Rabbi Gershon Avtzon: The Rebbe’s Advice on Dealing With Loss



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    Rabbi Gershon Avtzon: The Rebbe’s Advice on Dealing With Loss

    There was recently a tragic event in our family. My niece, a mother of three young children, lost her husband to a terrible illness. My niece, who is naturally very broken-hearted and depressed now, is still not sure how to explain the death to her young children. Has the Rebbe ever written about this to people? Rabbi Gerhon Avtzon Answers • Full Article

    QuestionThere was recently a tragic event in our family. My niece, a mother of three young children, lost her husband to a terrible illness. My niece, who is naturally very broken-hearted and depressed now, is still not sure how to explain the death to her young children. Has the Rebbe ever written about this to people?

    Answer: Firstly, may you and your entire family — among all of Klal Yisroel — merit the true comfort and consolation with the revelation of Moshiach now! In addition, I feel that I need to make the following disclaimer: What will be written below are answers to individuals in similar circumstances but may not apply in your case. It is very important to seek out professional and halachic guidance regarding these sensitive issues.

    Let us divide the discussion into three parts: (1) The (natural) depression of your niece (2) How to speak to the children (3) The best steps to take for their future.

    The State of the Bereaved Wife:

    (1) In 1976, a recently-widowed woman wrote to the Rebbe about her situation. After writing heartfelt words of comfort, the Rebbe added: “As to your situation: Hashem has given you the responsibility (and great privilege) to raise three wonderful children. It is no question that Hashem has given you the necessary energies and abilities to be successful including self-confidence and positive spirit. 

    The future success in the education of the children is dependent on the example set by the mother. If they see the mother in a positive, relaxed and encouraging mood, it will inspire them to act accordingly. Even though it is very difficult (to have such a positive mood and outlook) — especially in the beginning — it is certain that Hashem has given every individual the necessary abilities to fulfill their [unique] purpose and mission. If one receives a difficult mission, it only means that Hashem has given them supernatural strength and abilities to fulfill the mission.” (Igros, Vol. 29 page 150 # 10,536)

    (2) In the aftermath of the Yom Kippur war, there were unfortunately many young widows in Eretz Yisrael. The Rebbe wrote a letter addressing these special young women (paraphrased): 

    The ties between two people, and certainly those between a husband and wife or between parents and children, are chiefly of a spiritual, not of a material, nature. That means that a bullet, grenade, or disease can affect the body but not the spirit or the soul. The physical bond between two persons can be broken…but not their spiritual relationship.

    “It is special pleasure for the Neshama of the loved one when they see from above that their family is lifting themselves up from the tragedy and trying, as much as they could, to set themselves up for a good life, even trying to inspire and uplift others around them. It is a special nachas for the Neshama when they see that the children are being given the proper educational upbringing without despair and without depression, chas v’Shalom.” (Igros, Vol. 28 p. 46; #10247).

    How to Speak to the Children:

    (1) “In response to your question whether to tell your children about the death of their mother: In my opinion, you should gradually explain to them that Hashem has now brought her to a place where she does not suffer any illness or infirmity, that this place is in heaven, and that from there, she can also have an influence on all of her children and request from G‑d that they are successful in their studies and conduct.” 

    “Now, as well, a mother’s mercies are directed to her sons and daughters, and she yearns that they conduct themselves in a manner appropriate to Jewish boys and girls, and through this, they will bring her great satisfaction. Then it is within her potential to cause their affairs to be successful. The only difference is that this cannot be seen with eyes of flesh.

    “It is self-understood that the wording you will use when communicating with your older [children] will not be appropriate to use for the younger ones. Nevertheless, the inner message can be more or less the same for all of them based on the above concepts….” (Igros, Vol. 4 p. 401; #1119)

    (2) In a handwritten note of the Rebbe he writes: “Regarding the children (orphans): try to have them socialize with children their age, and it is not worth reminding them of their father (if they do not ask about him). Since speaking about their departed father will just add tension to their lives.” (Iggeres Hachinuch p. 332).

    To be continued…

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    Rabbi Gershon Avtzon: The Rebbe’s Advice on Dealing With Loss



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