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?
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:
- 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.
- Study some Torah in their memory (especially the Mishnah).
- 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.