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Life after Parents’ Death

Life after Parents’ Death

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Dear Rabbi,

This past June, I lost my mother, and now both of my parents are gone. This was the first High Holy Days without either one of them. Although I don’t come from an active religious family, nevertheless I do feel a heavy burden of the heart.

What is the best way to cope with no longer having my parents?

Answer:

My condolences on the loss of both your parents. It’s something for which none of us are ever prepared. There’s a different feeling to life when you stand in this world without those who brought you here and placed you on your feet.

Yet the truth is, the parent never leaves the child. Life never truly ends.

Rather than thinking of death, loneliness and loss, think of it this way: Imagine that your parents have gone on a trip to a distant place, from where there are no phone calls, no Skype, no e-mail—yet nevertheless, they have their ways to communicate and to assist you from their vantage point above. And when your thoughts are with them, they are hearing that as well.

In many ways, your parents are of assistance to you, and you are to them. We have a tradition that the souls of deceased parents benefit greatly from whatever good deeds their children do in their memory, as the saying of our sages goes, “A parent brings a child into this world, but a child can bring a parent into the next world.”

Any mitzvah you do is good, but here are some of the traditional ways for you to assist your parents’ souls as they are in that world:

  1. Say kaddish for your parents, and the Yizkor memorial service recited on several major Jewish holidays. Make sure to give charity in their name in the days following the Yizkor service (but not on the day of the holiday itself). All the info you need about kaddish is in our Kaddish Guide: Learn it. Say it. Understand it.
  2. Study some Torah in their memory (especially the Mishnah).
  3. Make some sort of charitable contribution to a good cause in their names. You could donate books on Judaism to a school or synagogue, and put a sticker inside dedicating the book in your parents’ memory. That way, anytime someone learns or prays from that book, it is to your parents’ merit, and they live on in that merit.

Aside from all the above, here’s my own personal advice: Write down anecdotes of your parents that stick out in your mind. If you have a close friend or family, share those anecdotes with them. By doing so, you not only keep their memory alive in this world, you begin to learn things from them that you may not have taken to heart while they were in this world with you. In a way, it is now more than ever that you start to really feel how they are your parents, and how much you have to learn from their lives and experiences.

You don’t write where you live, but here is a directory of Jewish centers to help you find a suitable place to say the kaddish prayer and a caring rabbi who can also provide some guidance.

Keep in touch. Don’t be shy to write back any time.

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, a senior editor at Chabad.org, also heads our Ask The Rabbi team. He is the author of Bringing Heaven Down to Earth. To subscribe to regular updates of Rabbi Freeman's writing, visit Freeman Files subscription.
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Discussion (29)
February 27, 2012
Monica
I was not arguing nor criticizing you in any way and I didn’t say that it was wrong. I tend not to argue with people’s opinions I understand too well that we are all different.
On the contrary, I was merely admiring you for your way of mourning your dear departed and I agree with you all the way that we should think about them every day and not just on certain occasions when it becomes even more profound. When my oldest son was 9 months I brought him to the hospital in Paris for my mother to see him just before she passed away, she never saw my two other children. But then I think I never saw my grandparents on both sides either.
Feigele
Boca Raton, Florida
February 26, 2012
Feigele, I'm Fine
Feigele, I did not mean in any way to battle or to disagree with you. Every person approaches mourning differently. Certainly the pain of grief is most intense when the loss is very recent. As my dear parents died many years ago, the passage of time has lessened the pain for me somewhat. As I said in the very beginning of my comment, I do think about them every day. I find the pain of memory is more intense on special occasions and on their Yahrzeits and at Yizkor time. Whenever a new grandchild is named for one of my deceased parents, I cry thinking how much my parent would have loved to have seen that child. But that doesn't make my mourning wrong just because I'm different from you. Every person approaches this sadness from the depths of his or her own emotions.
Anonymous
Far Rockaway, NY
February 25, 2012
Thank you Monica
You are a real Mensch. I admire you for your devotion that shows a lot of emotional strength. Despite all the trials and tribulations in your life, you have kept your faith and the compassion essential for your well being. I hope that you are doing well now.
Baruch Hashem
Feigele
Boca Raton, Florida
February 23, 2012
Different strokes for different folks!
Thank you Monica. I admire you for what you are doing. It takes a lot of emotional strength and devotion to do so and I wish I could do the same but then I know that I would be crying every day looking at it.
Feigele
Boca Raton, Florida
February 23, 2012
I agree with Florida
I have to throw my hat in with Feigele from Florida. We try to be the best Jew's we can! No one is perfect. We each handle our life's problems differently.
As an example of being "different" I have an electric Yizkor candle I keep lit all the time! I do this to remember those Jews who have passed with no one to remember them or the say the Mourner's Kaddish! Does this action make me a bad Jew? No it makes me who I am. I consider it an obligation in honoring those who have passed so they are not forgotten.
We are different yet the same and it's my humble opinion that we should "Agree to Disagree"!
MONICA STEVENS
HORNELL, NEW YORK
February 22, 2012
Afterlife!
I have to add that any comment doesn't apply to anyone in particular, it is meant to be general observation for anyone to read or not.
If some people know or talk about afterlife, I would ask them this: have you, or someone you know, been there and/or come back from it!!!
Feigele
Boca Raton, Florida
February 22, 2012
On the Contrary,
we are here to exchange our views on different matters and this is the perfect place to express one’s feelings and opinions, as we all have the opportunity to do so. Everyone is free to do whatever in life and that is certainly not my concern. It is exactly what I said before, I do agree with your views but I also would like to add that one can extend their memories beyond certain events. That was not criticizing anyone nor imposing any different views, just commenting.
Feigele
Boca Raton, Florida
February 22, 2012
after my parents......
Since my parents died almost 10 years ago, I think of them everyday, I also dream of them such a lot. I often find myself feeling very close to them as if something of their 'essence' is near. I don't know or understand what it is ot how it works, but it is beautiful and I dont question it.

I work with the elderly and I have heard many in their 80's and 90's say that their parents have never really left, they feel as close to them now as they did when they were alive. And that it is more than memory.

I have also met people who say that after death there is nothing, no spirit no essence nothing nor will there be What are your thoughts on this?
linda
Yorkshire, uk
February 22, 2012
NU? Feigele......
Dear, This was not a place for views. There is nothing here for you to agree with or disagree with--We are all sharing what is in our hearts about our relationships and memories of our beloved parents--And to be critical with people and their feelings...that is a bit thoughtless and mean...certainly hope that my loved ones think of me in whatever way that feels right for them, after I'm gone.... don't you? I'm planning on 120----hope you are as well! Kol Tov!
Anonymous
February 20, 2012
Not just on Yom Kippur
Although I agree with your views that I’m sure come from your heart, I disagree with the fact that you cannot set your mind to think about your dear departed just on certain days or certain occasions. You should be able to think about them anytime anywhere you feel like without disrupting your life. I do all the time, I want to include them in my life when ever possible, not that I feel I have to, it is a moral support to think that maybe they are with me in every step of my life. Cannot forget them until Yom Kippur comes or events that come who knows when.
Feigele
Boca Raton, Florida
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