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An Open Letter to Girls Who Lost A Parent
by Rabbi Yakov Horowitz

  Rated by 7 users   |   Viewed 21189 times since 9/12/06   |   7 Comments
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11/22/06
Dear Reader:

First of all, allow me to commend you for having the courage to request and read a copy of this newsletter. It is difficult enough to deal with all the ramifications of your loss each day without confronting the issue head-on in a more direct manner, which reading these lines will force you to do.

I strongly feel, however, that in the long term you will be better off for having done so. At this point in your lives, I really think that you should take advantage of the opportunity to draw strength from the writers and the other readers of this newsletter - and from the evolving understanding of the grieving process.

The notion of grief counseling didn't exist when my father died before my fourth birthday, more than forty-three years ago. My mother and her children; my sister, brother and I, had to cope - ourselves - in the best way we could.

Today, thankfully, things are very different. The horrible, searing pain of losing a parent didn't get any easier. But in today's environment, professionals can help you explore your feelings and deal with your loss in a way that will help you cope and grow into adulthood with less difficulty. Additionally, a peer group like Links can help you draw strength from each other, fulfilling the timeless words of Shlomo Hamelech in Koheles (4:9), "Tovim hashnayim min haechad, … sheim yipolu, haechad yokim es chavero - [The shared power of] two are better than one … for if they should fall, one can lift the other."


My dear reader, I'd love to be able to tell you that the pain will go away one day. But that would simply be dishonest. And one thing I will never do to you is to mislead you in any way. I am so very sorry to say that the agony of losing a parent will never, ever, really leave you. But it does get better, slowly, over time. Growing into adulthood will perhaps enable you to cope better. Starting your own family will help you 'get your legs back'. Naming a child after your parent may sooth some of the hurt. But this tragedy is part of your life and you will need to deal with it on some level forever.

In my speeches and writings, I have always maintained that children who lost a parent are not in any 'high-risk' category. Surely we have challenges to overcome and mountains to climb that most others, thankfully, do not. But mountain climbing makes you stronger. Fired in the crucible of the pain and loneliness of losing a parent, most of us outgrow the inevitable "why me?" phase, mature earlier than our peers, become more sensitive human beings - having learned at an early age to appreciate life to its fullest.

We, who remain behind in shul to face our sorrow alone while our carefree friends go out to enjoy each other's company during Yizkor, often develop a closer relationship with Hashem, as well, as time passes.

I once heard a touching story about the Chassidic Rebbi, Reb Levi Yitzchok, z'tl, who was referred to as The Bardichiver Rov. He once heard a crowd of people berating a man who was addressing Hashem in a loud and disrespectful tone after his cow had died. That animal was the sole source of income for this individual and his family, and he reacted to his pain by verbally lashing out at the Ribbono Shel Olam for causing him this loss. The Rov, who always looked for the good in people, raised his hands to heaven and exclaimed that he is envious of this man for the close and intimate relationship that he had with Hashem.

I guess that in a strange and similar way, those of us who were forced to confront our feelings with Hashem in our formative years; those of us who had to sort out the hurt, pain, confusion, and yes, even anger, at having lost a loved one, hopefully come to a closer and more intimate relationship with Him, as well, over the course of time.


Mrs. Kohn invited me to write a column in this newsletter - and in upcoming issues as well. Time permitting, I will do my very best to do so. Perhaps drop her a line and inform her if there are any specific topics that you would like me to address in the future.

Keep your chin up, stay strong, and may Hashem continue to grant you chizuk and success.

(Rabbi) Yakov Horowitz

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© 2006 Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, all rights reserved

Note: This article was written for the first issue of Links magazine.

Links is a magazine geared specifically to frum, teenaged girls who've lost a parent. Links is distributed FREE of charge to those in the situation and to educators.
Links is a project of EITZA, a Brooklyn based chinuch organization.

Links Contact Info:

Mrs. Kohen, Editor
718-851-4778
olamhabo@verizon.net
Fax: 845-426-5724 (24 hours)
Mailing Address: Links c/o Kohn 4219 12th Ave 2C Brooklyn, NY 11219

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1. A tree is felled     3/27/07 - 7:24 AM
Levi Krol - Beit Shemesh - reblee770@yahoo.com

When I lost my father, reguardless of my age, it was as if half of the tree from which I came from, was cut thru at the trunk, but the tree still lived and survived even though it was weaker. I missed my father, but could visit him through the eyes of my mother. When, later, I lost my mother, and now had no parents, it was as if, the tree was now felled and I was alone. Now I was an orphan. It did not matter how old I was, I was an orphan. I was now devastating, not like how I hurt when I lost my father, but 10 fold, because the connection was now severed and lost. I now miss them both 10 times more in that I have neither to talk to about each other.


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2. Thanks     3/28/07 - 4:19 PM
Sarah R. Kohn - Brooklyn NY - olamhabo@koshernet.com

R’ Horowitz:

During this joyous time of the year, I appeal to all of Klal Yisroel to please look around and try to be in tune to the needs – and the pain of – the orphans and widows in our communities.

Although this doesn't apply directly to Pesach, I'd like to bring it up as an example. A widow called me shortly after Sukkos of last year deeply pained. Her 6-year-old son had insisted on going to the men's side during hakafos as he didn't want to remain in the women’s section and be ‘different’ than his friends. Hesitantly, his mother sent him down and watched from the balcony to see what would happen. What she saw broke her heart. Her son, shy by nature, stood at the outside of the circle trying to break in. He nearly got trampled, so he backed off and watched close-by. Hundreds of men, his uncles included, passed him by, some nodding their heads in his direction. Nobody thought to stretch out their hands, invite him to join the circle, or perhaps even put him on their shoulders.

Sure, we can be dan l'kaf z'chus (judge favorably) but for the purpose of kabbala al ha'osid (future improvement), can we open our eyes, try to find children who may need a boost and give it to them. A smile costs nothing but gives so much. So does a pat on the back. An outstretched arm. A two-minute conversation.

R' Horowitz, I hope you don't mind, but there's one more story I've got to add. A married man recently told me that when he was orphaned as a young teen (at age 14). He tried to put on a 'macho man' demeanor but of course, he was deeply pained. He was a bright boy, a strong learner and very popular. At age 16, he went to learn in an ‘out-of-town’ yeshiva and had a terrific z'man. When he came home for Pesach, he tried to share with his mother all about how wonderfully his learning had been. All of it fell flat. His mother didn't get the lingo and was busy with the cooking. He told me that at that moment he felt like committing suicide. He said he felt like the entire good feeling of the z'man had been destroyed in his mind, as he had nobody with whom to share his success.

I beg all of you: Please look around and try to be in tune to the needs of others – especially the orphans and children who are living in single-parent households. We can never bring back their parent but we could offer them some time and some love.

Sarah R. Kohn Editor, Links Magazine


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3.     3/29/07 - 7:56 PM
judy - baltimore

I would like to thank Rabbi Horowitz for once again responding so sensitively to the needs of others, especially to a population that very often gets overlooked. I was not quite 5 and my brother, 2, when our father died, and left us, and my newly-married mother. The pain that all of us have endured is something that is still fresh, if somewhat buried, but time does have a way of "dulling." I agree with Rabbi Horowitz, that, unfortunately, this is a life experience, however tragic it may be, that has the potential to be a character building and strenghthening experience as well. With hope for the future of building a Bayis Ne'eman with a husband and family, one has a new source of strenght and support, that is so much more meaningful, needed and valued, and appreciated, because of a tragedy. In concurrence with Rabbi Horowitz, I urge people to think of these children, especially during family times, like Shabbos and Yom Tov, but to PLEASE do it with tact and sensitivity, and not to be insulted when one's reaching out is rebuffed. Many times, these children don't know how to "appropriately" react, and do NOT want to EVER feel like a "nebach" case, and as such, they may turn away and put on a strong front. Please do not be fooled, there is a LOT of pain there that needs to be dealt with kindness and understanding, and just a simple "being there" is quite comforting.


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4. An Excellent Read     3/30/07 - 9:38 AM
Yakov Horowitz - Monsey NY

If anyone is looking to read a book on the topic of learning to help people through times of tragedy, I strongly suggest an excellent book

http://www.feldheim.com/cgi-bin/category.cgi?item=1-58330-577-7&type=store

"If There's Anything I Can Do?" by: Rebecca Feldman.


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5.     3/30/07 - 12:50 PM
Anonymous

Rebbecca Feldbaum


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6. Give preferential treatment in Shiduchim to girls who do not two parents .     4/24/09 - 2:05 PM
Savta

I have heard that people are discriminating against girls who come from families where one parent has died.Girls- these are the families you don't want to marry into. My father AH died when I was three and I can assure you that numerous times in my life I got things I did not deserve from Hashem in the zchus of my father. His prayers were answered much faster than the prayers of the fathers on earth because he was so close to Hashem in Gan Eden. I have had a fantastic life and my husband and his family not only got an overachieving Super Mom/Wife added to their family but they also got the benefit of the unusual Brachos that were bestowed upon me.I always worked to be better than everyone else because I did not have a father who could pick up the pieces and put me back together again nor did I have a mother who was emotionally capable of helping me.Hashem watched over me like his own child. For those of you who are having difficulty marrying off your daughters, help set up a girl who does not have a parent and Hashem will help you.These children are Hashem's Special Children.


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7.     5/6/09 - 9:29 AM
Ima - Yerushalayim - hflom@zahav.net.il

I want to thank Savta for her comment on preferential treatment to girls without two parents. It gave me much strength.

My husband was niftar a year ago leaving me with four unmarried children, one of whom was engaged. B"h, I was zoche to marry off four older children with my husband and am now having a very hard time with the next child in shiduchim.

I tell Hashem every day that he is "Avi Yesomim", the father of orphans and he has to decide and show me my child's beshert because I have no one to consult with, and make the decisions that are so hard to make, when you have to decide if your child should meet a certain person or not.

When I feel that someone rejects my daughter because she has no father, I know that that suggestion was not for us, because my daughter needs someone with more integrity, who realizes how special she is after all he has gone through, and also realizes that she has extra special yichus, because Hashem is "avi yesomim" the father of orphans. You can't have a better father than that.

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