Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Shiva - What to say

Someone is putting together a book on the Shiva experience and I thought I would add a thought or 2.

Please don't ask me if there was anything else that I could have done but didn't
On more than one occasion during Shiva,
I was asked “Wasn’t there something else that you could have done?"
What kind of response are they looking for? "Yes there was but we were sick and tired of trying new things. We figured it was her time to go anyways. Sure we have other kids, so why put all your eggs in one basket." of course we did everything that we could have done.

please don't help me by describing the root cause of why this happened to me. It is not helpful and certainly has no basis in halacha or hashkafa for you to tell me why my child died. I have heard of people who were told that their child died because they ate chalav stam. I have heard of people who were told that their child died because they called their child by a nickname instead of their full name (Chezky instead of Yechezkal for example).

Please don't try to distract me because it makes you feel more comfortable. I recall one fellow, a co worker who started talking about work. I mean details. He apologized and I said oh it is not a problem don’t worry about it. He took that to mean that he should continue.

Please don't judge my reaction. One person was offended since he felt that I wasn't hurting enough.
I was tempted to tell him," well, we weren’t that close. So it’s no big deal. Don’t tell anyone that you figured it out with your keen sense of human psychology”.

Please allow me to be silent. I have been speaking for hours on end sometimes repeating myself. I am drained emotionally and physically. Be there to comfort me and if silence is what I need, please respect it.

Please don't ask detailed questions about the illness, death or accident unless you can tell that I am interested in answering those questions.

Please don't ask “How I am doing?” I lost my child, how do you think I am doing. But you can ask “How am I managing?”

Please ask yourself, before speaking, if what you are saying is for your comfort or mine. Many times, well meaning people say things that are self serving and do not realize it.

My goal is not to start a people bashing campaign or to speak about dysfunctional people.
Everything that I have said is comments directed at normal, caring, well meaning people. If anyone has any comments, please share them.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your loss. Losing a child is so so heartbreaking. G-d must've missed her beautiful neshama while she was down on earth and therefore had taken her back. May you only be comforted and have good fortune in the future.

8:53 PM  
Blogger Yoel.Ben-Avraham said...

As a Ger Tzedek the entire issue of Nichum Avalim was not something I learned at home ... so I asked a respected & learned friend what I should do, what should I say. His advice so many years and so many Nichum Avalim calls later still rings in my ears.

"You don't have to say anything! Just be there for them!"

11:08 PM  
Blogger Elie said...

Goood advice. I have been steeling myself to write about my shiva experience a year ago this week. Some of the things people said were just unreal. I can only hope they were at least well-intentioned.

9:32 AM  
Blogger Jay Lapidus said...

As a mourner myself, the only item I would quibble with is your objection to "How are you doing?" To me, there's no difference between "doing" and "managing." I know that a number of mourners during shiva don't like to be asked "How are you feeling?"

The Halacha gives a good guideline for the visitor: Don't speak until spoken to.

Thanks again for your blog, Glen.

5:09 PM  

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