Dear Dr. Respler,
My condolences on the passing of your beloved father, z”l. Your column about inconsiderate shiva behavior rang true for me too. I lost my beloved mother, z”l, in December. Most people were very kind and I really was so appreciative that they offered comfort.
But still far too many strongly pressed me about her age. She had always said, “39”, so I said the same about her at the shiva. I knew that’s what she would have wanted. It bothered people; I’m not sure why. Anyone with seichel could calculate that as a Holocaust survivor she had lived a long life.
The “worst” visitor was someone who surveyed my home and insisted that she “had” to tell me that the artwork on my living room walls was displayed “all wrong.” I found it to be very rude and mean.
May you know no further sorrow.
Thank you for your kind words. My goal in writing the column was to make people more aware of the sensitivity needed when making a shiva call. I too am so appreciative of everyone that came to give me comfort during this trying time. May Hashem grant you nechama and may your mother be a meilitza yotzer for you and your family.
Dear Dr. Yael,
I am sorry for your loss and appreciate your writing about the shiva experience.
I sat shiva for my father a year ago. Yes, he lived a full life, although the end was difficult.
So many people said things like, “You were lucky that you had a vibrant father for most of your life.” Others asked details of his illness and his petira.
Dr. Respler, I was so frustrated by these comments since I too did not feel lucky. Why are people coming to pay a shiva call? Is it to make comments that are not helpful? I think it is true that people are uncomfortable with silence; I too yearned for people just to sit and not ask me questions. I appreciated any stories about my father and how he impacted other people’s lives. Most helpful were the people who just sat and said that they cared.
I think the idea of sitting shiva is to help the person who suffered the loss through the mourning process.
One thing I can say is that the longer we have our parents, the harder it is to let them go. Since we are so used to calling them or caring for them, there is a huge void when they are no longer alive. There are so many memories that it makes it hard to let go. Thank you for writing a very important column.
Life is a journey marked with simchas and sorrow and a host of challenges for us to face. Yet, we must realize that everything we experience is from Hashem and there is something He wants us to learn from it.
Losing someone close to you should be an opportunity for reflection. It should make you aware of how short life can be and the importance of making the most out of every day.
Often, people have a hard time with mourning; it’s not something we are taught to do. For men, it’s a little easier. There are concrete steps they take everyday: saying kaddish. I know that for some men it’s a burden – they hate davening for the amud or having people focus on them during davening. I have treated people who are shy and need to be able to do this without feeling anxiety.
As women we are left with the ability to say Yizkor and light a candle in our parent’s memory. This creates a real void for many.
I thank you for your wishes and the huge support I have received from that column and during this difficult period in my life. I wish everyone hatzlocha in dealing with their own losses.