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Oct 15 2014

It’s Pregnancy & Infant Loss Remembrance Day

By at 1:09 pm


Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Over the years, many of our writers have written poignantly about the heartrending experience of losing a child or pregnancy. For those who have experienced that pain, we hope these stories will resonate, provide comfort, and offer helpful suggestions for processing the loss. For those who haven’t, this might help you comfort a friend who has.

Here is a roundup of the most relevant articles from Kveller and our friends at Modern Loss about pregnancy and infant loss:

1. 17 Things to Say to Someone Who’s Lost a Child. It’s hard to know what to say to a friend who is mourning the loss of a child or potential child. A dad who has unfortunately found himself on both sides of the conversation offers some guidelines and suggestions. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 29 2014

Our Guinea Pig’s Jewish Funeral

By at 10:01 am


When a Kveller reader recently sought advice on finding a Jewish ritual for mourning the passing of her cat, I wrote off the request as being outside of the boundaries of normative Jewish practice. Judaism’s elaborate and meaningful mourning rituals and practices are for people, not pets. I felt that saying kaddish or observing the yahrzeit of a pet, no matter how beloved, would somehow take away from the meaning and power of these customs and laws.

And then our beloved guinea pig Caramel died.

Caramel was no ordinary guinea pig. In addition to her rather impressive size and multiple chins, she was a fairly accommodating rodent who often kept my eldest son company during homework time and who enjoyed a good (supervised) romp on the front lawn (The smells! The tasty grass!). Caramel occupied a special place in our hearts (no offense to her cage mate, Cinnamon), and I knew that mourning her was going to be difficult.

We chose a sturdy shoe box for her coffin and my husband went outside to dig the requisite hole in the yard while the kids mourned over her furry, lifeless body. Not wanting me to close the lid, I explained to them that the coffin is closed during most Jewish funerals so that we can remember the person as they were when they were alive. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 14 2014

Suggest a Mourning Ritual For This Adorable Kitty

By at 2:11 pm

Adorable cat

From the Kaddish to the shiva, Jewish tradition provides us with plenty of rituals to grieve for loved ones who have died. But what about pets? When a furry family member passes away, why doesn’t Jewish law offer us a meaningful way honor its death?

We recently received a moving letter on this very topic from a Kveller reader:

Shayna, my kitty, passed away yesterday and I have been looking to find strength somewhere.  She’d been sick for a while, but I was not prepared when it actually happened. I’m devastated, but still trying to stay strong for my family. She was my kitty from when she was 6 weeks old, way longer than I’ve known my husband and children. She’s been my partner in life and now she’s not here…I feel very empty.

I am wondering why is there not anything in the Jewish religion to give you strength during the time of grieving for a furry family member. Or is there??


Incidentally, Karen is not alone in her wish for a mourning ritual to help her cope with a pet’s passing. Here, Jordana Horn writes for Kveller about her desire to honor the yahrzeit of her family dog. Meanwhile, in this piece, Alina Adams relates how she comforted her son by reciting the Kaddish for his fish’s passing. Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 11 2014

My Daughter’s Birth Left Me Scarred, But How Can I Grieve?

By at 4:04 pm


My daughter’s birth was complicated. The morning after I had my baby, a post-partum nurse asked how I was feeling. I made the mistake of answering honestly: The birth left a bright pink scar skidding across my pelvis, and other people’s blood pumping through my veins. After a long labor, my daughter’s heart rate decelerated. It was not rebounding. I had to be rushed in for a Cesarean section under general anesthesia. The last thing I remember was staring up into the ceiling light in the operating room, crying quietly. My husband had not been admitted into the OR; he was left alone in a room somewhere to wait. My daughter was pulled out of me, and born into the hands of strangers. The doctors called my husband in while they were sewing me back together. My husband saw and held our baby first; I didn’t meet her for endless hours. It took a while longer before I was functional enough to attempt breastfeeding. The transfusion I needed caused other issues.

My daughter was fine and thriving.

I felt like I had been hit by a truck. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 21 2013

We Just Said Kaddish For a Fish

By at 10:42 am

Fish (2) copy

You have to understand, this was no ordinary goldfish. My then 5-year-old son brought it home from his school’s Japan Day celebration. For the first week, I refused to feed the fish or take it out of its tiny container. I figured it was going to die any minute now, why bother?

The fish did not die. After a week, we bought it some fish food. After a month, we bought it a fish tank. After a year, we accepted it as a member of the family.

A few days ago, my now 14-year-old son discovered the fish lying on its side at the bottom of the tank, flopping listlessly. Its gills were still moving, it was clearly still alive. But, it was not well. We tried poking it with the aquarium net, hoping that maybe he’d just gotten caught in something. At that, he would right himself, swim energetically for a few moments, raise our hopes…then flop over again.

“The fish is dying,” I said to my husband. “We should just flush and get it over with.”

“No,” my husband said. “We shouldn’t be the ones to decide this.”

He told our son he’d have to be the one to decide this. It was his pet, after all. At which point my son burst into tears.

My husband then instructed our son to talk to the fish to see if that would help him settle on what to do.

I stepped out of the room in order to give them their privacy, but from what I did manage to overhear in bits and snatches, was an absolutely heartbreaking monologue, wherein my son tearfully recounted how he’d first met the fish, what a good fish he was, and how, whenever my son got stressed or upset, he could come and watch the fish swim and it would help clear his head. Read the rest of this entry →

May 24 2011

Can You Say Kaddish For a Cellphone?

By at 11:45 am

How I loved thee!

Back in LA, I was incredibly low-tech. I never had an iPod. I would read books that required actual page turning. And my cellphone was much the way I expect to be 50 years from now–crotchety and decrepit.

So, when I’d see other people whip out their Smartphones to email or text or to find the nearest Starbucks because why should anyone have to drive four blocks in one direction when they could achieve caffeinated nirvana by only driving two in the other, I would roll my eyes.

I’ll admit, I was secretly jealous. I envied the LA masses with their gadgets, and I wanted my finger on the pulse of all that is hip, too. More than the iPod or Kindle, I yearned for a Smartphone. I fantasized about being able to check email while sitting at Starbucks (Grande Vanilla latte and delusions of Grandeur for Sarah!) I wanted to download apps that monitored baby poop frequency, and create personalized ringtones that would make me look edgy and badass (I was thinking a little Gangsta Rap would be nice.)

The Smartphone would be my magic portal, freeing me from a daze of dirty laundry, and subpar cooking; a safe haven from power struggles with the kids–tantrums (theirs), meltdowns (mine), and way too much time spent in front of the TV (ours). Come what may – this phone would keep me sane, connected 24/7 to my real life. My dream phone would make me feel young and au currant because in reality, my screen was scratched, paint chipped, powering down on a whim like a narcoleptic. (And my phone was even worse.)

So when B. called my bluff and said he wanted to move back to Israel, I agreed to go on one condition: we would get Smartphones. That way, I could be on gchat or facebook all the time – constantly in touch with friends and family back home. I wanted quick and dirty email access so I could send pictures back home to Beeka and Bakah (my dad and his wife…) I wanted to download a kindle app so I could read books in English without having to expend energy — heaven forfend! — flipping pages. And let’s be real: I wanted to look all high-tech and whatnot, whipping out my sexy Smartphone and strutting around in high heel hooker boots, way more “LA Woman” than I ever was back in LA.

Thus began my codependent relationship with Shmulik the Smartphone. It was love at first sight: Within seconds of charging the battery and turning him on, I had changed his settings to English, and downloaded Tupac Shakur’s California Love for my ringtone. Whither I goest, he went – through the fields, to the coffee place, to the Hader Ochel, and beyond…Chatting, texting, always connected to my life back home.

And our relationship wasn’t all about looks and cool apps or the fact that he vibrated – although believe you me, Shmulik had that going on. Because no matter how homesick in the Homeland I was, I had Shmulik – and because I had Shmulik, I had Aimee, and Crystal, and Jeff, and Corey, and David, and Alex, and Elana, and Michelle, and Chris, and Beeka and Bakah, and so many others that live on the other side of the world, with me every second.

Until the day Shmulik drowned. In the toilet. Because there is no app to get rid of my inherent klutziness and pathological case of mama brain.

I tried everything to bring Shmulik back to life. I opened him up, and took out his battery, simcard, and SD card. (He felt so light lying there in the palm of my hand, just an empty shell.) Then, I placed him lovingly in a bag full of rice because I had read somewhere that this can sometimes save a drowned cellphone. It didn’t. And I shook my fists and screamed to the heavens…“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” (Because the first stage of grief is denial.)

B. rolled his eyes. “Don’t be such a baby. It’s just a cellphone.”

Enter the second stage of grief: Anger.

I hurled Shmulik’s corpse at B. I shouted. I cursed. And I cried hysterically, while B. looked around for the nearest escape route. (Seriously. In that moment, I done Mel Gibson proud.)

And while I know in hindsight that I may have (just a little bit) overreacted, the thing is, it wasn’t “just a cellphone.” Shmulik was my lifeline–my fast-track to LA from like, a million light years away. And as I try to figure out my place here on the kibbutz –in a home where my daughter straight up refuses to speak English (I swear, it’s like she reads my posts on Kveller and knows how much this upsets me), in conversations where I wonder W.T.F. is happening, like all the time when B. is talking to his mom, or the preschool teacher, or the doctor about something related to our kids in Hebrew, where I am perpetually lost in a heavy fog as I try to figure out a strange word in the middle of a joke, while everyone else is laughing at the punchline.

(At least Shmulik had a Hebrew/English translation app. May he be of blessed memory.)


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