Archives for category: Faith

Our sukkah is up. This holiday, the Jewish festival of Sukkot, was one of my favorite Jewish holidays. Decorating the sukkah, welcoming the autumn leaves, sitting with my family sharing meals as we looked up at the sky. Sukkot, so colorful & festive, the only Jewish holiday where we are commanded to rejoice.

commanded to rejoice

The sukkah is up, and I can’t bring myself to sit in it.

As I scrolled through Facebook this morning, I came across Rabbi David Wolpe’s status. “A sukkah is a metaphor for life: fragile and fleeting, but one must be able to see the stars.”

Three days prior, in an article that he wrote, Rabbi Wolpe shared that, “The sukkah is a symbol of impermanence. If a sukkah is built so that it is too sturdy it is not a kosher sukkah. We must sit in something that is fragile, fleeting, sure to disappear tomorrow, for that is our fate as well.”

Here is the thing. Five months after my father’s suicide, I need no metaphors for the fragile and fleeting nature of life. I am living with that notion each and every day. It is palpable, it is raw, it lies just beneath the surface. I wear it, like a layer of clothing that no one can see, and only I can feel. I don’t want to sit in a structure that further reminds me of what I know all too well.

And then there is the word, “disappear.” It’s quite something how loaded and burdensome language can become in the aftermath of suicide loss. You see, on a Sunday I had a father. He was struggling, he was lost, he was not the man he wanted to be. But he was fighting. He was here. We thought he still had hope. On a Monday morning, everything changed, and he was gone. He was just gone. There was no note, there was no goodbye. And so much of the time it feels like he just… disappeared. The structure & the symbolism of the sukkah, are physical reminders of what is no more. He was here, then he was not. Life, fragile and fleeting, the end that awaits all of us, fated to disappear… I simply can’t enter it. It is like having those words wrap themselves around me, anchoring me to a pain that I seek respite from. Come in and dwell, the structure beckons, be both commanded to rejoice and reminded of what is at the very heart of your grief & your pain.

The sukkah, if it is to be kosher, cannot have a closed roof. We must be able to see the stars, they are the reminder of God’s eternal presence.

But as I shared on my post about the High Holy Days, I am struggling with God. I am grappling with my own anger, but it is more than that. I am struggling with the idea of where my father is now. Where is his soul? I want to be able to envision him somewhere. I want to close my eyes and see him somewhere he is whole, smiling, feeling safe and loved. I know he is with God. But I don’t know what I think that looks like. I am struggling to piece together what I believe. I envy those faiths that have such vivid imagery about what heaven is like. I want that. I want to envision God’s loving embrace surrounding and holding my father close. I hope I will find that image, that notion, that comforting idea in time. But for now, I can’t.

I can picture him only in his final minutes of despair and hopelessness, in his coffin and in a grave. My mind, clouded by trauma, cannot access the happier memories, the sound of his laughter, the comfort of his embrace, even the struggles that we endured along the way. I can’t access the essence of my father, the complex man that I loved. The man with whom I shared great joys and abundant sorrows. The man with whom I traveled a road that was not always easy, far from it at times. We had incredible highs and heartbreaking lows, we hurt one another, and we healed. We lost one another and then found each other again. He was my father. I was his daughter. In time, we grew to be friends. When he left, we were closer than we had ever been. I loved him. He loved me. And yet, I cannot access any of it. I look at the stars and search for something that will give me peace. I haven’t found it yet. I’ll keep searching. I have to.

But in the meantime, the sukkah stands decorated and open. And this year, I will not step inside of it. I hope that next year, and in the years to come, I will once again find the joy I have felt for this holiday. That I will not need to be commanded to rejoice, it will simply be a reflection of what I truly feel.

But right now, in this place, at this time… it is not. So I stand on the outside of the sukkah looking in.

I looked up the word fragile.
When describing an object, it means easily broken or damaged.
When describing a person, it means not strong or sturdy; delicate and vulnerable.
The sukkah is the object.
The person is my father.
One I can’t bring myself to step into.
The other I’d give anything to bring back.

Sukkot 2014

Sukkot 2014

A sukkah is a booth in which Jews are commanded to dwell during the festival of Tabernacles [Sukkot], as stated in the book of Leviticus (23:42‑5): “You shall live in booths [sukkot] seven days; all citizens in Israel shall live in booths, in order that future generations may know that I made the Israelite people live in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I am the Lord your God.” (My Jewish Learning)

shofar two

High Holiday services were brutal for me. Unusual for the wife of the rabbi to say out loud, I know. But there it is. Five months after my father’s suicide, the liturgy of the holidays felt like a vat of salt was being poured into my still open wounds.

We recite Unetanah Tokef….
On Rosh Hashanah it is inscribed,
And on Yom Kippur it is sealed.
How many shall pass away and how many shall be born,
Who shall live and who shall die,
Who shall reach the end of his days and who shall not,
Who shall perish by water and who by fire,
Who by sword and who by wild beast,
Who by famine and who by thirst,
Who by earthquake and who by plague,
Who by strangulation and who by stoning,
Who shall have rest and who shall wander,
Who shall be at peace and who shall be pursued,
Who shall be at rest and who shall be tormented,
Who shall be exalted and who shall be brought low,
Who shall become rich and who shall be impoverished.
But repentance, prayer and righteousness avert the severe decree.

As a still very new, and grieving survivor of suicide loss I cannot possibly utter these words. Though I do not believe in an all powerful God, an intervening God, the words, the liturgy of these Holy Days reverberates with that kind of Divine Image. Recited around me, carried to the heavens in the voice of a congregation, I feel angry at God, betrayed, let down. I am unable to pray. I simply stand and cry, and at other times I leave the sanctuary overcome by grief.

Five months ago my father took his own life. There are no words to describe the pain his death, his choice, has left behind. On a cerebral level, I can recognize that it was his illness, the depression & anxiety that had taken hold of his soul, that led him to his death. On an emotional level I feel abandoned, angry, traumatized, profoundly sad and grappling with the many complex layers of this loss.

I want to know if God watched him do it.
I want to know if God, or the angels cried out.
When Abraham was about to sacrifice Isaac, God’s Angels cried out to stop him.
Where were they when my father died alone, in the basement of the home I grew up in?
I want to know why my father felt unworthy of inscription in
The Book of Life.
His story was not done.
Surely this could not be God’s

U’fros Aleinu Sukkat Sh’omecha
Spread Over Us Your Shelter of Peace
How many times have I prayed these words?
Mi shebeirach imoteinu
M’kor habracha l’avoteinu

Bless those in need of healing with refuah sh’leimah
The renewal of body, the renewal of spirit

And how many times did I pray these words, thinking of my father’s struggles and wanting so desperately to help him once again find peace.

And now, the holiest of days in our Jewish calendar. A time of reflection, atonement, renewal. A time to meet God with openness, with honesty, with confession and with grace. And I can’t.

We are in this complex dance right now God and I. As I lash out in anger and bewilderment, I beg for peace and comfort. Like picking the flowers off of the petal.

I need you
I need you not
I forgive you
I forgive you not
I pray to you
I pray to you not
I turn to you
I turn to you not

It would have been easier not to go. It was offered to me. Friends, family, even my beloved husband offered me the out. If it is too hard, if it hurts, if you are suffering, do not come to services this year. It’s okay. God understands. That is what I was told. So much love and concern surrounding me. So many wanting to hold me up. So many wanting to minimize the pain I’m enduring. It would be okay this year to do “Jewish lite.”

But I wanted to be with my family.
I wanted to support my husband on his first High Holy Days here in Colorado.
It made sense, right?
But it wasn’t really what drew me to go.
At least not in full.

I couldn’t name it, this other pull. I then I read an article that a friend had shared with me. In it there was a poem by Aaron Zeitlin.

Praise me, says God, and I will know that you love me.
Curse me, says God, and I will know that you love me.
Praise me or curse me
And I will know that you love me.

Sing out my graces, says God,
Raise your fist against me and revile, says God.
Sing out graces or revile,
Reviling is also a kind of praise,
says God.

But if you sit fenced off in your apathy,
says God,
If you sit entrenched in: “I don’t give a hang,” says God,
If you look at the stars and yawn,
If you see suffering and don’t cry out,
If you don’t praise and you don’t revile,
Then I created you in vain, says God.

And there it was.
I went to sevices on Rosh Hashanah and on the evening of Yom Kippur to show God that I was still in this relationship. I showed up to offer God the truest and most authentic prayer I had, my tears; and in that regard I prayed without end. I showed up to deliver this message.

I am angry at you God.
Perhaps it is unfair, misguided anger, but I need a place to put it.
My father’s end is unjust, unacceptable.
It feels like an abomination.
And I want to know where you were.
Where was your compassion?
Where was his peace?
And I want to know why my own prayers for comfort do so little to ease my own pain?
I want to know so many things. I want to yell and I want to cry. I want to speak and I want to remain silent. I want to turn away from you and I want to turn towards you.
But I’m here, in your house.
I’ve lived through estrangement before.
I will not do it again.

In “Vayishiah” Jacob wrestles with the angel. His name is changed to Israel
which means
to struggle with God.

I could not do it all. I went to services on erev Rosh Hashanah and on the first day. I could not bear to stand through the liturgy, or run from it another day. And I went to services on Kol Nidre, but I could not return for the remainder of the holiday. But the point of it all is this…

I showed up.
Though my knees threatened to buckle and my feet carried me to and from the sanctuary and back more times than I can count; I showed up.
In my silence and through my tears, tissue after tissue; I reviled and admonished God.
In my pain and in my anguish, in the sobs that felt as if they came from my soul; I forced myself to turn towards God.
I struggled.

To stay home for it all would have been easier.
To turn my back would have been easier.

But God and I have a long journey ahead of us.
And we’ve shared a long journey past.
And I don’t know much right now.
The answers I seek escape me.
But I do know this…

I showed up.
Because I want God in my life.
Faith is my anchor, even when I feel lost at sea.
God’s love is steadfast
Even when I find it hard to receive.
I love God.
And in my anger & my pain;
deep in my soul
I know God loves me.
And I know God loved my father.
My father is with God now.
And my most fervent prayer
is that he is at peace.

“Would ‘sorry’ have made any difference? Does it ever? It’s just a word. One word against a thousand actions.”
― Sarah Ockler, Bittersweet

Dear Dad,

Tonight the sun will set and Yom Kippur will begin. I remember so vividly, four years ago, talking to you and Mom on the phone for the first time in six years. It was just before Kol Nidre services. We’d been corresponding by email, but it was time to take that next step.

Yes, you got my letter on Rosh Hashanah. I got your answer upon coming home from Tashlich. The emails began and Yom Kippur seemed a perfect time to hear your voice and mom’s voice. We lived out forgiveness in it’s truest and most authentic form. Letting go of past hurts, grievances, anger and resentment. Letting go of six years of distance, silence, absence and estrangement. Our voices cracked, we all cried. Healing truly began….

And now you are gone. Our story of new beginnings, came to an abrupt and unimaginable end. I thought we had endured the worst thing that parents and children could endure. I was wrong.

Tonight, I will beat my chest and recite
Al Chet. Not the Al Chet in the prayer book. No, mine is far more personal than that.

Al chet
I’m sorry I did not truly see the depths of your pain.
Al chet
I’m sorry I did not perceive how hopeless you were feeling.
Al chet
I’m sorry I did not ask you if you were thinking of hurting yourself. I know now that asking that question directly is so very important.
Al chet
I’m sorry I did not get to say goodbye to you.
Al chet
I’m sorry that you could not see the value in your life. The love that surrounded you.
Al chet
I’m sorry I didn’t know more. If you had revealed to me all of it, every ounce of the invisible suffering, I know I could have, would have done more for you.
Al chet
I’m sorry for anything I might have said wrong.
I’m sorry for anything I did not say.
Words and opportunities missed that might have led to a different ending.
Al chet
I’m sorry that some days I am angry at you. But I am. You left me. You left our family with so much pain. I am striving to forgive you, forgive me, forgive God. I’m sorry I can’t simply let that go.
Al chet
I’m sorry you died alone.
Al chet
I’m sorry your end was not peaceful. It was cruel, dark and violent.
Al chet
I’m sorry I’ll never hear your voice again. I’ll never feel your embrace again. I’ll never get to tell you that I love you again.
Al chet
I’m sorry you won’t get to see your granddaughters continue to grow up, to be present for the milestones and simchas that lie ahead.
Al chet
I didn’t know Daddy.
I didn’t truly know…
I tried.
You know that, right?
Fred describes sin, as missing the mark.
Al chet
I’m sorry I did not comprehend how depression can metastasize into your soul, how anxiety could inflict physical pain. How much internal hemorrhaging there was, day by day. Slowly eating away at you. Draining you of the will to live. Depriving you of the strength you needed to continue the fight.
I missed.
We all missed.
We missed the signs.
We see them all now.
The rear view mirror does not, can not change anything.
The beating of the chest when we recite Al chet is painful.
You beat yourself up.
You pounded your fist upon your leg, upon your self.
You beat yourself up inside too.
A burden
These words inflicted as much pain as a fist.
Perhaps even more, because only you could feel them, hear them and they got louder & louder…
Al chet
I’m so very sorry that this was your ending Daddy.
I’m so very sorry I could not, we could not help you, save you, love you through the darkness, until you saw the light.
You were in a storm.
You were lost.
You were immersed in darkness.
Al chet
We were supposed to be the lighthouse that guided you to safety. But you couldn’t see it…

“I’m sorry no one saved you.”
― Maggie Stiefvater, The Dream Thieves

me and dad wedding

I thought I could describe a state; make a map of sorrow. Sorrow, however, turns out to be not a state but a process.
― C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

me and dad

The following was a post I shared on FB just yesterday (9/20/15)

Some days I wish I could capture in a picture, in a word, in a story; what it looks like, feels like, hurts like to lose someone you love to suicide. Some days I wish the wounds were visible…

Five months ago today my father took his own life. His pain wasn’t terminal, but he believed it was. His suffering wasn’t inevitable, but he believed it was. His storm was not without end, but he believed it was. His life was not without worth, but he believed it was.

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Some days I wish I could capture the sadness in a poster, the guilt in a hashtag, the regret in a song. What would my billboard look like if I could make you see? Would I convince you that no one is immune? Would I convince you to start the conversations in your homes, your schools, your houses of worship? Would my rallying call be enough to shake you, to wake you, to implore you, to beg you to take away the demand better access to care, to not give up on someone who is suffering? To ask the hard questions, to not pretend you have the simple answers…

If I could show you, would my struggle make more sense? A self-murderous act took my father from me. I can’t show you what that feels like. He died at his own hand. The wounds are only visible in my tears. The heaviness a palpable background to each and every day! I can’t show you… I can only tell you. I hope my words impart my truth. I hope my words enlighten, teach, touch and inspire. I hope you can receive them, honor them and hear them. I hope the words I speak, type, pray and share make a difference… Because I never thought it would happen to us. Never! But it did. And the wounds that can’t be seen, do not hurt any less.

Now I know I’ve got a heart, because it’s breaking.
―The Tin Man “The Wizard of Oz”


It’s been weeks since I’ve attended services. It’s not that I don’t want to. I want to say Kaddish for my father. I want to be with my family. I want to be a part of our new community. But here is my truth. Grieving a suicide loss is a very isolating experience. I don’t know people “like me.” Statistics tell me I should, and I’m certain they are there, but I don’t know them. My father did not just die. He died by suicide. He took his own life. His end feels violent. He was the victim and the perpetrator of his own homicide. To try and put the pain of that kind of loss into words is just not possible. I won’t even try.
My soul and my heart have been ripped open, everything that seemed to make sense no longer does, faith is hard. It hurts to pray. It hurts not to pray. I’m mad at God. I need God. I’m mad at my father. I miss him and ache for his presence on earth each and every day. “Why” has become my least favorite question. Yet I ask it daily.
I am new to this community, our new synagogue community of Congregation Har HaShem. I don’t know a lot of people, but they know me. I can not have the anonymity of another griever. And when I pray, or when I stand in shul and can’t pray, I weep. Sometimes it is a quiet weeping. Other times it is all I can do to hold myself together, I bite the insides of my cheeks, I can’t speak, every single fiber of my heart and my soul cries out in pain, but I make no sound. I feel exposed, stripped away of all defenses, laid bare in front of my God. It is a vulnerable feeling.
It is hard to have that feeling in front of strangers. It is hard to feel such overwhelming grief is on display, the new rabbi’s wife is falling apart. Do they know why? Do they wonder what is wrong? Do they think I’m simply losing it? Who are they? Some I know. Some I’ve built relationships with already… trust, honesty, realness… the good, the bad & the ugly. Friends. And some, many in fact, are new to me.
I don’t know how to be this version of myself in front of them. I’m not the version of me that came to visit during Fred’s interview. I’ll never be that same person again. But isn’t that the me they are expecting to meet? And what if I simply can’t meet them, not properly anyway? What will they think if the rabbi’s wife just comes to services, weeps openly, says kaddish and leaves before they even have a chance to say hello? And how do I answer the questions. How are you? How’s it going? Do you like Colorado? Are you settling in? On good days, better days, I have the answers. Other days I know I can’t really speak my truth. I can’t answer, “How are you?” honestly.
So I stay home. It feels easier. At least there, when I utter the words of Kaddish, when I cry because my dad ended his own life, in the home that I grew up in, in a way that feels so utterly and profoundly wrong on each & every level and in a manner that was intended to be lethal, nobody is watching me. This final act by my father was not a cry for help. This was his way out of the pain, darkness and despair that took root in his soul. No final goodbye, no reflecting on memories past, no holding hands. He was alone, he was all alone when he died. I don’t just mourn for his loss, I mourn for what became of his life, for the sadness and shame that he carried, the sense that he was not worthy, that somehow we all might be better off if he were gone.
I stand at services, prayers for healing hurt, prayers for peace hurt, prayers for comfort hurt, prayers for mourning hurt. Why? Because no matter how hard we tried, we could not give him peace, we could not give him enduring comfort, we could not shelter him. We loved him, with all that we had, but it wasn’t enough.
How do I pray for all of that? My prayers are mostly in my tears. And it is hard to contain them when I stop, try and take a breath and reach out to God. And it is hard to let them go in front of so many new faces. It is just hard to be that vulnerable.
But I want to go to synagogue. I want to let my new community know my pain, though it makes me feel so very exposed. Because, right now, four months after my father’s suicide, this is who I am. My therapist tells me the road to healing after a suicide loss, traumatic loss, is a hard one, a long one and one riddled with roadblocks, obstacles and triggers. And I have to walk it, every day. I move forward, I move back, I walk it without knowing others like me, so it feels at times like I walk it alone, though I know I don’t.
I hope that I can feel less vulnerable in time. As new faces become familiar, strangers become friends, and those that surround me in the sanctuary become my community, my kehillah. There, in that holy and sacred place, my wounds are laid bare. There, in that holy and sacred place, I hope Ill find the courage and faith to let them show.

Let me come in — I would be very still
Beside you in your grief;
I would not bid you cease your weeping, friend,
Tears can bring relief.

(To One in Sorrow by Grace Noll Crowell)

How can it be?
A lifetime of precious memories
Reels of film
And yet, I can only see the end
Your end
It haunts me.

How can it be?
The complex & complicated road we traveled
The one that led us to a better, deeper & stronger path
A true knowing & understanding of one another as people
has come to an abrupt end
There is nowhere left to go with you.

How can it be?
I will never hear your voice
You will never speak my name
We will never laugh together, cry together
Simply just “be” together.

How can it be?
You, who basked in the sunshine
Could no longer see the light
You who reveled in the beauty of the ocean
Could no longer see the promise on the horizon
You who loved to gaze at the lighthouse
Could no longer see it’s symbolism…
Storms pass
Calmer waters come
Safety is within reach

How can it be?
That you…
Felt so alone on this earth
So isolated in your pain
So much like a burden to those who loved you most
To believe that we might simply be better off without you

How can it be?
Never again will we share
A kiss
A hug
A card
A celebration
A conversation
A hard day
A sad day
A memory
An “I love you.”

How can it be?
Why must it be?
It didn’t have to be.
It didn’t have to be.

But it is.
It is.
It is.

How can it be?
I do not know.
I do not know.
But it is.

A compilation of some of the letters I’ve written to my father since his suicide on April 20, 2015.

August 6, 2015
Today I am knee deep in a mad, angry, pissed off state of grief. No eloquent reflections to write–it would just be filled with expletives and written in all caps– like screaming, ranting & yelling at the top of my lungs–but on paper, which just won’t offer the same release as doing it for real. But doing it for real might just scare the shit out of my neighbors–so I don’t really know what the hell to do with it–it’s just simmering and I’m trying not to let it boil over–so Dad-that’s where you, me & the endless reverberations of your suicide, stand today! Oh, by the way, nightmarish dreams for me-that’s one thing. For my children, your grandchildren-well, that’s a whole other f*cking story. I mean–are you kidding me? I have nothing more to say today! At least nothing rational anyway. But then again, I’m writing you letters on Facebook because I can’t say any of this to you. Because you left. You f*cking left–so how rational am I to begin with?! So, yeah-mad! That’s all I’ve got today–because you left a mess behind here Dad. And you don’t have to do anything to help clean it up… and some days, that is so damn wrong & unfair!
Your daughter,

July 31, 2015
Dear Dad,
So, I talked with a DJ this morning, as we try to juggle around and find another new date for Noa’s Bat Mitzvah (because to find a block of hotel rooms on the weekend of CU graduation was not successful)
So, anyway I spoke to this lovely DJ today and was feeling pretty good that we found somebody who had an opening for a potential new date, had great recommendations and was reasonably priced. Off I went to Whole Foods feeling a bit of relief and pretty good. Then I started thinking about how much you LOVED to dance. And I thought about dancing with you at Yael and Leora’s B’not Mitzvah. Then I thought about that beautiful smiling picture of us out on the dance floor-the one I now use on my fundraising page for the Suicide Prevention Walk. Then I thought about not having you at Noa’s Bat Mitzvah, not dancing with you and never seeing that smile again–and then, I cried…. And now, I’m sad–
It’s not fair dad–all of it. You should be there with us to celebrate–you should be here. You were supposed to get better. You were supposed to come out of the darkness and you would have once again danced & experienced joy.
But you didn’t-
And that makes me weep–
Because I truly believed you’d come through this bout of depression. Just as you had done before.
We should’ve danced again dad.
I miss you.
I love you.
Your Loving Daughter,
P.S. It would’ve gotten better Dad. If only you had been able to hold on and fight longer. I truly believe that with all of my heart.

July 29, 2015
Dear Dad,
I feel like I’m once again finding joy in cooking/baking. Since your suicide I either didn’t cook, or simply went through the motions of cooking, with no love or passion. I just cooked. But slowly I’m once again finding pleasure in the process. Making healthy foods for family and friends, and testing the limits of altitude and an electric oven. They tell me that is a sign that there is some healing. I hope so. Because most days I feel like a shell of my former self. Reigniting my passion for food, makes me feel a little more alive… a little more like the me I once was. The me I was before…
Your daughter…
Who misses you so much…

The following prayers are written in memory of my father, Lowell Jay Herman. He took his life on April 20, 2015. They are a reflection of the pain that my family & I have grappled with.

A Prayer for My Father

Adonai, darkness descended upon him;
cloaking and immersing him in a shroud of shame and sadness.
Mental illness took hold and metastasized into his soul
until he could bear the pain no more.

Adonai, we who loved him are left to navigate the murky waters, the tsunami of grief and the inexplicable pain of his suicide.
Help us not to lose ourselves in the unanswerable question of why, though it is a question we must ask; over and over and over again.
Strengthen us in the face of despair, guilt, shock, anger and overwhelming sadness.
Adonai, help us find the courage to speak the truth, his truth, our truth.
Mental illness took him; let us not be ashamed to say it.
Help us to make meaning of his loss.

We who are left behind need to remember that we were loved by him, though we feel abandoned.
We who are left behind need to know it is okay to be angry at him, to yell, to cry, to curse;
and then to return to a place of forgiveness, because surely he weeps at the pain he has caused us.
Adonai, help us to be kind & gentle with ourselves.
As we process all that he must have been grappling with and the suffering he endured, help us not to burden ourselves with guilt. And if we must carry it for a little while, help us to find a safe and secure place to share it, to speak of it and ultimately to let go of it.

Help us to remember him in life, not to let him be defined by his death.
It will not be easy to find the joy amidst such great sorrow, the laughter amidst so many tears, the love amidst such loss. We pray that you will remind us of the good. We pray that we will have the clarity to see it when you do.

Time does not heal all wounds, this we know.
He is gone. And we are here.
He left us with so many questions. And we will never know all of the answers.
He loved us. We loved him. But it was not enough to save him. We must learn to live with that.
Help us to remember, to remind ourselves, that we loved him with all that we had. We did the very best that we could, with what we knew.
We did not fully understand the depth of his pain, though we tried.
We did not fully understand his shame, though we tried.
We did not fully understand his sadness, though we tried.
We simply did not fully understand the illness that caused him unbearable suffering. Oh how his soul must have hurt.

We pray that he is at peace now. We pray that he is no longer suffering.
We pray that we too will find peace in time; that our suffering will lessen, that healing will take hold.
Our world, our lives, our souls, our hearts, our family is left with fragments; like the tablets Moses threw upon the ground…
the broken pieces are now a part of us
the aftermath of suicide we must carry within us
and we will never again be the people we were before.

Help us to honor the fragments; holding them in the tabernacle of our hearts, just as the Hebrew people carried the shattered tablets with them on their journey toward the Promised Land.
They are a part of our story now. A sacred and sad reminder of what was & what will never be.

Adonai our God, like a mosaic comprised of broken glass, help us to rebuild ourselves, our souls
bit by bit, shard by shard, broken piece by broken piece.
Be with us.
Accompany & carry us through the valley of grief.
Stay with us.
Help us to find a new wholeness.
Help us to find peace.
Help us to tell our story.
Because it is in the telling, that we honor his life, his loss and all that he was to us.

A Prayer for the Unanswerable Question of Suicide

Oh God.
It is the unrelenting question.
It is the soundtrack to our days; playing over & over again.
With what shall we answer this painful word?
One simple & tiny word encompasses so much pain.
It seems so easy to simply say;
We did not do enough.
We did not love enough.
We weren’t enough.
The guilt, the regret, the blame that we take on is crushing.
We bow under the weight of it.
Our knees threaten to buckle.
Day by precious day we seek to explain the unexplainable.
If only we had known more.
If only we had done more.
If only we had better understood the danger signs.
The questions must be asked. Our minds seek answers; so it attempts to make sense of such senseless loss.
But it hurts.
Oh God, how it hurts.
The looking back hurts
The missed signs hurt
So what can we pray for?
We pray that you will be with us on this painful journey.
We, the survivors of suicide loss, want to feel your presence.
Help us Oh God;
To see
To know
To find a way to believe;
We are not to blame.
It was not our fault.
We loved with all that we had.
We met his pain with compassion, his suffering with comfort and his despair with kindness.
We listened.
We were present.
We reminded him that he was not alone.
We did the best we could with what we knew.

And God, in the depths of our own grief, do not let us forget;
He did love us with his full heart.
We were enough.
We mattered.
He did not really want to leave us.
And surely he did not want us to hurt as we do.
He is so very sorry. Help us to know that.

Help us find a way to live with the question that will never be answered.
Help us to understand that it was an illness that took him from us; illness of soul & of spirit.
Mental illness caused him unbearable suffering and darkness descended upon him.
He saw no hope in that moment.
He saw no promise of better days
He saw death as the only way to end the pain…
That was the illness taking hold.
It was not the husband, father, grandfather, brother & friend that we loved and who loved us in return, turning away from life.
It was the illness.
And that is the only tangible answer we will ever have.
Help us oh God, to find peace with that.
And one day, to free ourselves of the crushing weight
Of that one little word, which encompasses so much pain.
Help us to forgive ourselves enough to do that.
Help us to forgive him for the questions that will never be answered and the way that he left us.

A Sabbath Prayer for my father, who took his own life on April 20, 2015. And who is missed so very much…


Adonai were you with him as he drew his last breath?
His final exhale, releasing him of the pain & torment.
His soul cleansed and once again at peace.

It was not his time. But still I pray that you welcomed him into your care, to a place where he would hurt no more.

Tonight we kindle the lights of Shabbat.
He was lost in the darkness God. I pray that each day he is bathed in light. It is how I want to picture him, basking in the warmth of the sun. His favorite way to sit & pass the time.

Tonight we say the Kiddush and sip the wine.
He could not see or taste the sweetness that surrounded him God. It was in the kiss of his beloved bride. It was in the hearts of his children. It was in the love of his grandchildren. I pray that he knew that, that he still does. And I pray that the bitter taste of tears no longer lingers upon his lips. Rather, may there be a way he can still savor all that he was to us. It is we who cry now…

Tonight we bless the bread. The braided strands so symbolic of family. Each of us so deeply & intimately intertwined. And yet, there is a strand missing God.

Adonai my God, the Sabbath wish is for Shalom, for wholeness & peace. May he know it now God. He had not known it for so long. May you help us to know it once again. It seems so far from reach. We piece together the fragments each day, but the missing parts remain. How do we mend Adonai? Help us, guide us. Nurture in us the strength we need to rebuild. Tend to our spirits & our hearts so that they may know and truly feel joy once more.

And please God, place a kiss upon his cheek for us, tell him that we miss him, hold him in your everlasting embrace and once in a while, let him come to visit us. A whisper in the wind, a face in our dreams, or a rainbow in the sky.

Adonai, on this Sabbath eve. As the tears still fall. This is my most fervent prayer.

This post was originally posted to my Facebook page on 5/29/15.

Dear Dad,
It’s Shabbat. Soon we will light the candles. I cooked today, sweet & sour lentils. I even made a banana bread. I haven’t found the joy in cooking again. But I am doing a little more of it. Feeling good at least to be feeding my family good food, healthy food, food that nurtures their bodies. Cooking & baking truly fed my soul before that phone call, before you took your life, before we buried you. I know that feeling will come back, but for now-no photos of my food, no recipes shared on social media, nope, I’m not there yet. I miss you dad. The words to Mourner’s Kaddish do not come easily. Simply uttering them makes the loss seem somehow so much more real & palpable. You were never really a religious man dad. I wonder if you had been, if it might’ve been easier for you to have “faith” that things would get better. It’s another one of those questions dad, the kind you’ll never answer, the kind I’ll never really get to ask. There are so many of those damn questions. Where are you dad? That’s another one–why can’t you come and visit me in a dream? Whisper to me in the wind and tell me you’re okay? I always wonder that dad-Are you okay? It’s Shabbat. We kindle the lights, we bless the wine & the challah. We welcome the Sabbath Bride into our midst. We wish for shalom, peace, on Shabbat. I haven’t found it yet Daddy. But I’m trying… I love you. And I miss you more than words can say.