Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Throwing it all away

There is an interesting phenomenon that occurs especially when we are moving in a particularly positive direction in life. It seems that just when we are doing our best, at great self sacrifice, an obstacle is placed in our way which potentially brings us to a sudden halt. I have seen this happen, for example, when a baal teshuva has given up his whole life for the sake of torah and yiddishkeit. Yet a stumbling block or more accurately a brick wall is placed is his\her path. Lisa, a girl who is in her early twenties finds g-d one day and a year later discovers that her wardrobe of old is now tossed away; she has nothing in common with her former friends or extended relatives, she doesn't eat the same foods or read the same books. Lisa, now Aviva, is essentially a new person. Sometime later, Aviva starts going on shidduch dates and finally finds the "one". As the engagement moves towards inevitability, she gets a call from her future chasan (a.k.a the fiancé), telling her that he loves her too much to marry her.(what a guy, what a guy) The engagement that never was, is never going to be. What goes through her mind? I imagine something like this "Here i am throwing away my whole life to become frum and what does g-d do? No encouragement. No flowers. Not even a winning lottery ticket. Maybe g-d doesn't want me to become frum?" And the questions and doubts continue to flow from there on in. We all know the routine. The doubts. Wallowing in self pity. Yet how do we know what's right? How are we supposed to know the signs? How do we read between the lines? Maybe this is the anchor that we have been asking for. The message could not be clearer, "Give up!” I can only assume that every one of us has experienced something similar. In truth, the message is too blurry too read. Trying to examine events and truly decipher what is needed of us is beyond human ability. It would be purely speculative. Hashem gave us a blueprint to life to follow. The Torah is our guide. We cannot expect to understand what G-d wants and expects from us simply by examining the millions of experiences that we go through. Everything will be clear, but not in this world. So , recognize that these stumbling blocks or brick walls or whatever they are, for what they are. They are challenges of all shapes and sizes. Some are big and some are small; some are round and some are square. All that is expected of us is to do our best. Hashem has already told us what he wants; we just have to believe it. The yetzer harah neither sleeps nor slumbers. With syata dshmyah, we will break down these walls. Apart from that all we can do is pray that Moschiach will come soon.

Monday, March 27, 2006

article on dealing with loss

Here are a few "interesting" articles following the loss of a child.

Nothing feels right

The burden of guilt

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

out of control

When Nechama was sick, I made 2 trips to Eretz Yisroel to beseech the gedolim to pray for Nechama and perhaps get a blessing for her recovery.
I did not leave empty handed. each trip consisted of 18 hours of shuttling between gedolim and several experiences made a lasting impression
(Perhaps it is fodder for a subsequent post). One gadol in particular recommended a few different steps , of a spiritual nature. In return, he gave his blessing that Nechama Liba would have a complete recovery.
I made my sincerest effort to fulfill my end of the bargain to the best of my ability. However, the complete recovery did not materialize. On Saturday night after kevura, I was in Eretz Yisroel, and called this rav.
I simply asked him what I had done wrong. Where had I fallen short? I needed to know.
He told me that the need to blame someone(g-d,yourself) is part of the need to "feel that we are in control".

The feeling that we do not have control is the most unsettling feeling in the world. Imagine that people will torture themselves with needless guilt rather than face the alternative that we are not really in control of the events around us.
We are in control of how we react or respond to those events however.
I was recently in the company of a few bereaved parents. The teenage child of one of the parents was in a terrible car accident. She was rushed to the hospital. The father's instinct was to transfer to a better equipped facility.
He said that he hasn't been able to live with himself since his daughter passed away at that hospital a short time later.
He was plagued by guilt that he was the cause of his child's death. If only they would have gone to a better hospital. His wife began to speak and described that her instinct at the time telling her to stay in that hospital, not wanting to cause her any more pain. (I started to wonder whether he blamed himself or his wife). Another parent said that she lived with a similar guilt. Her son was scheduled for surgery at a certain unnamed hospital. She felt uncomfortable with that facility and considered changing to another one. She convinced herself otherwise. She felt that considering the reputation of the hospital, her fears were unfounded. Unfortunately, there was a complication during the surgery and the child passed away. She described the feeling of guilt that gnawed at her. Nothing anyone said gave her any relief from her guilt. Even when people told her that her intentions were good, it did not help. Only one idea penetrated her heart. Two years after her son passed away, another bereaved parent told her “You’re not that powerful." It took another 2 years of her friend telling her this over and over again "you're not that powerful" until it sank in;sort of. In our lives, we like to feel a sense of control. There is probably no greater portrayal of our lack of control than to lose a child. It is like a personal tsunami. We can only control ourselves and our response but g-d rules the world.

Sunday, March 05, 2006


I have mentioned on many occasions the feeling of appreciation whenever someone shares a story or picture with us about Nechama Liba A”H. We were fortunate enough to hear a new story and in the process learn something new about Nechama. A family friend confided in us that they were having difficulty with her daughter. Whenever there is a argument in the house, the 13 year old descended to the basement and is engulfed in tears for some time. One time , her mother asked why she cried so much. Her response was surprising, “It is because of Nechama”. Her mother was surprised and continued to inquire. The daughter explained,” Whenever there was an argument in our house, I would call Nechama Liba and she would give me advice on how to resolve the dispute. This contributed significantly in resolving any issues that came up. Now that Nechama is no longer with us, I don’t know where to turn”. Well, we had no idea. Just one more precious gem and one more reason to be amazed. It is incredible how many people Nechama touched.

Letter to Parents of sick child

There is a family that I met recently whose child was quite ill due to a severe virus.
The child went through a lot and baruch hashem recovered. Based upon conversations that I had with the family over the 2 month period, I intended to write the following letter. The family was truly brave and had a lot of emunah. The mother spoke of the fact that she was always “guarded” and I sensed that she felt responsible for what happened because she let her guard down when she was pregnant with this child. I told her that I was once in the hospital with my child but did not tell her the outcome. I am not sure if she ever knew that our child passed away but she never inquired about it.
Please let me know if your feelings about the letter below. You can email me or leave a comment anonymously if you want. I am hesitant to send out this letter but want to get some feedback first.
Thanks in advance.

Dear Mr. & Mrs.,
I am so pleased to hear the good news that you were granted release from the hospital. The reality of what you experienced will slowly ooze out like pus from a wound over the next few weeks. You will gradually become accustomed to normalcy and your hospital experience will move toward the far end of your subconscious. It may take time but it is typically faster than you think. However no matter what happens, you need to keep in mind that “when you came home, your arms were full”.
There is a natural inclination, especially after this type of experience to be over protective. On at least one occasion, we mentioned the idea of being guarded: the feeling of being worried or anxious; constantly examining every possibility to make sure that all is ok. However, such a belief is at the risk of ignoring an important lesson. Being guarded is the false belief that somehow we are able to protect our children by ourselves without any outside intervention. Yet the reality is that Hashem protects us and Baruch Hashem, he laid a protective cloak around your child during this extremely difficult experience. I was able to witness first hand the real “sakana” that your child was in. Through Hashem’s kindness, over the next 2 months, she was nursed back to health. The lesson to be taken is one of deep hakaras HaTov. Real hakara is not defined as thanks. It is recognition. And being guarded does not contribute to the belief that Hashem is in control. Sometimes we like the outcome and sometimes we don’t. Yet, when the outcome is one which we can relate to, it is incumbent on us to make a seudas hodaah as soon as possible. Don’t waste a minute. That is real hakara. When you came home, your arms were full.
As normal life seeps in, matters which were unimportant during the trying times, will once again take importance. The little things will matter again, and rightly they should. However, each night before you go to sleep, recognize the kindness which was done to you. Try to see past the suffering and see the outcome. Perhaps even say a kepital tehillim and express your hakaras hatov and then say another kepital for the children who are still in the hospital, Hashem yerachaym. And that has great meaning because you understand what that is like. And most of all enjoy your child. While you might feel that you missed out on her precious early months, you also created a bond with this child which is stronger than steel. I pray that these words will be taken in the way that they were meant. There is a saying that words that emanate from the heart can pierce the heart. When you came home, your arms were full, when we left, our arms were empty.


Glen Holman
My Goal is to post at least 2x per week on Sunday and Wednesday.