Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Line Between Comfort and Cruelty

When dealing with a tragic loss people feel they need to say something. In order to do this people turn off the filter between mouth and brain. They end up saying something that hurts and provides no comfort at all. Not only that but the hurtful thing they say isn't even original.

There is one concept that has been repeated many, many times. Only twice it was said in a way with compassion and understanding and to some degree provided comfort. The other times it has not and has even gone as far as someone suggesting that we should be "happy" for the "zchut" of burying our dear baby girl Gabi in an unmarked grave somewhere in Jerusalem.

I have decided to play a little game. My interest in politics, leads me to follow websites that break down the nuances within a story and how they are spun when presented to the public. For example last week procedural manoeuvring was used to make sure the Government did not fall on the budget but before the vote to find the Government in contempt of parliament. We are going to look at 3 versions of the same idea and you can guess which is comforting and which was hurtful. Keep in mind that all three versions are simply conjecture because we really have no way of knowing if they are true or not. It is very possible the source is what my Uncle likes to call Mesechet Baba Misa.

1. There are Neshamas that have had accomplished everything they needed to do, however they still need to go through the process of being in the womb to complete their mission in this world. As they are very special Neshamas they have the option of choosing which family to help them complete this most important task. Of course they only choose the best of the best to look after them for such a short time.

2. I don't know if this helps or not, it is something my Rebbe told me. Many Tzadikim were wiped out in Europe and for their Nishma to complete their mission they just need to be buried in Eretz Yisrael. Perhaps you were helping one of these special Tzadikim make their way to Eretz Yisrael.

3. Perhaps she was a Nishama that had to go through the process of being in the womb to complete their mission in life. You are so lucky that you were given this mission and should be happy that G-d gave you this opportunity.

Have you figured out which one it is yet?

Gabi was born 4 days later than Channah and aside from having no heart beat was in much better shape then when Channah as born. Halacha hardly recognized Gabi. She was burried somewhere in Jerusalem in an unmarked grave. We will never know where. There was no funeral and no Halachot of Aveilut. Our Rabbi has said we would not be permitted to remain in shul for Yitzkor. No Yahrzeit. She will always be loved and remember by us but Halacha has already forgotten her.

Now can you guess which version of the story is not comforting?

The first two tried to show that there was a purpose to Gabi's life even though it was taken away before she could take her first breath. The third is just cruel.

If you still can't see the difference, go to the Shiva of the latest terrorist victim and tell them how lucky they are that they lost a love one Al Pi HaKiddush Hashem. Go find me a parent that is happy about the opportunity that they got to bury a child. Show me a Siddur/Tehillim covered with stains from tears from your davening of have the same "zchut" that we did. Perhaps after taking these steps you will finally understand how mean and cruel your words actually are.


Natan M said...


Firstly, I am sorry for your loss. I can not imagine the pain you must be going through and wish you strength.

I have been an EMT/Paramedic since 1996. I have been to horrific calls in which I was the last person to be with somneone when they died and then to confront the family with the horrible news. One lesson I try to teach new medics is to NEVER offer anything more then the facts of what happened and that you are sorry for their loss.

People don't understand, in 99.999999% of the time your words will not solve any problems. At best they will provide some confort, at worst 0 immeasurable pain.

If you are struggling to find something to say, just keep it simple. The fact that you took the time to come show you care is often more then words could do.

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry to hear that your family is having to deal with such insensitive comments, on top of the pain of your loss. It makes no sense to me that the loss of your precious baby should be treated differently than that of any other child. I pray that you will find your own observances to bring you the comfort that you deserve to have, and that respect the unquestionable preciousness and importance of Gabi's life.

Netanya Hoffman said...

I never had anyone phrase it to me the first way.
I wish someone had.

A friend once suggested (based on nothing she'd ever heard from a rebbe) that there were so many neshamas that died in the Holocaust whose entire families were wiped out and had no one to mourn them, that maybe our babies needed someone to mourn their deaths. I'm not sure that helps but at least it's not offensive.

Someone else I know, who lost one or two pregnancies herself, told me that these neshamas want so much to be our babies that they try to come down to us even though it's not the right time and Hashem has to tell them gently "no, Baby, I'm sorry, I know you want to be with your mommy but it's not time yet." Which helped me at first but now that I don't know if I will ever have any more children, I wonder what happened to my baby girl who never came down to me.

Some people say that you will have a baby for every one you lose. But we all know that's not true.

Anyway, I wanted to tell you that the book כחלום יעוף by Rabbi David Stav of Yeshivat Har Etzion (the book is put out by Mossad HaRav Kook) says you can say yikor for a stillborn baby if you are so inclined. I know there are women in our group who do. I have not finished reading the book yet but I highly recommend it, from what I have read so far.