It has been a rough week. A good friend of mine who also happens to be one of my Mussar students passed away over the weekend. She was about 50 and has two teens at home. It was sudden and unexpected, and her husband, kids, mother, and the rest of us are quite devastated.
Her husband and I are friends; we’ve talked a few times. It is so hard to know what to say to someone who has just lost so much. “How are you?” doesn’t seem like a helpful question. Legacy Connect offers many short articles that cover how to handle a variety of situations. (Read them here.)
Caring for the dead and comforting the bereaved are two important acts of Loving Kindness. While caring for the dead is something we generally leave to professionals these days, comforting the bereaved is something we can all do. When I was putting the finishing touches on The Spiritual Practice of Good Actions, I came across an article by writer Anita Diamant, who shared her struggle to comfort a friend who lost a baby. Here is what I wrote
“Diamant described being “in mourning” as a parallel universe where being in the shadow of death is not a metaphor. Her friend told her that every gesture of support, even if it was a phone call or email to say “I’m sorry” counted for a lot because it gave her a connection to the living world. Diamant described her struggle not to try to cheer her friend up as she held her hand while she cried. While I have not been in those exact shoes, I know what it feels like to want to cheer someone else up. In part, it is because we want to feel better. It is really heavy to be there with someone who is in such terrible pain. Diamant’s act of selfless Loving-Kindness leaves me in a kind of helpless awe.”
I thought of Diamant’s words often this week, as I just tried to be there. This week I was in Diamant’s shoes, and as I was with the grieving husband. I just listened. Other times, I also needed support, and was grateful that I had people listening to me as I shared my grief I’m thankful that I have so many friends willing to be there with me, to listen without judgement and without giving advice.
Mussar teaches that there is no escape from the ups and downs of life. We do not have the luxury of retreating and hoping it all goes away. We show up, and do the best we can. It’s nice to have some teachings and guidance along the way. At the end of the day, we all need each other. With the right people at your back, we can live each day like it might be our last, not in frantic haste, but in mindful presence, getting the most out of every moment.
If you are thinking of joining us on our Mussar journey, a good place to start is with the Soul Trait Profile Quiz. Click here to take it now.
 Anita Diamant, Pitching My Tent, (New York: Scribner, 2005), 104-106.