Recently, my nephew was found dead in his room. We know it was suicide. His father—my sister’s husband and my husband’s brother—was against his choice of fiancée.

We’ve told everyone it was a heart attack—he had heart problems before. My sister is not coping well—she seems to be in denial. Nobody wants to discuss this. Please give me some advice.


This is not something you can just forget about and get on with life. This is something that must change the course of life, or it will be forever sending life in circles.

Tragedy is an implosion of negative energy, draining away all warmth and light, sucking the spirit out of our lives like a monstrous leech. And yet, we have the power to grab that energy by the reins and turn it around into a power for good—a greater good than any positive energy could have provided.

How do we do that? Certainly not by stewing over our remorse and guilt. Nor by attempting to keep it stuffed under our pillows. But if your nephew’s early demise will lead you to be a more caring person, and your sister to be a more caring mother, then he did not die without meaning.

Really, nothing is without meaning. We believe in one benevolent G‑d who directs all of heaven and earth. If so, we also believe that every event of life is meant to propel us forward. G‑d does not allow tragedy in His world just for the heck of it. Everything must have meaning, just that the meaning can be known only from the final result. That final result is in your hands.

Here is the best therapy for you: There are people in your family—your children, your sister and others—who need your care right now. They need a soothing voice, a warm heart, a word of encouragement, a dose of optimism. Most of all, they need an open ear into which to pour the bitterness of their souls, and a shoulder upon which to cry. You will become that person. Even if you did not have the capability to do so before, that does not matter. You will channel the horror and guilt over your nephew’s death into your own transformation. And there, all the bitterness will become sweet.

What can you tell your sister? To tell you, I would have to imagine myself as her—and, honestly, I am afraid to even begin to do that. All I can say is that G‑d must have given you much strength to be able to deal with this. Listen to her, listen deeply, and the words will come.

We mourn death because we cherish life. That is why we place a limit to the days of mourning—seven days of intense mourning and one month of remembering, and then life continues, yet higher. We don’t destroy life by mourning the past. We learn from death to count our days as one counts jewels. For the only vantage point from which we can measure their value is from that of the very last one. That is when we will ask, “What did I do with the life G‑d gave me? Was it a worthwhile gift? Was it all worthwhile?”