Mourner’s Kaddish: Traditions and Alternatives

PrayerbookJewish mourning practices are designed as a series of steps that allow us to set time aside for grieving and then gradually move forward in a natural progression – shiva for seven days, sheloshim for the first 30 days, then the full year for a child mourning a parent, not to mention the yahrzeit and yizkor services – but why do we do this, and what do people do if they can’t make it to a minyan every day, or if they don’t find meaning or support in the recitation of the Mourner’s Kaddish?

 

To begin with, Shiva.com has a brief explainer of the various periods of mourning. As with all religious practices, we strongly encourage you to have an open conversation with your rabbi about your needs and the options, within your level of observance. Judaism is unusual in that it has a defined set of mourning practices in order to help the bereaved transition back into “normal” life, without feeling they have to jump back in after a few days. Many people find this series of steps gives them the freedom to fully grieve, without having to put on a false front to the rest of the world.

While most rabbis would encourage you to go to shul on a regular basis to be in community as you remember your loved one, perhaps you can find a way to incorporate your own spiritual practices into that process. Rabbi Dana Saroken, of Beth El Congregation, believes in the healing power power of reciting kaddish as a part of a community. She shared, “I always encourage people, even if the words don’t feel fluid or natural or they aren’t regular ‘shul-go-ers,’ to try attending a minyan on a regular basis. The Jewish tradition is that we recite kaddish for immediate family for a month for a child, sibling, or spouse and for 11 months (minus a day) for a parent. I have found that when people make time in their lives to channel their grief, especially among a community of people who understand what it feels like to experience love and loss – they have structure in their journey through grief and also tend to emerge from that time feeling more ‘ready’ to re-enter the world of the living when their period of mourning comes to an end. Whether it’s daily or weekly – creating a fixed time for connecting to G-d, to others, and to the presence and memory of our loved ones – is a precious opportunity and it matters.” Rabbi Saroken also shared that, “People can use the mourner’s kaddish to focus on the words that praise G-d (even in moments of loss) or they can spend their time bringing to mind a memory/memories of their loved one. Sometimes, I just think of the rhythmic recitation of the prayer as a heartbeat or an umbilical cord that continues to connect us to the person that we love.”

It is also helpful to understand exactly why these Jewish practices have come to be, before making a decision about your own practice. This article in the Forward makes some important points about What Judaism Teaches Us About Grief and Loss. And this post from the ritualwell website encourages people through the process of saying Kaddish, from the perspective of someone who initially struggled to even pronounce all the words.  

 

If saying Kaddish is not for you, it may be helpful to find other ways to incorporate the set periods of mourning into your routine, even if you choose not to attend synagogue to say Kaddish. If your family is only having shiva for a few days, you may still want to find some way to mark the full shiva period whether by spending your evenings at home with family sharing memories of the person, by making some of their favorite recipes, or by doing something like not listening to music or not watching tv for those seven days. If you are not attending a minyan but you’re looking for something a little more formal, Judaism encourages study of a text such as Pirkei Avot (The Ethics of Our Fathers), for the appropriate length of the mourning period, taking time to consciously think about your loved one before you begin.

If these more traditional approaches still do not meet your needs and you are looking for a way to honor the traits of someone you loved by creating a spiritual practice, the ritualwell website has a helpful post on this topic. Ritualwell also has an entire section dedicated to Mourning and Bereavement, where you can find poems, stories, ritual guidance and more. One suggestion would be to dedicate yourself to 30 days or a year (for a parent) of silent meditation each morning, dedicated to thoughts and memories of your loved one. Also, many people choose to begin a volunteer project for a cause their loved one supported, start an awareness project in their memory, or get involved in an organization that meant something to their loved one.

 

Whatever you choose, the most important thing is that it reflects your needs and supports you as you move through this journey.

Tips for Cleaning a Relative’s Home, Downsizing for a Move, or Decluttering to Help Your Family

CleaningHouse

Have you ever faced the overwhelming challenge of cleaning out a loved one’s home for a move to a smaller place or a nursing home, or felt rushed to do this after their death?

It can seem insurmountable, especially if you are grieving their death or juggling their healthcare needs, as well as your own family and work life. Several recent articles provide suggestions and resources for these situations, as well as tips for decluttering your own home so that this burden does not fall on your own children.

  • Cleaning out a relatives home: Many people have heard of Marie Kondo, or the KonMari Method, where you go through all of your items and consider whether they “spark joy.” This is a helpful method for going through someone else’s items to make hard decisions. Check out this article for suggestions on how to follow this approach. Some people also choose to contact a home or estate clean-out company to help handle this task.
  • Cleaning out your own home:
    • Marie Kondo also promotes her method to encourage people to clean up their homes before someone else has to do it for them. Tips for going through the process with your own items using this approach can be found in this article.
    • Another approach comes from a book titled “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning,” which some people find less daunting than the KonMari Method. It may sound like an odd title, but it is a straight-forward and often funny book by Margareta Magnusson that provides encouragement and tips for people who may be downsizing. It is also beneficial to those who are point in their life where they want to reevaluate their possessions and how they want to ease the burden on their own children. This article talks about her approach, which involves taking your time to gently regard the objects in your home, consider their value to you and your family beyond just their nostalgic value, and make decisions based on that.
  • Paperwork: One other suggestion for cleaning up that Sol Levinson & Bros. can be of assistance with is tackling paperwork. We have experienced firsthand the dread in people’s voices when they realize they have to go through someone’s whole office – or even just a file cabinet – to find important details about wills, birth certificates, insurance policies, and bank accounts. That’s why when you come in to discuss Advance Planning with us we provide you with a personalized resource called the Levinson’s Advance Planning Guide. This guide contains a simple, easy-to-find space to write down all the important information for your family. It’s kind of like a summary of your personal affairs. The added benefit is that we also gather important information ahead of time, and ask you the questions we need to so that your family does not have to also be burdened with those tasks at the time of your death. There is no charge for our time to meet with you and there is no obligation to pre-pay (though that is yet another thing you could do for your family ahead of time to make things easier on them).

Whichever cleaning method you choose, be sure to let family know in case they want a particular item you may not have been aware of. If you would like to make an appointment to meet with us and get your personalized Levinson’s Advance Planning Guide, please don’t hesitate to give us a call at 410-653-8900 or use our Online Appointment Scheduler to pick a time that works for you.

Life Happens: Jewish Perspectives on Aging and Planning for the Future

Life HappensThe Gordon Center for the Performing Arts
3506 Gwynnbrook Avenue, Owings Mills, MD, 21117
Tuesday, Oct. 30
6:30-8:30 p.m.

SPEAKERS:

Rabbi Dana Saroken, Beth El Congregation
Deborah Hamburger, Esq., Volunteer Coordinator, Jewish Community Services

THE DISCUSSION WILL COVER:
Jewish perspectives on aging and end of life.
Planning for financial, medical and end-of-life matters with loved ones.

Learn how to create a comprehensive binder for your family members that will provide them with all the useful information they will need in the event of your death or other emergency.

Attendance is free and open to the community. To register for this session, visit lifebridgehealth.org/lifehappens or call 410-601-WELL.

This event is co-sponsored by Sol Levinson & Bros., Inc., Jewish Community Services, the Jewish Community Center of Baltimore, Lifebridge Health, Edward A. Myerberg Center, and North Oaks.

Know the 10 Signs of Alzheimer’s: Early Detection Matters

Know the 10 Signs of Alzheimer’s: Early Detection Matters

StockSnap_28QNKCAHLMAsk the Expert Luncheon

Tuesday, October 16, 12pm

Linwoods, 25 Crossroads Dr, Owings Mills

Join us for this informative presentation by the Alzheimer’s Association. We will also briefly review the benefits of Levinson’s Advance Planning Guide. A vegetarian/fish meal will be served.

 

This program is designed to:

  • Provide compelling information about Alzheimer’s disease
  • Provide testimonies from families living with the disease
  • Encourage early detection, early diagnosis and early intervention
  • Provide information on knowing the difference between age-related memory loss and dementia
  • Provide answers on what to do when you or someone you know exhibit signs of Alzheimer’s disease

 

Lunch is free but registration is required by October 9 to AskTheExpert@sollevinson.com or 410-653-8900

What Happens to Social Media Accounts After Death?

Social Media has become as much a part of our everyday lives as eating and breathing. In today’s world, it is hard to find someone who hasn’t left at least one digital footprint behind for others to find online. Whether you use social media to catch up with friends, show off pictures of grandchildren, or keep informed of community events, it is an open door for other people to see what you are doing with your life. With that being said, have you ever thought of what will happen to your social media accounts in the wake of your death?

 

Luckily for those of us not so technically inclined, many social media applications have already thought of this task for us. Setting up a “legacy,” or a person you select to maintain your social media accounts, is a way that your pages can be memorialized at the time of your death, and let friends and family pay tribute to your everlasting memory. Your “legacy” can monitor the account and manage the features in your absence, making sure that friends and loved ones won’t receive insensitive messages, such as automatic birthday reminders after your death. People often forget that social media applications don’t know when a person has died, and these automated reminders and messages will continue to be sent unless the proper protocol is followed.

 

webcasting

Although this may be an unpleasant thing to think about, the reality is that your social media accounts are an extension of you, and should be managed by someone you trust (or closed out upon your passing). If for nothing more than letting long lost contacts know what has happened to you, the social media pages maintained by your “legacy” can be an important bereavement tool for loved ones who may find comfort in visiting your pages, posting tributes and reliving happy memories.

 

For more information on how to assign a “legacy” to maintain your Facebook account, click here. There are also many articles online where you can read more about the benefits of having a social media “legacy,” and how to set up a “legacy” for social media accounts other than Facebook.

Jewish Views on the Afterlife

When we invited Rabbi Steven Schwartz, of Beth El Congregation, to present on the topic of Jewish Views on the Afterlife at the October 2017 “We Remember Them: Finding Hope and Meaning After Loss” program, we had no idea how many people would be interested in the topic. As it turned out, he had a large group of people gathered to learn more.

We followed up with Rabbi Schwartz to get a summary and he said “Many Jews don’t realize how much Judaism has to say about life after death. The tradition understands that God plants a soul inside of us when we come into the world, and when we die God takes our soul back. In that sense, the souls we carry during our earthly journeys are eternal, and will continue to exist even after our physical bodies are gone.” Rabbi Schwartz emphasized to us that “a core idea of Judaism is that we don’t understand death as being the end, but transitional, from one state of being to another state of being.”

After a little more research we came to the conclusion that, as with many aspects of Judaism, belief in what an afterlife looks like varies across the board. Below are a few websites that discuss the Jewish view on the afterlife in depth and from different perspectives. We at Levinson’s do not promote any particular belief, but we understand this is an important topic and people are searching for more information. We encourage you to talk to your Rabbi, do a little more reading and come to your own conclusions on this deep and meaningful subject.

https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/life-after-death/

http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/afterlife-in-judaism

http://www.religionfacts.com/judaism/afterlife

http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/2970/jewish/Do-Jews-Believe-in-an-Afterlife.htm

Yahrzeit Email Reminders

In order to enhance our service to families, Sol Levinson & Bros. recently added the ability to receive annual yahrzeit reminders via email.
If you would like to receive annual yahrzeit email reminders from YahrzeitMemorial.com for your loved ones, please copy and paste the following form to email us with information:
Your name:
Your email address:
Loved one’s name:
Hebrew date of death (if known):
English date of death (MM/DD/YYYY):
     Before or after sundown:
yahrzeitcandle
We ask your patience as we process your requests, and that you please allow us several weeks to add you to the system. Once you are signed up to receive the emails, you will receive a reminder one week prior to the yahrzeit date. As always, if you need an updated 20-year yahrzeit calendar you may create one on our website. If you have any questions regarding the new email reminder service, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Twilight in the Woods

Join us on the evening of October 22nd as we light up the night in honor of those we have loved and lost, including those fallen heroes who have proudly served our country and community.  This outdoor event will provide a time for reflection and remembrance and will embrace attendees in a warm, meaningful glow.

To register for the event, please contact Gilchrist Grief Services at 443-849-8251.  Please register by Monday, October 16, 2017.

Candle and HeartsSponsored by Gilchrist Grief Services, Sol Levinson & Bros. and Inner Arbor Trust, Inc.

*There is no fee to attend this event. If you would like to purchase a luminary to honor your loved one(s), there is a cost of $10 per luminary.

 

Day/Time: Sunday, October 22, 2017 at 5:30pm 

(Registration begins at 5:00pm; the event will be held rain or shine.)

 

Location: The Chrysalis, Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods 

10431 Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia, MD, 21044

 

We Remember Them: Finding Hope and Meaning After Loss – September 2017

Levinson’s is partnering with Jewish Community Services and Gilchrist Grief Services to present a powerful program designed to help people who are grieving the death of a loved one.

Grief specialists from JCS and Gilchrist along with Rabbi Steven Schwartz from Beth El Congregation will help participants understand their feelings of grief, recognize what to expect during the grieving process, and acquire new coping skills. The program is designed to help those who have lost a loved one come away with a renewed sense of hope and meaning.

 

Comforting

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

6:30 P.M. – 8:30 P.M.

 

Sol Levinson & Bros., Inc. Funeral Home

8900 Reisterstown Road, Baltimore MD  21208

 

 

Gilchrist Logo JCS Logo Levinson Logo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Remember Them: Finding Hope and Meaning After Loss

Free and Open to the Community

To Reserve a space please register by September 7, 2017

Call: 443-849-8251 or email gs_grief@gilchristservices.org

____________________________________________________

Program

6:30 – 6:45   Welcome

6:45 – 7:15   Realistic Expectations While You Are Grieving

7:15 – 7:25   Break and Refreshments

7:25 – 8:15   Breakout Sessions led by Gilchrist Grief Services, Jewish Community Services Bereavement Clinicians, and Rabbi Steven Schwartz

8:15 – 8:30   We Remember Them presented by Rabbi Steven Schwartz, Beth El Congregation

 

 

We Remember Them: Finding Hope and Meaning After Loss – Columbia Seminar

 

Thursday, April 27 from 6:30-8:30pm

At The Meeting House: 5885 Robert Oliver Place, Columbia, MD, 21045

Gilchrist Grief Services, Jewish Community Services, Jewish Federation of Howard County and Sol Levinson & Bros, Inc. Funeral Home present a Community Seminar:

We Remember Them: Finding Hope and Meaning After Loss

Comforting

Grieving the death of a loved one is a complex journey; it is a unique process for every individual.

This seminar will provide attendees an opportunity to learn new coping skills, to better understand their feelings, and come away with a renewed sense of hope and meaning.

Program

6:30 – 6:45   Welcome

6:45 – 7:15   Creating New Purpose: Finding Hope and Meaning

7:15 – 7:25   Break and Refreshments

7:25 – 8:15   Breakout Sessions led by Gilchrist Grief Services and Jewish Community Services Bereavement Clinicians

8:15 – 8:30   We Remember Them

Free and Open to the Community – to reserve a space please register by April 19, 2017.

Call: 443-849-8251 or email gs_grief@gilchristservices.org