Commentary by Dr. Ursula A. Falk


Mourning:  A Tale of Two Mourners


Mourning is a way to express grief  or sorrow.  It is a way to express the heartache that comes with the death of a loved one, to remember the positives, the good things that the loved one has done and the attributes, the deeds, that made the person who he or she was.  It is the anticipation of being without the person that meant so much to the individual or persons left behind.  Grieving for a loved one, a family member, an essential person in our lives, makes the loss extremely sad.  A deep crevice is left in the life of the significant other when he or she departs this “mortal coil.”  It is most difficult to be the mourner of a close family member such as a mother, father, or a beloved sister or brother.

Our parents are irreplaceable.  We think of them as the people we could always come to in good times or bad.  They would never reject us, would listen to our Tzores (worries), our concerns; they would offer help whenever possible, would give of themselves, and would make things better.  They would give us a hug, the strength to accept whatever ailed us, good or bad.  They were our strength, the people who had given unconditional love when we were young, the people who taught us the basics of living and loving.  When mother dies we will  think of the wisdom she had, the food that she was always ready to offer, the warm feelings that surrounded her countenance.  When father leaves this earth we have lost our guide, our  strength,  his wisdom, his courage, and much more.  When we lose our mate (especially in an almost lifetime marriage)  we are devastated. Our memories are boundless.  If it is a husband, we remember the love that we shared, and the closeness, both mental and physical; we had become one in body and spirit.  If we needed advice he was there, if we felt sad or happy we shared our emotions and felt reciprocated.  We waited for him to come home to be with us.  We had created and shared our children.  We could share good and not so good feelings about them and we would understand one another without criticism.  We understood the person we had chosen and it was reciprocated. In mourning, we know that the spouse is irreplaceable in the life of the smitten one.  The same is true of the husband of many years who loses his wife.  He knew he could always count on her in good times and in bad.  He knew she was waiting for him when he came home.  She would cook for him, encourage him, love him.  In old age she still believed he was the best looking and brightest man alive and much more.  He knew that she would be there for him in good times and in bad.  When children were critical he was there to comfort and express his love.  She is irreplaceable and his sadness comes from the loss that will never be replaced.

There are different ways of  expressions of mourning that will here be described. A woman lost her husband of forty-six years.  She adored him during his life and was devastated at his death. They both worked hard at their respective professions, had been the parents of two children and several grandchildren, and took great pride and were helpful to each other and their offspring.  The man died shortly after his illness was discovered.  Jonathan (fictitious name) was the love of her life.  She adored him.  There was never a word of complaint about him which she expressed outside of their marriage.  She did all that she had to do amidst tears to make it less painful for their children.  She mustered her strength to eulogize him standing in front of the congregation.  She made things better for her surroundings.  Her love, her kindness, and her light shone through all those who shared their love and respect for her lifelong partner.  Because of her kindness, her sincerity, and her warmth, the responses and love that she received from friends and acquaintances were overwhelming, and she will never be totally abandoned by all those with whom she comes in contact.

Rosa lost her brother after a brief illness.  The two were close in age.  She was a bright professional woman who took good care of her widowed mother with whom she lived.  Rosa had never been close to her only sibling.  They saw each other a few times a year.  She was invited to participate in some family gatherings when her niece and nephews were involved.  The brother Norbert and his wife Julia were distant.  There was little love between the sister in law and Rosa.  Norbert and wife would take lengthy absences to be in the warmer climes and sister was not invited.  When she did on rare occasion travel somewhere with them, they did not consider her needs and she felt like an unwanted outsider and had the wisdom to refuse any automobile trips with them.  When he died, she became sad but also very angry.  She was excluded in assisting in the funeral arrangements, which she wanted to participate in.  She did not want him cremated, which did happen; she was directed to contact a particular florist (which she rightfully did not do).  Briefly speaking, she was omitted.  After his death, her feelings were angry ones.  She really mourned the brother she wishes she had.  Her anger was projected onto a good friend who felt very close to Rosa and who seemed to understand her.  Rosa mourned for the closeness that her brother could not feel or express.

Humans of all faiths mourn differently.  Mourning is a personal expression, sadness and grief for a loss that can never be replaced.  Our Jewish faith helps us to mourn when we are surrounded by those who can feel with us, pray with us, sit shive (a week of mourning usually in the home of the mourner) with us and can identify with us.


Dr. Ursula A. Falk is a psychotherapist in private practice and the author of several books and articles.

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