May 19, 2024
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May 19, 2024
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Coping With the Loss of My Son

My struggle with grief began when my dear son of 24 years suddenly passed away from a heart condition no one knew he had. A kind, sweet young man, Jacob was a good son, brother, uncle and friend to those who knew him.

He went to college and majored in psychology. He had plans to go to law school. He was supposed to eventually get married and have children. He was supposed to have a wonderful life. Then, he was ripped away from me. How am I going to cope with this tremendous loss?

The Journey of the Soul

When we lose a child, we feel that the child’s life is now over. If we view this physical world as the only one, our grief should last forever. However, we have two worlds, and there’s life in both. What if Jacob had gone on a long vacation with no way to contact me, no phone or internet. I’d miss him but I wouldn’t be sad because I would know he’s ok and happy. The analogy breaks down with the knowledge that he’s not coming back, but I would still have comfort just knowing that he’s happy.

God sends a soul to this world either to fulfill a mission or to rectify the past. By doing mitzvos in this world the soul attains a higher spiritual level than if it had remained above. Upon returning to the spiritual world, the soul then has a greater revelation of Godliness, which makes it extremely happy. And because the soul is created from God Himself, it lives forever.

What’s Bad Is Really Good

The idea of death seems like a horrible thing, the end to a life full of hope and potential. We don’t see the big picture of God’s plan, so we don’t see the inherent good in what appears to be bad.

Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, in Tanya, Iggeret HaKodesh, Epistle 11, explains that God recreates the world every moment with His supernal wisdom, and since His wisdom is the source of all life there’s only goodness:

“… no evil descends from above and everything is good, though it is not apprehended because of its immense and abundant goodness.”

Rabbi Zalman takes this concept one step further. Something that appears bad is not just an unfortunate event leading to something good. The actual event is good, in and of itself. Therefore, there’s nothing “bad” in what we call death. In fact, when someone has died, we prefer to say the person “passed away,” meaning they passed on from this world to the next.

Is There Life in the Spiritual World?

Yes.

When the patriarch Abraham passes away, the Torah says:

“… he was gathered into his people.”

In Yizkor we say:

“…may his/her soul be bound up in the bond of life with the souls of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, and with the other men and women who are in Gan Eden…”

When we return to the spiritual world, we are greeted by and reunited with our family who have passed on.

Quoting passages from the Zohar and Proverbs, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi says:

“…And this is the essence of the faith for which man was created: to believe that ‘there is no place void of Him,’ and ‘in the light of the King’s countenance there is life …’”

We are always in God’s presence, and so there is always life.

What we call death is the soul separating from the body and returning to the spiritual world from whence it came. It’s not an end, but a continuation of the life it led before coming into this world.

Intellectually Struggling With Grief

I thank God my husband and I were blessed with raising Jacob and seeing him grow into a fine young man. He has life in the spiritual world. A life different from this one, but life nonetheless. God’s presence is so much more revealed to him and this makes him extremely happy. I know that he is with his grandparents and all our relatives he never met while in this world. I’m sure that makes him happy too.

So why am I sad?

Intellectually I know he’s happy, but emotionally I’m struggling with him not being here. The soul is saddened knowing there are those grieving for it. I want him to be happy, so I try not to cry too much. In the words of King David mourning the death of his infant son:

“…Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him but he will not return to me.” (Samuel II, 12:23)

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