parenting-our-children/a-validating-experience-part-i/2009/12/23/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: