“It’s important to understand that grief is multifaceted, and not ‘one size fits all’”
My Guilt and Grief, Her Relief [Guilt, Grief, and Relief / Issue 830]
The article “Guilt, Grief, and Relief” touches on a topic that very few of us ever want to face, let alone revisit. But it’s important to understand that grief is multifaceted, and not “one size fits all.”
Dr. Norman Blumenthal said it well when he wrote, “There are losses that invoke a paradoxical mix of pain and relief.” Apart from sudden loss (as I experienced when my father suffered a massive, fatal heart attack), I suspect many of us (and I count myself among this group) do experience a sense of relief when our loved one passes away; but not for ourselves.
My “relief,” for want of a better word, was for my mother, who was a shadow of the brilliant, feisty, vibrant, and independent woman who raised us. Her biggest fear and pain wasn’t the physical; rather, it was her awareness of the impending loss of her dignity and independence that was destroying her psyche.
When she passed away, I felt relief that her suffering was over. My grief took on an added aspect: selfishness. I would never be able to phone or visit my beloved mother, never again would I feed her or help her bentsh licht or go through old photos with her. My pain was mine; my relief was hers.
Here in Israel there is an organization, Nechama, which provides counseling to the bereaved Anglo population. Trained counselors help clients come to terms with their losses, and often, not infrequently, there are underlying or overt emotions that add to the “normal pain” of grief. The counselors’ “job” is not to provide answers or to fix things, but rather to facilitate the healing process.
The training process to become one of their counselors is long and intense. I am into year two of the training process, and every week I see how important this service is. Bereavement counseling in Israel, especially for English speakers, is scarce, but Nechama-trained counselors are here to support grieving clients.
To reach out for support, please visit nechamagriefcounseling.com. May we soon be out of business!
Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel
See You in Tahiti [Sidekick / Issue 830]
Thank you, Hadassah Swerds, for your latest article. We really needed the laugh after the week we had! We just went through our own merry-go-round of strep jumping from one child to the next and back to the first again. And then we started with the pink eye rotation… that one ended with my husband getting it (think man-cold). So, Hadassah, I definitely sympathize with you. I have one child waiting to go to the doctor for his third strep test in three weeks. If it’s positive, I’ll meet you in Tahiti.
You Have a Different Avodah [Care to Connect / Issue 828]
I write this letter with some trepidation. I want to encourage young mothers who feel guilty or inadequate when it becomes impossible for them to daven as much as they were able to before they had children, but I don’t want to encourage ladies to excuse themselves from davening just because they don’t have the same chiyuv in tefillah as men. There are women who really would be able to daven properly once or twice a day without a problem, if they would only develop a greater chashivus for tefillah. Ideally, it would be best for each individual to ask a personal sh’eilah about how to prioritize davening based on her own situation, and then reevaluate every so often as things change.
We might feel like we’re not starting our day right if we’re busy taking care of our family every morning instead of davening Shacharis. But motherhood is our ideal derech of avodas Hashem, and ultimately, our strongest connection to Hashem is created by consciously doing His ratzon. Consequently, every mother should be able to access a feeling of closeness to Hashem as she nurtures the precious neshamos He placed in her care, and no child should ever be neglected because his or her mother “needs to daven.”
We mothers are on call 24-7, and we need Hashem’s assistance throughout our hectic days and nights. Every situation comes with opportunities for shevach, bakashah, and hoda’ah (which, by the way, are all included in Bircas Hamazon).
A busy mother was once asked, “When do you daven?”
She answered simply, “When don’t I daven?”
These type of tefillos take no time away from parenting. For example, during the morning rush, a woman can ask, “Hashem, please help me get everyone ready on time.” During the afternoon madness, she can say, “Hashem, thank You for giving me normal, healthy children. Please help me have patience with them and teach them good middos.”
Rav Moshe Heinemann shlita was once asked by a mother if she could hire a goy to help her on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and he answered (with his signature wit) that there’s no problem with hiring a non-Jewish woman to go to shul for her while she stays home with the children. (Repeated with permission from Rav Heinemann.)
Rabbi Nosson Scherman writes in the ArtScroll Women’s Siddur how he overheard Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky ztz”l telling a man that when his own children were young, his rebbetzin just davened birchos hashachar. The surprised yungerman asked, “What about Shema and Shemoneh Esreh?”
With a smile, Rav Yaakov quoted the Yehi Ratzon, “Sh’targileinu b’sorasecha v’dabekeinu b’mitzvosecha…” and commented, “It’s a beautiful tefillah, is it not?”
May our sincere tefillos for our own children, and all of the parents and children in Klal Yisrael, be answered l’tovah.
Mrs. Y. Kinzer
Move Those Muscles [Care to Connect / Issue 828]
I wanted to chime in on the davening discussion.
I’ve had a hard time davening my whole life. I don’t know if I’m right, but I look at it like I have a weaker davening muscle or skill; not as a reflection on my emunah or any other aspects of my spirituality.
Over years of working on it, my davening muscle definitely got stronger, baruch Hashem, but it’s still a constant effort. Some days it goes easy, and I feel connected and thrilled to daven. Some days I force my way through the words. Some days I forget to daven. But I’ve learned to not get discouraged and then stop davening altogether, just to try again the next day.
I also want to echo what another letter writer wrote: to daven quickly. When I used to try to have a lot of kavanah, it was too hard. We all have so much to daven for, and it was too much to tap into what was troubling me on a daily basis. It was draining emotionally and took too long practically to be able to keep up every day. It also created so much pressure around davening.
I’ve learned to compartmentalize, saying the words (and at least translating them in my head), maybe giving myself a minute or two at Shema Koleinu, and then know that I’m fulfilling the obligation of tefillah.
When I light Shabbos candles, or when I have an empty schedule (like on some Sunday mornings), I get the opportunity to pour my heart into davening. I also try to daven in my own words at any time.
With this method, I’ve found that it is so much easier to keep up with davening every day, which used to feel impossible.
I hope this helps other people feel like they too can daven daily without feeling huge pressure or having negative associations.
Potential Paradigm Shift [Care to Connect / Issue 828]
I’m always amazed at the thoughtful, intelligent, kind, and articulate way Family First manages to bring up sensitive and salient topics. I’ve been following your article and the subsequent letters about women and tefillah with interest.
There were many wonderful insights and excellent tips listed, all of which may make a real difference to a woman struggling to connect. My own relationship with tefillah has been a process, and it’s deeply connected to my inner world; in fact, I often find the quality of my davening to be an excellent litmus test for how I’m doing internally.
With that in mind, I’d like to propose something — not a tip, not an inspirational strategy, rather, a paradigm shift. Life is long, and it’s filled with ups and downs. When we hit a low, it can be a while until we find the means to climb back up and see the light again. It’s indeed a painful irony that it’s during those times, when we need Him most, that many of us struggle most deeply to connect to Him.
The idea that “ain haShechinah shoreh elah mitoch simchah — the Shechinah only dwells in a place of happiness” comes to mind. There are many other examples from the Torah that indicate that this struggle isn’t a personal failure or due to some innate flaw: It’s part of the natural world that our lows often come with the added pain of disconnection from our Source. So be patient. The darkness will pass.
Remind yourself of the magnificent insight of Rav Tzadok (thank you, Faigie Zelcer!) on the words “va’ani tefillah,” that when a Yid is in too much pain to speak, he doesn’t need to because that’s when he becomes the tefillah. You have a Father in Heaven Who sees your pain and truly understands your struggle to connect. With boundless love and infinite patience, He will hold your hand and carry you through the darkness. And He will be there, with His arms out, when you’re once again ready for Him.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 832)
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