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Mishpacha participants speak

on Jewish burial and mourning

Author: George H.
Date: Jan. 20

When my first wife died after a long illness, it was not totally unexpected---but it was still a shock. Here I was, faced with having to raise two pre-teen daughters by myself, dealing with their grief while trying to handle my own.

But the support of my rabbi, synagogue community and friends was amazing; and the different time frames for mourning seemed to correspond with my mental state.

It takes a full 8 days just to come to grips with the basic loss; and at least a full month to feel that you'll be able to function again in society. The shiva and sheloshim periods give you time just to think and talk and to reminisce about that person and what he/she meant to you and will continue to mean to you.

Author: Sue L.
Jan. 20

George, thank you so much for describing your experiences with grief and how the Jewish mourning rituals have helped you. I guess those guys back then were pretty darn smart when they came up with these things. It is uplifting and hopeful to me to read about the strength you gained from these rituals. It sounds like a sensitive rabbi can make a world of difference in the grieving process.

Author: Robyn B.
Jun. 14

I find the days when the deceased are to be remembered very comforting. It allows me to sit back for a few minutes and think about the past and all of those who are no longer with us.

Author: Leo J.
Date: Jun. 22

When my father died, a little over six years ago, the shiva that I sat was somewhat half-baked. I still have regrets about it, and it was a matter of circumstances and my own lack of perspective and Jewish understanding. I think that my continuing difficulty with my father's death is related to not having availed myself of the ingenious grieving process that our religion offers.

At my father's funeral, after everybody that chose to shovel dirt onto his coffin was finished, I picked up the shovel and almost completely filled the hole. I felt compelled to do that, rather than have it done for me by strangers, and to this day I'm thankful that I had the privilege.

Author: Nechama M.
Date: Jan. 19

All I can say is that my participation made my grandmother's death very real to me. It also helped me to remember her. Shoveling the dirt, was cathartic and seemed such a logical way to say good-bye.

Author: Ricki H.
Date: Jan. 19

When my uncle died, my aunt did not follow our customs--there was no real graveside service, shiva barely included a service, and the unveiling was cold. The loss was hard for me because I had a close relationship with him, but I had to respect her wishes. I believe that our customs are healthy. They give us time to mourn, time to cry, and a way to heal--a belief that for their memory to be blessing we must go on and carry on their work.

Rites and wrongs

4. Author: Beth G.
Date: Jan. 19 1:49 PM 1998

The first thing that happened at the funeral, (which took place the second day after my mother died, not the first, was that the woman who was supposed to be my best friend came over to me and told me we were breaking Jewish law by not having the funeral within the first twenty-four hours. As it happens, she was wrong; you're allowed to postpone it another day for an immediate family member my brother had had to return from Chicago. And, of course, even if she was correct, which she wasn't, that is not something to say to your best friend at her mother's funeral. I didn't speak to her for nearly another fifteen years.

Since he knew I had been intermarried, the rabbi refused to mention my name or my status. He said during the service that my mother was mourned by her husband and her son.

And, being female, I didn't get to shovel any dirt over my mother's grave. I didn't get to say Kaddish. I didn't say Kaddish. for my mother until more than ten more years had elapsed.

I thoroughly disliked nearly all the people who came by when we were sitting shiva. The only good thing about it was that we had colored glasses to drink from, and I could get thru the days drinking scotch and, as far as I know, nobody could tell.

Author: Sue L.
Date: Jan. 19

I'm totally livid at what Beth had to go through during life's most trying times, because of the fact that, for some, the rules of Judaism, as *they* understand them, are more important than the people who are seeking its comfort.


Author: Nechama M.
Date: Jan. 19

I'm glad my mother is Reform and my father is just his usual nonreligiously Jewish self because at least I'll have some leeway in how I mourn them when the time comes (although since my dad is going to insist on cremation, sitting shiva may be difficult, but I'm going to do it anyway).

Author: Ricki H.
Date: Jan. 21

The mourning/burial customs are for the living to allow the living to grieve and regain strength, over time.

Kaddish.

Author: Sue L.
Date: Jan. 19 5:01 PM 1998

In the synagogue I belonged to everyone stood during the mourner's Kaddish., which I really liked, because I feel like we are standing as a congregation to emotionally support those who are in mourning. Also, when the mourner's Kaddish. is recited, I often say it for my grandparents and aunt whom I never even met! I feel it is my only Jewish connection to them and my only way to, in some small way, honor them.

Author: George H.

Date: Dec. 24

In virtually all Reform synagogues that I've ever attended, the entire congregation rises for the Kaddish. I was told that the reason for this was that there were so many Jews who died in the Holocaust for whom no one was left to say Kaddish., and that we needed to remember them. That thought always touched me.

Author: Dianne C.

Date: Jan. 13

As for saying Kaddish. for non-Jewish parents:

There is no obligation to say Kaddish., or to mourn Jewishly. However, one may say Kaddish. if one wants to. This is also true for all other mourning practices-- they are optional.

Author: Nechama M.

Date: Jan. 19

I know some people believe that one should only say Kaddish. for an immediate relative, but I say it in synagogue every Shabbat for my grandmother. I feel it is my duty and each time I do it, I get to think about and remember my grandmother in a very special way.

Author: Ricki H.
Date: Jan. 19

When I lost my grandfathers (they died within a year of each other) I was 14. I remember talking to my dad when his father died; I remember crying with him; I remember saying Kaddish. and seeing it help him.

Dying, coping and meaning

Author: Sue L.
Date: Jan. 19

I know that people say that God does not give one more than one can handle, but if that were true, mental institutions would be out of business.

 

Author: Ricki H.
Date: Feb. 5

I know that when a relationship dies, a part of you goes too. When I recognized that my marriage had no chance of continuing, that I was dragging myself and my daughter further and further down, a part of me died. I had taken my marriage vows seriously and had struggled to make it work (too hard and too long according to my family and friends). A part of me died, but a part that I had to release in order to regain my life, regain my joy, regain my ability to live my life to its fullest. When I suffered through 3 ectopic pregnancies and 2 miscarriages, a part of me died; the part that wanted to fulfill that part of being a woman. I had to let that part go and though my role as a mother to my adopted daughter and my step children I have found joy; but I still cry sometimes over the loss. I believe that every time we experience a great loss, a part of us dies. I also believe that Judaism spurs us to remember the part of life that is left (e.g., the Mourner's Kaddish. which praises God) and to grieve but to focus on life and the beauty and joys of living.

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