Sometimes loss feels like a big ball of pain in your middle, making it hard to breathe, hard to swallow. Sometimes it is the exact opposite, a feeling of aching emptiness, a hole that nothing can ever fill. Sometimes you only think of the one thing or person you lost, which you are thinking about right now because it’s their birthday, or the day they died. Sometimes all the losses pile up, add up, get twisted up, and when you think of the one that matters now, you think of all the others too. Of losses big and small, major and insignificant. Of those that can’t compare to others, but they hurt anyway, of those that you can’t possibly explain to someone who hasn’t been through the same experience. In truth, no one has the same experience. Maybe you lost a parent after a long and difficult illness, maybe you lost one suddenly. Maybe you lost one who had lived a long and happy life; maybe they weren’t done living yet, or they were relatively young. Maybe you were married with a family; or maybe you didn’t have your family yet, didn’t quite know when or if you would ever have one. Maybe you were so young that your own life hadn’t even started yet, and you look back after 30 years, when you have your own family who never got to know your parent, and can’t believe it has been that long, and that your children will never know your parent. Or maybe you lost someone you were estranged from, and didn’t even want to sit the required shiva. Maybe you lost someone by becoming estranged from them, a loss you can’t even share or be comforted for, a pain that hurts more when others tell you that you are better off without that person in your life. Sometimes there is nothing you can really do or say, as when I went to a friend last year who had just lost her mother unexpectedly (and also shortly after losing a beloved cousin). I was the only visitor at the time aside from her kids hanging around, and we mostly sat and sighed together, because sometimes there are no words. And sometimes there are wrong words, such as well-meaning people saying that at least the person is no longer in pain. Sometimes this helps, sometimes it has the opposite effect.
There are losses for which no explanation, no comfort can be given. The loss of a child falls into this category. There are certainly no words for those who lost a child to violence, to terrorists, who have had to commemorate 10 years without their child who will forever be a 16 -year-old yeshiva student. And what can you say to someone who has lost a child they had hoped for, prayed for, longed for? Some people have lost their child before it was even born, and bear those losses in silence. They get no comfort from others.
What can you say if the child was born with a genetic disease, lived in much pain but also brought much joy to all those who knew her, and passed at the young age of 14? Sometimes, there really are no words.
This Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh Nissan, my niece was niftar. It has been 9 years since her light shined among us. She was truly a pure neshama, causing others to do mitzvot, to smile. Her parents did all they could to keep her beautiful smile on her face. She loved dancing with others even though she was in a wheelchair. She loved watching the light of the Shabbos candles. She couldn’t say many words, but one thing she said that everyone could understand was “I go!” She enjoyed going out, to the mall, to the beach, to anywhere. Chavie, we are still doing mitzvot in your name, in your zechut. Though I know it is already so high, may your neshama have an Aliyah.
May all those who have lost find comfort.
For Chava Yehudit bat Baruch Efraim and Elisheva