When a Jewish Child Dies

It may feel like walking through the valley of the shadow of death.

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Solace in Faith

Communal prayer may or may not meet your needs. Typically, you read from the prayerbook alongside congregants who are coping with the normal range of every-day problems; their lives go on as usual, without traumatic interruption. This may be disturbing, even counterproductive, for some people, especially those who have buried a child.

But if we recognize our need to talk about our loss, we might think of prayer as a personal communion with God in which we seek healing by recounting our story and that of our child. We could talk to God as the supremely patient, understanding, loving listener. If God is indeed always there for us, and can accept our frailties, our anger, and our doubts, this personal form of prayer may be helpful.

If faith has the power to console, to allay fears, to encourage self-confidence, it might indeed be one of the elements that can carry us through "the valley of the shadow of death." The road to recovery will be long and arduous, and we need all the help we can get. Personally, I find solace in reading Psalms. If prayer in whatever form may work for you, it is worth a try.

This is a time to look inside for what the Prophet Elijah called "the still small voice" within you, and go with your gut feeling. You may regard this process as "prayer," meditation, introspection, or something else. But regardless of the title, it enables you to look deep inside yourself, it gives you the right to question authority, and it reminds you to invoke your sacred responsibility to yourself to put your own needs first at this time.

Ten Guideposts

As you look at the awesome task ahead--how to negotiate the pitfalls and anticipate some of the hazards in the valley of the shadow of death--these are some of the things you should try to learn:

1. Do those things that give you peace of mind; not necessarily what others suggest or pressure you to do.

2. Surround yourself with people who understand and make you feel comfortable; who know they can't fix things; who are compassionate; and who don't try to take your grief away from you.

3. Tell those who care about you what you need in order to survive (they do not automatically know); and accept the fact that not all relatives and old friends will be able to provide what you need at this time (so you may have to give some of them up).

4. Give yourself permission to do what you feel like doing, as long as you harm no one: cry alone, pray, scream, cry with others, withdraw, express anger, meditate, cry some more.

5. Grieve when and how you want to, rather than on someone else's timetable.

6. Do things at your own pace, in accordance with your own feelings, and therefore accept the idea that you may not be able to accomplish everything you used to--at least for now, though perhaps long-term as well.

7. Maintain open communication with your spouse and children, recognizing that we each grieve differently.

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Mort Schrag is involved in parent bereavement in Los Angeles.