Contact Us

Life after Parents’ Death

Life after Parents’ Death

 Email

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. FaceBook @RabbiTzviFreeman Periscope @Tzvi_Freeman .
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
 Email
Join the Discussion
Sort By:
29 Comments
1000 characters remaining
Feigele Boca Raton, Florida 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. Reply

Anonymous Far Rockaway, NY 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. Reply

Feigele Boca Raton, Florida 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 Reply

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. Reply

MONICA STEVENS HORNELL, NEW YORK 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"! Reply

Feigele Boca Raton, Florida 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!!! Reply

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. Reply

linda Yorkshire, uk 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? Reply

Anonymous 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! Reply

Feigele Boca Raton, Florida 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. Reply

Anonymous Far February 19, 2012

Losing Parents...Moving On I lost my father in 1985 and my mother in 1994. I still think about them every day. However, neither one of my dear parents would have wanted me to grieve excessively. I have raised my own children and now I have grandchildren to love and cherish (some of whom are named for my dear parents). Your deceased parents in Gan Eden (Heaven) want more than anything else to see you happy and living and loving, not sad. Yes, they want to remain in your memory, but they want you to move on and live happy productive lives, even as you miss them.

Remember your dear deceased parents on their Yahrzeits, at Yizkor, at family events like baby namings, Bar Mitzvahs and weddings, but move on with your lives. Dare to feel happy again. That is what your dear parents would have wanted. I loved my parents dearly, now they are gone, but I can still enjoy life while cherishing their memories. It is the Jewish way, letting the deceased benefit from our good deeds here. Reply

Linda H wakefield, UK January 31, 2012

onegr8singer Beautifully written and full of love. Thank you for sharing. Reply

onegr8singer January 27, 2012

From my Heart, Many Thanks... Feb.9,2012 will be 1 year since losing my mother suddenly.She was 83 years old. My father died 20 years ago. The relationship with my mother was never an easy one-yet I spent 10 years getting to a complete place of forgiveness,gratitude,acceptance,healing and Shalom--We hadn't spoken in 3 years and it was only 4 days before she died that in my meditation, the last bit of "shmutz" that I still felt--dissolved, and I was returned to 100% love I felt for her-which was always there as well.I had been "letting-her-go" in my Neshama for years---so when I got a call 4 days later-and got on a plane, I actually could be "present" and in the moment. Looking back, I know that it was that final work that I did that gave my Mother the "permission" to "let-go" too. I Thank HaShem all the time for the ability to work with him all these years to guide and comfort me to a place of peace of mind and "completeness"prior to her death. Mom and Daddy are more alive for me now than ever and I am transformed! Reply

linda H Wakefield, UK January 4, 2012

comment from Fiona Yael. Australia what you have written is beautiful. I too made the choice of making the most of my parents whilst alive. When my mum was dying I was with her and I thanked her for bringing me into life and it felt such a blessing and an honour to be with her when she was leaving. I now treasure those moments. Best wishes to you.. Reply

QUESTION FAR, EARTH January 4, 2012

Tzvi Freeman Thank you for being here, best regards. Reply

Fiona Yael Canberra, Australia December 28, 2011

Life after parents' death Now that both my parents are in their 80s, and a few friends have died in the past two years, my thoughts turn to the question of my parents' mortality. Especially after a sibling's sudden death and witnessing my parents' pain at this unnatural event, I try to remind myself that each day I should find it in my heart to be more patient, to be more kind, to show them that I care for them.
Thank you for your words of wisdom, Rabbi. I have decided not to wait until their death: I am going to start recording anecdotes, a little at a time. Reply

Anonymous Boston, MA December 14, 2011

Siblings Post Parents' Passing My parents moved out to live with me during their last years, partly because I wasn't as "busy" as my other siblings, having lost my job and needing the money.

The sibs never contributed a dime to me or their parents, when we were all living together on a shoe string.

I find myself feeing very resentful against them. Their "rationale': well, if you didn't want to do it, we could have chucked them in an old age home -- never mind our parents clearly didn't want that, and that they wanted to help me out, as well!

While we were all living on $800/month (or less, after my dad died), sibs were all taking (and continue to take) expensive vacations (not SO expensive, but not daycations either).

I realize this isn't exactly the topic of this thread .. but I thought I'd ask some advice anyway. Reply

William Frail oak harbor, washington November 17, 2011

Life after parents death Rabbi your words provided comfort to me in a time of need, thank you. I also found comfort in the words of Beruriah, the great wife of Rabbi Meir,"A soul is comparable to an object which was given to us - to each individual, to his or her parents and loved ones, to guard and watch over for a limited time. When the time comes for the object to be returned to its rightful owner, should we not be willing to return it? With regard to our sons, let us therefore consider the matter as 'The L-rd gave, and the L-rd took back, may the Name of the L-rd be Blessed!' " I say the mourner's Kaddish daily for my beloved mother and father. I find it helps. Reply

DONNA STERN-RITCH GULF SHORES, ALABAMA November 12, 2011

Both my Parents are still with me in Spirit I lost both of my Parents also, my Mother passed away in 1994, I was with my Father holding her hand when the angels came for her. My Mother had Colan Cancer, she was is so much pain, I had to stay strong for my Father, I did not want to lose both my Parents. When she passed, we both could see all the pain leave her body, her soul was on a journey, I could feel it she was my Best Friend as well as my Mother, I was 39 at that time. I would never cry in front of her, but after she passed both me and my Father cried,I knew he needed me as much as I needed him, I lost my Father in 2007, losing your second Parent, my Father is just as heart breaking, but I felt so alone. At that time I realized that my heart was broken even more, I cried all the time, just like when I lost my Mother,but I turned to G-D and said Prayers everyday, my Father and I were real close. They are still with me, they come to me in my Dreams, someday I will join them,but I know they are still with me, I am never alone Reply

Monica Stevens Hornell, NY November 11, 2011

My dad died when he was 34 years old. I was only 7 years of age in his passing. I have very few memories of him as a child. I have always been afraid that I will forget him. The only memories that come to mind is when he was really ill (bald, in a wheel chair and laying down in a hospital bed). He had a brain tumor 12 months after he was diagnosed. My mother was a concentration camp survivor (Aschwitz) and she took his death badly and was never the same again.
With both parents gone, the Jewish community is all that I have left for a family. My mother's family is in Germany (there are not many left or are quite elderly at this time). Chabad is the one email I look forward too every day. There are awesome words of wisdom and opportunities to make me a better person in this world. I am grateful for those who share their experience, strength and hope on Chabad it helps me get through the tough times so I know I am not alone. Thank You for posting it helps me get through the tough times. Reply

Related Topics

Introduction: Dealing with Death; The Jewish Approach
Life to Life Library
Texts
Guidebooks
Stories
Questions
Readings

More...

Yahrtzeit Calculator
Kaddish Service
Yahrtzeit Reminder
Arrange Kaddish for a Loved One