Grief: The Tolerable and the Intolerable

Recently I observed, together with my mother and sister, my Dad’s first yahrzeit (anniversary of his death).

I miss him.

Dad always had a reserved and patient demeanor, and simply observing his stable persona often helped me to calm down. I miss his big mustache, and that regal and debonair appearance while holding a martini glass, his alcoholic drink of choice.

In my youth, he was my confidant. As Dad aged and fought off countless illnesses, he became my trooper and inspiration.

When I lost my son, Ariel z”l, to suicide, Dad comforted me and expressed his love in ways that I had never previously experienced.

I miss him.

The yahrzeit was emotional, but unexpectedly, also comforting. My mom, sister and I reminisced, telling funny and beautiful stories about Dad — and toasted him with, yes, a strong martini.

Dad died peacefully in his sleep at age 92. The mourning process, despite the sadness, was unclouded and unencumbered in comparison to the painful angst of losing my son. The natural order of life was followed.

I miss my dad; pure and simple.

Perhaps because my first exposure to loss and grief was the antithesis of the natural order, my grief over losing my Dad has been so tolerable.

Losing my son was, and is, intolerable. The searing pain, bewilderment, guilt – and anger at him and myself – along with my deep longing, even as I “ Ride Through Life” determined to live life to the fullest, are traumatic to this day – and will be for the rest of my life.

Saying Kaddish over a child is not the natural order of life. Neither is taking one’s life.

My son did his very best to conquer the demons of anxiety and OCD-related depression. But mental illness, cancer of the soul, took its toll and he decided to end his pain.

This decision should never be condemned or stigmatized. Ariel z”l always said I never could grasp the depth of his pain. He was right. That’s why I choose to publicly share my feelings in order to break down the stigma and to open up the discussion about mental illness.

We all need to understand the pain of the other without judgment or criticism.

I believe that we need to make a concerted effort to prevent suicide by increasing suicide prevention programs and devoting more resources to find potential cures.

Ariel z”l ended his pain. I will continue learning to cope with this decision for the rest of my life. But the pain and anguish he has bequeathed me, his family, and friends are unabating and relentless.

For this reason, it is so very frustrating and disturbing when people romanticize the act of suicide.

My son was good. He accomplished some amazing things in his life and had vast potential- something that he was acutely aware of, and which frustrated him greatly.

I so wish that his potential could have come to fruition. But it didn’t, and I miss him terribly. The loss is pulverizing.

Unlike the natural, uncomplicated loss of my Dad, this type of loss is neither comforting nor beautiful.

It’s horrific.

The idealization of suicide makes it that much more horrible.

May my Dad and son Rest In Peace.

יהי זכרם ברוך

About the Author
Meir Charash, originally from Fair Lawn New Jersey, made Aliyah to Israel 40 years ago. In 1979, Meir acquired a B.S. in Business Management, majoring in organizational management, from Boston University and a MSW in 1984 in Group and Community Work from the Wurzweiler School of Social Work (WSSW) at Yeshiva University. Meir worked as a community worker in Beit Shemesh and in Jerusalem, was the Director of the Israel Office of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia for 19 years providing fiduciary oversight to donor funds and facilitating Israel – Diaspora relations. Meir’s expertise is in the area of community building, fundraising and organizational behavior. In addition to supervising Wurzweiler social students, Meir worked as Faculty Advisor and Coordinator of the Israel Block Program from 2010 to 2017. Meir is married with three children and resides in Armon HaNatziv, Jerusalem. He is a certified fitness trainer, Thai massage therapist and an avid mountain bike rider having participated for nine years in the Alyn Charity Bike Ride for the Children of the Alyn Rehabilitation Hospital and in two races, the “Epic,” and “Sovev Arava”. Meir served in the armored forces for a year and a half and 15 years in reserve duty.
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