Over Pesach, I received quite a few heart-rending letters from readers who lost loved ones. The following letter is from a reader who lost her beloved mother and offers up words of comfort for the gentleman (March 2) who recently lamented the loss of his life-long friend. It encapsulates the pain and the need for human kindness during the ensuing days, weeks and months of mourning and how such a time can bring out the best in most of us.
My beloved mother, a”h, departed this world ten years ago and I cannot tell you how my world was ripped apart. We only had each other and were always together. The only time we were separated was when I was caught in the blackout in New York City and there was no way for me to get home to New Jersey.
After her passing, while I did have people who came to be menachem avel, it was not easy to sit shiva alone in the house. At times I thought I would lose my mind.
I hope you will not scoff if I tell you what my Mom taught me. When a loved one departs, he/she is still very much aware of everything happening to those who remain in the world of the living. The departed are always with us and try to help us.
Many years ago, my uncle became very sick. Unfortunately, my mother and I could not be with him. Yet, that Shabbos my mother was sitting on the balcony when she heard her brother calling her. She told me that he said he felt lost and frightened and she felt right away that he had died. She said she tried to calm him by saying that Papashe and Mamashe would soon come to help him. Motzoei Shabbat we got the horrible news that he had passed away on Shabbat – at the very same time my mother had heard him calling her!
You can call it coincidence, but there were many other incidents of similar nature that could not be logically explained. Obviously, not everyone is so attuned as to communicate with those who have crossed over to the other side. You, however, by virtue of your closeness to Emil, must have a very strong spiritual connection to him.
For the first year, the soul of the departed is still in close proximity to the earthly world. I think you have stopped sensing Emil’s presence because he is trying to tell you he’s alright and that you, too, must move on.
You can still talk to Emil and understand that he is very much there, with you, and that he may very well be distressed that you are suffering so deeply by his passing. The very best gift you can give your friend is the reassurance that you will live your life to the fullest, remembering Emil with love. Remember, he will be there to greet you when, at the ripe old age of 120, you are ready to join him.
Please do not despair. True, life will never be the same, but you must continue and complete the mission that Hashem has mapped out specifically for you. If I may recommend a wonderful little book Small Miracles from The Beyond: Dreams, Visions and Signs That Link Us To The Other Side by Yitta Halberstam and Judith Leventhal, it contains true stories that may offer you some solace regarding the presence of the departed in our lives.
I wish you serenity, happiness and good health and may you never experience sorrow again.
There is never a right time for the passing of loved ones, good friends, old friends or devoted pets who have provided us with love. It is never easy to fill the empty void left by their love and time does not heal the longing for the departed in the same way for everyone. Some of us never really stop missing their presence in our lives, but all of us can live lives that would make them proud.
The days, weeks and months after loss are the hardest and will affect different people in different ways. With the passing of time, outward signs of mourning, like crying, loss of appetite, non-interest in socializing, etc., should lessen, even though some sadness remains. This normal progression will evolve to include a willingness to remember the departed through fond memories, even humorous recall about fun times spent together. And life goes on. This pattern of grieving will vary with different people in length of time, intensity and severity. However, be aware, if the period of grief lasts longer than eighteen months, you may well be dealing with full blown depression and require professional help to heal.
To be a friend to someone who is grieving is a hard job but it can also be a lifeline for the person. It is a journey that each person makes alone, however, just knowing that there are those around who will help when the pain, loneliness and, in some instances, guilt, get to be too much to handle, can aid in shutting off any adverse thoughts and actions that might otherwise have fertile ground to grow and take root.
We prepare for births because they give us joy, because they mark the beginning of new life, but we speak sparingly and in whispers about death and the end of life because, seemingly, it indicates the end of everything as we know it. And the unknown looms dark and daunting in our minds. But the end of days should not be perceived in this way. As Chazal have taught, it is the ongoing continuance of our personal journey to the nest level.
There are numerous opinions on what happens after the soul leaves the body and this is mine. I believe that when my time comes, after 120 years, my beloved parents, a”h, will walk towards me, arms outstretched, along with all the others I have loved and lost. I will reach out to them and happily allow them to lead me upward (hopefully) to the gates of Shomayim, where I will be given a pass to enter. There will be no pain, only an extreme and joyful lightness of spirit at being united with them after a full and well-lived life. Thus, there is no fear for what is inevitable.
What is in my control, however, is to live my time on this world with emunah sheleima as a true bas Yisroel, my feet firmly planted as shomer Torah u’mitzvos.
That’s my view and if you wish to adopt it, I’m more than happy to share it with you.