Author's Note: A bereaved mother seeks guidance in the aftermath of her son's death.
Dear Bereaved Mother,
Please accept my deepest empathy for the loss of your son. May you be comforted together with all the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.
You asked for my thoughts ...
Your reluctance to attend smachot (joyous events such as weddings, b'nai mitzvah, and bris milah), especially if related to the families of your late son's friends, is entirely understandable and justifiable up to a point. If, indeed, we are talking about an occasional absence and nothing more, then, I suspect, you have a manageable problem. If it becomes, however, the first of many self-imposed steps of isolation from the community, I can tell you with certainty it will not work. Stay connected to your community. Distancing yourself will only delay "acceptance". There is no cure for "grief"-only healthful and less healthful ways of managing it in our lives.
But before you decide on a course of action or inaction, take a close look at the two choices all bereaved parents have before them: 1) 'I choose to do nothing in the aftermath of my child's death but to begin dying.' 2) 'Although I can no longer hold, nurture and love my son as I once did, I can transform the pain of parental bereavement into an act of inspirational chesed (kindness) for others by the light of my personal example. Living life after loss is neither a betrayal of your child nor of life itself, but a reaffirmation of its sanctity.
Inspire! You must not allow your son’s death to define the rest of your life. Get out there and make a positive difference in the lives of people who may be facing similar crises or different challenges altogether, but who do not know what to do or to whom they can turn.
Return the love of life to the parents who surrendered theirs after they lost a child. It will amount to nothing less than a Kiddush Hashem. Turn tragedy into inspiration that will come from you, but the strength for which " ... is from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth." Ps.121
Yes, celebrate the richness of Jewish joyful events, especially those of your son's friends and, like Hannah before you, let all who see, acknowledge there is no height unreachable for a Jewish woman of faith, b'esrat Hashem (with G-d's help).