Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
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Mourning when done well diminishes suffering

Human death must be the greatest disaster in the Universe for those who discovered the greatness of humans and that each of us are completely unique and irreplaceable.

Planets continue their tractor around their suns and moons around their planets; star systems and galaxies are not disturbed by the death of anyone in any way. Some find that reassuring and derive from that unresponsiveness that in the greater scheme of things nothing happened. Others find it shocking that what should be the worst of the worst seems to have no cosmic impact. As my mother used to say, in post-Holocaust wonderment: Tomorrow, the sun will rise again as usual. [“Morgen gaat gewoon de zon weer op.“] Implying: you would think that it would not. Unbelievably, life goes on. At her funeral, someone even put a note on her grave with that quote.


There is a lot to love at funerals. People meet who have often not seen each other for years, and honor is spoken where honor is due. Finally a place where people are respected. As a counselor I add: and people sob. Crying, more than indicating bereavement, is a sign that we are in the process of healing or overcoming a loss. Nothing to be sad about.

The only thing that I really hate at a funeral is that someone died. I think we should do funerals before people pass away. The internment can be done later. It spoils the party, you know.

Don’t take for granted crying at funerals. There are cultures so violent that they can only show anger and talk about revenge. They need to bring in women whose job it is to pretend to be crying to help mourners weep. It takes a certain sophistication to stop blaming G-d and enemies.


Anyway, mourning is often done only partially. Rather than that that saves us suffering, that adds unnecessary suffering to life. It pays to take our time to deal with what we did not want to happen – it really does.


It helps to understand why we cry at death. Disappointment. One can read disappointment as proof that Creation failed us. However, there is a more constructive take on it. Disappointment proves that on hindsight we had unrealistic expectations. And we need to. We can’t always know how the future will play out, and we must be optimists to a certain degree to get the most out of life. And when it didn’t work out, we cry about our loss of opportunity to get over it and reconnect to the new reality. And then we find new optimistic goals to attach ourselves to.

[The almost universal reaction of crying at human loss is a clear indication that people were never meant to die, that dying is a temporary dysfunction of mankind that we need to repair.

Even people who say that they would like to die don’t. Rather, they would like suffering to end. Sometimes they also want to decide their death to show that they should be in control and their wishes respected.

In any case, once we can heal all illness, prevent all sickness (and we’re getting there – mark my words) and prevent and heal all aging (hang in there and you may be part of the first immortal generation!) death will be outdated – on condition that we stop murdering each other, that is!

Wanting death to stop does not need to be born from a fear of death. Death is just a terrible waste. We need to rid ourselves from all fears, including dreading to die, because fears hamper the flexible workings of our brains and often lead to exactly what we were so afraid of. People who got rid of their fear of death are still not in favor of it and still mourn death. A waste is a waste.

(G-d issued death so that we would not become overburdened by taking care of previous generations, but the Sages promised us in the Talmud that in the end, He will slaughter the Angel of Death.)]

If crying is overcoming disappointment, we can start mourning before our loved ones die. We also may cry when we pray for healing and plead for calling of death – some hope stays important; even real miracles happen. But we may also cry at the prospect to losing a loved one. All the tears we cry before bereavement don’t need to be cried afterwards. In fact, saying goodbye and letting someone go, go easier when our relationship is its best. Now may be the last chance for anything that should still be said or be talked out.

People who have the good fortune to mourn their own dying (instead of being taken away in an unexpected flash) go through the same thing. It seems that they only need two things to die well: know that they did not live for nothing and a hand to hold ’till the light goes out.

Let my people cry

Even people who are “very religious,” who have put their life’s future into G-d’s hands, still need to cry at losing a loved one. If they don’t, the quality of their lives goes downhill for sure. Suddenly, emotional problems you thought you left behind decades ago pop up again. Getting out of bed and smiling become a hard job. Life looks bleak. What’s going on? You skipped mourning. Fortunately, the brain remembers. It’s all still there to cry about, setting you free at last.

Though there is a widespread misunderstanding equating crying with suffering (instead of: overcoming suffering), most people would agree that in the case of death of a loved one, crying is OK. However, that’s at a level. If one cries “too much” one should dim it. Otherwise one would become crazy, be lost in sadness. This is nonsense. No one ever cried “too much,” “too long” or “too strongly.” The more the better. The bigger the relief afterwards.

There is also no “wrong way” to cry. Someone who cries desperately, after the crying will feel more calm and hopeful. We don’t need to “correct” mourners. “Don’t just do something; be an environment in which healing can take place.”

During mourning, I did find a deep need to connect to beauty, goodness and hope, to offset the depressing loss. It’s hard to keep crying when you’re drowning in your own tears and sadness.

People who try to “comfort” mourners by distracting them, “cheering them up,” often claim that they do that because of “empathy.” They feel for them. In truth, they only try to stop others from crying because they can’t stand to feel their own sorrow. Instead of crying along (softly), they stop themselves and then the ones they were supposed to listen to.

More needed than anything are people who will listen. How can we talk when people talk to (at) us? Shut up, bear the discomfort and listen.

Letting you talk is a good way to get to your tears, but sometimes our talking happens instead of crying. Then a hug or a kiss may help. Not to stifle the person, but to create more space for tears by your closeness.

Jewish Law bans touch between partners when they are mourners. That is good because sex can distract from actually mourning. But literally being out of touch with your best friend can be so painful that some partners simply cannot follow this. There is a construction that could help: a kosher hug.

[There is a kosher way to hug when Jewish Law forbids it. If A and B want to hug but shouldn’t, this is a solution. Bring in two more people: C and D, whereby A and C are allowed to hug and B and D also. Have C and D stand back-to-back – they don’t need to touch. Now have A hug C and B hug D whereby A and B look at each other. It works. ©MMvZ]

Any chemical that manipulates the brain makes the mourning work less well. Alcohol, tobacco, tranquilizers, energizers, sleeping pills, caffeine, pain killers, etc. You want the need to cry and talk about your loss to be over as quickly as possible, don’t drug yourself at all. And take naps.

Some tears only come when we express our anger. Don’t do that in front of people who demand correct speech, no matter what. If it’s hard to be angry at people, be angry at G-d – He can take it! He loves us and wants us to get over this and make the best of our lives. Don’t just grumble; be furious! Spell it out.

A mourner who asks “Why?” doesn’t need philosophical answers or distraction. Rather, invite that question again and again, until the tears come. Welcome the angry words. Answers can wait. (They normally come after the tears.)

Don’t “justify” a mourner, including yourself, away from crying. “At least, she doesn’t suffer anymore.” Right, so now you can mourn. How sad are you at your loss?

Especially, people who took care of the diseased for a long time selflessly may have a hard time now to make space for their loss. They may also be overwhelmed by relief that their hard work – even if done from love – is over. They may feel guilty at their feelings of relief. Talking enough about their relief and guilt will bring up their sadness.

Rightly so, Jewish mourning practices have been praised a lot. However, they don’t always work for everyone. If you lost your best friend but the close family members can’t stand you, the whole ritual has no place for you – despite your monumental loss. Assemble with your friends instead.

It is a mistake to think that crying should stop at a week, month, year, decade. Let the bereaved person’s mind be in charge of that. It’s also not true that in the end, all hurts will heal. How can loss of the love of your life or a child ever heal fully? An avalanche of loss (Holocaust) might be too much to handle. Meanwhile, all the mourning still does help.

Not by tears alone

We often see that people’s mourning is cut short for no good reason at all. There are more than words and tears to shed. We need to laugh off emotions. While tears and laughs can be from joy, they can also be from sadness and discomfort. Give them a place!

Making daring “jokes,” making fun of terror, is a great way to get rid of some pretty heavy fears. Declaring happily “By the way, I’m ready to die myself right now” can be a potent way to get some fear of death out of the way. (Don’t worry, the Angle of Death knows the difference between giving up on our lives and just scorning our fear of death. He won’t see this as giving permission – hopefully.) Laughing, perspiring cold or hot sweat and shivering greatly help losing fears. Don’t stifle natural healing!

Silence, yawning and sighing also need to happen. Don’t let silly rules of etiquette, decorum or manners take away what you need to do.

The yearly commemoration of someone’s death doesn’t have to be a sad affair. Instead, we may celebrate having known this person, point out every year why we’re grateful about having had this person in our lives.

Don’t stop the communication

A major course of ongoing hurt after someone passed away seems to be in the West that the bereaved stop talking to their passed-on loved ones. One doesn’t need to make the loss worse than it is already.

Even those who do not believe in an Afterlife (or don’t know if they can believe in it) can still talk to the place their loved one left in their “heart” – mind. It can be anything, from mundane (Good morning, how are you?) to sharing deep questions (Shall I move to be closer to our kids?). Don’t cut yourself off more than Death has done already.

Hunger can be stilled by nourishment. Thirst can be stilled by water. Tiredness can be stilled by sleep. Loneliness can be stilled by companionship. Indifference can be stilled by love. Sickness can be stilled by healing. Loss can be stilled by mourning. Use it.

About the Author
MM is a prolific and creative writer and thinker, previously a daily blog contributor to the TOI. He often makes his readers laugh, mad, or assume he's nuts—close to perfect blogging. He's proud that his analytical short comments are removed both from left-wing and right-wing news sites. None of his content is generated by the new bore on the block, AI. * As a frontier thinker, he sees things many don't yet. He's half a prophet. Half. Let's not exaggerate. Or not at all because he doesn't claim G^d talks to him. He gives him good ideas—that's all. MM doesn't believe that people observe and think in a vacuum. He, therefore, wanted a broad bio that readers interested can track a bit what (lack of) backgrounds, experiences, and educations contribute to his visions. * This year, he will prioritize getting his unpublished books published rather than just blog posts. Next year, he hopes to focus on activism against human extinction. To find less-recent posts on a subject XXX among his over 2000 archived ones, go to the right-top corner of a Times of Israel page, click on the search icon and search "zuiden, XXX". One can find a second, wilder blog, to which one may subscribe too, here: or by clicking on the globe icon next to his picture on top. * Like most of his readers, he believes in being friendly, respectful, and loyal. However, if you think those are his absolute top priorities, you might end up disappointed. His first loyalty is to the truth. He will try to stay within the limits of democratic and Jewish law, but he won't lie to support opinions or people when don't deserve that. (Yet, we all make honest mistakes, which is just fine and does not justify losing support.) He admits that he sometimes exaggerates to make a point, which could have him come across as nasty, while in actuality, he's quite a lovely person to interact with. He holds - how Dutch - that a strong opinion doesn't imply intolerance of other views. * Sometimes he's misunderstood because his wide and diverse field of vision seldomly fits any specialist's box. But that's exactly what some love about him. He has written a lot about Psychology (including Sexuality and Abuse), Medicine (including physical immortality), Science (including basic statistics), Politics (Israel, the US, and the Netherlands, Activism - more than leftwing or rightwing, he hopes to highlight reality), Oppression and Liberation (intersectionally, for young people, the elderly, non-Whites, women, workers, Jews, LGBTQIA+, foreigners and anyone else who's dehumanized or exploited), Integrity, Philosophy, Jews (Judaism, Zionism, Holocaust and Jewish Liberation), the Climate Crisis, Ecology and Veganism, Affairs from the news, or the Torah Portion of the Week, or new insights that suddenly befell him. * Chronologically, his most influential teachers are his parents, Nico (natan) van Zuiden and Betty (beisye) Nieweg, Wim Kan, Mozart, Harvey Jackins, Marshal Rosenberg, Reb Shlomo Carlebach, and, lehavdil bein chayim lechayim, Rabbi Dr. Natan Lopes Cardozo, Rav Zev Leff, and Rav Meir Lubin. This short list doesn't mean to disrespect others who taught him a lot or a little. One of his rabbis calls him Mr. Innovation [Ish haChidushim]. Yet, his originalities seem to root deeply in traditional Judaism, though they may grow in unexpected directions. In fact, he claims he's modernizing nothing. Rather, mainly basing himself on the basic Hebrew Torah text, he tries to rediscover classical Jewish thought almost lost in thousands of years of stifling Gentile domination and Jewish assimilation. (He pleads for a close reading of the Torah instead of going by rough assumptions of what it would probably mean and before fleeing to Commentaries.) This, in all aspects of life, but prominently in the areas of Free Will, Activism, Homosexuality for men, and Redemption. * He hopes that his words will inspire and inform, and disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed. He aims to bring a fresh perspective rather than harp on the obvious and familiar. When he can, he loves to write encyclopedic overviews. He doesn't expect his readers to agree. Rather, original minds should be disputed. In short, his main political positions are among others: anti-Trumpism, for Zionism, Intersectionality, non-violence, anti those who abuse democratic liberties, anti the fake ME peace process, for original-Orthodoxy, pro-Science, pro-Free Will, anti-blaming-the-victim, and for down-to-earth, classical optimism, and happiness. Read his blog on how he attempts to bridge any tensions between those ideas or fields. * He is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (, born in 1953 to his parents who were Dutch-Jewish Holocaust survivors who met in the largest concentration camp in the Netherlands, Westerbork. He grew up a humble listener. It took him decades to become a speaker too, and decades more to admit to being a genius. But his humility was his to keep. And so was his honesty. Bullies and con artists almost instantaneously envy and hate him. He hopes to bring new things and not just preach to the choir. * He holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam) – is half a doctor. He practices Re-evaluation Co-counseling since 1977, is not an official teacher anymore, and became a friendly, powerful therapist. He became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids. Previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. For a couple of years, he was active in hasbara to the Dutch-speaking public. He wrote an unpublished tome about Jewish Free Will. He's a strict vegan since 2008. He's an Orthodox Jew but not a rabbi. * His writing has been made possible by an allowance for second-generation Holocaust survivors from the Netherlands. It has been his dream since he was 38 to try to make a difference by teaching through writing. He had three times 9-out-of-10 for Dutch at his high school finals but is spending his days communicating in English and Hebrew - how ironic. G-d must have a fine sense of humor. In case you wonder - yes, he is a bit dyslectic. If you're a native English speaker and wonder why you should read from people whose English is only their second language, consider the advantage of having an original peek outside of your cultural bubble. * To send any personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click Contact Me. * His newest books you may find here:
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