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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.
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.
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