A colleague wrote me about her grief and sorrow at the loss of a friend who was killed in the Hillel Café bombing in Jerusalem.

I know that her grief joins the grief of all those mourning the loss of friends and family members killed in this attack and others.

But from her particular expression of loss — the depth and emotion of her email — I knew that her murdered friend must have been a wonderful person. The loss that she expressed is a testament to this man, and her fervent words made clear that our enemies had not just claimed another victim, but had wrenched from me, from us — the Jewish people — and from the world a person of irreplaceable value. Her grief for this man was specific, yet declared, as well, that each victim of terror is an irreplaceable gift from G‑d to humanity. And I understood better the powers of grief as testament and the value of its expression when imparting the full pain of the mourner.

At the end of her letter, my colleague told me how sad she was that she had never expressed to her murdered friend the regard in which she held him, the degree of respect she had for him, the affection and pleasure she felt in working with him, the admiration she had accrued for all that he had accomplished in his life.

And then, she told me things about me and working with me that she had never before expressed, and some that she had expressed, only now they were said with an intensity and urgency that had not been there before.

Her grief had opened her to the message of time and its limitation. It had opened her to the need to say and do all those things that need saying and doing while the time is still there. Grief had broken her heart, and inside she found, it seems, words and feelings that needed to be expressed. And she found regret for what was now too late to be expressed, and sought to correct it.

Her tears and sincerity emanated from the page.

When I wrote her, I wrote the words of comfort that one says to a mourner, though usually reserved for family. From her letter I could see that she felt bound to this friend and colleague by soul as family is by blood. And I thought as I wrote her that the same is true for all of us, if only we were able to see through the veil of separateness that blinds us to our unity.

Is this another purpose of grief? To rend the veil? To reveal the unity? To make manifest the family of which we are all apart?

At the end of my letter I wrote a strange line to my friend. I was surprised when I read the words as I typed them. "May G‑d comfort you when the time is right for comfort," I said, "and until then, may the grief enter into the core of your heart, and in its breaking, bring you closer to G‑d."

And when I reread this line, I knew I was speaking to myself, writing words to another that were intended for me to hear.

Grieving is painful. And pain is something I try to avoid. If I can buffer my grief or save it for only those to whom I am "really close", I do. If I can deflect it or distract it by anger or politics, I do. If I can feel it for a moment, and then move quickly to something like food or reading or conversation in order to "feel better", in order not to be swallowed in what I label negative emotions, I do.

But in doing so, I separate myself not only from my Jewish family, but from myself, as well, and from the opportunity to come closer to G‑d.

G‑d loves, as the Sages tell us, a broken heart. Once I thought that this "broken heart" is a stage we reach, a step above the ordinary. But lately, as tragic events, illness, and loss grow to be more and more a part of my and our daily lives, I think that this broken heart that G‑d loves is available in the many tiny moments when I allow myself to feel the fullness of grief and sadness that surrounds me; the pain, the loss and suffering that I, individually, that my Jewish family as a whole, and my neighbors and friends are living with.

There is a breaking of the heart that King David speaks of when contemplating with remorse our distance from G‑d, and the breaks we have made in our connection to Him through our actions, mis-actions and avoidances. There is a breaking of the heart in our longing for Him and in our prayers for better days.

But my heart also breaks when I allow myself to fully feel the sorrow ever present in the daily occurrences of the lives of those I know and those I don't; for the stranger killed yesterday and the day before or last year, for the neighbor's nephew who has leukemia, G‑d forbid, or the man at shul whose father just passed away or a child born with disability or the new unemployment of an old friend, or even for those mourning a life mis-lived, expectations unfulfilled, dreams unrealized, or the promise of a peaceful tomorrow now shattered by fear of the next explosion.

It seems that when I grieve for any one, it opens me to the reservoir of grief I carry inside. Is this the reason I try so hard to avoid my grief? Because to grieve fully the loss of a fellow Jew killed in a terror attack feels overwhelming and unbearable, and so I shut it off for fear that if I don't I will not be able to survive or to function, that I will be engulfed in a never ending flow of tears and despair from the pool of tears that lies within.

So, to protect myself. I pretend that if it is someone I don't or didn't know well I will allow myself to feel sad, but not too sad. I tell myself that too much grief, too often, is inappropriate. Sometimes I am even concerned about what others will think if they see me shedding tears or exposing my sorrow for the stranger killed yesterday or my neighbor's misfortune.

But what if this sorrow and mourning pierced my heart and opened me to the true connection that bonds me to you and the love and compassion that flows from this bond?

What if my heart would break, time and time again, each time revealing a new depth of feeling and connection, causing a new sensitivity, a new vulnerability and penetrability, a new sense of faith and source of strength, the strength that comes from knowing that I can feel the fullness of my love and sorrow and still survive; that I cannot only survive, but grow to be a source of comfort as well, and a testament to those we have lost.

I cannot undo the acts of G‑d. I cannot undo the horror and loss of life. But I can respond to it with my most human and G‑dly self. I can open my heart to the pain and loss. I can allow my heart to break with the knowledge that it will heal and grow larger. And in so doing, I can come closer to the soul that binds us one to the other, closer to G‑d and the Jewish people.