I dated someone. We went out three times and things didn’t work out and we didn’t go out again. That was about six or seven months ago. Recently I heard that he got sick and passed away.
I don’t know how to feel about this. It was three dates, nothing serious, we both agreed that we weren’t shayach for each other and moved on. We weren’t friends. We didn’t keep in touch. I never thought that he was “the one” for me. Even after the first date, I wasn’t thinking that he may be my bashert. I just thought that I had a nice time, he was good looking, and I’d go out again. I can’t even pretend to feel a loss or anything like that. It’s just weird to know that someone I went out with was niftar. I feel bad for his family and friends, but… It’s just weird.
Thank you for the email, whoever you may be.
Wow! Normally I can say, “I can’t even imagine how you feel,” but in this instant, I can relate, sort of. Years and years ago I went out with someone more than “three times.” At one point (right after the first date), I did feel as if he may be “the one” for me. Eventually we stopped seeing each other. A year or so later, maybe even more, I had heard that he had suddenly passed away. I, too, felt confused. I knew this fellow for a couple of months; true, we went our separate ways, but I got to know him, kind of. Like you, I felt horrible for his family and friends, whom he always spoke about so enthusiastically and lovingly. We had stopped seeing each other long before he was niftar. I felt removed from the situation; I didn’t think, “If we had gotten married, what would my life be like now?”
We always feel that people who pass away when they are relatively young were taken “too soon or “before their time.” But we don’t know the plan that Hashem has, and we definitely can’t understand His plan when we hear about something tragic happening. We can’t try to make sense of it, because we don’t know the grand plan and we can only see our little corner of our little world.
Whatever you feel or don’t feel is fine. Don’t let others dictate your feelings and don’t question your feelings if someone thinks they are inappropriate (for any type of situation, not just this. Your feelings are yours. They belong to you and no one else; so they can just step off their milk crate and stop telling others how to feel.) A couple of days after the fellow I had dated passed away, I was sent a text message in a group chat that I was a part in – but I never should have been sent that text message and it was unintentionally sent from one of my friends to another. I don’t remember the wording exactly, but it was something like, “Can you have imagined if she married him? I can’t even think about that. It’s so sad.” It was along those lines. I waited a minute or two to figure out from the responses that my friends weren’t talking to me, but rather (lovingly) about me. I thought about it and responded with my own text message. Again, I don’t remember the exact wording I used, but it was something like, “It was a long time ago and we were never seriously dating. It’s a sad situation all around.” One friend thought it was callous of me to not be emotional, the other didn’t. I couldn’t help what I felt. Yes, we went out quite a number of times, but I wasn’t feeling “it.” To tell you the truth, I was trying to break up with him during our last two dates. But that isn’t here nor there. I felt indifferent.
You should feel whatever you want to feel. If you feel nothing except sadness for the family, that’s fine. If you are crying over what may have been… I don’t think you are, from the wording that you chose to use, but that’s fine, too, and give yourself a chance to process it and to try to make sense of it.
It happens to be that the book that I wrote (Where Has Zaidy Gone?), published by Israel Book Shop Publications and available on Amazon and at Judaica stores, deals with the issue of how to explain the death of a loved one to a young child. (A portion of each book sold is donated to tz’dakah.) I have worked in an Early Childhood Center for 17 years and started out as a therapist in the Early Intervention department. I have heard the questions that the youngsters asked when they are trying to make sense of a relative passing away. In some instances, young children were sent to neighbors’ or friends’ houses for a few days while the family sat shiv’ah, so they wouldn’t be in the way or wouldn’t ask too many questions. Where Has Zaidy Gone? is a book that children aged three to eight will be able to understand, and it answers the questions that these children may be asking themselves but are too afraid to ask a loved one.
Unfortunately, families deal with loss all too often. The death of a loved one and what follows while sitting shiv’ah disturbs the routine and continuity that young children come to rely and depend on. With such changes, they may start feeling anxious or afraid. This is a book written to explain all to children, in case their family is forced to deal with the loss of a loved one. It’s what I consider a “just in case book.” Just in case a child ever experiences the trauma of having a loved one passing away, this book can help alleviate fears and explain what is happening.
Death is a sensitive topic for many. A person’s reaction to death can’t be dictated or expected by others. There are therapists and support groups designed for those going through the grieving and mourning process. It’s is a very complicated issue, although some would say that death is a “rich topic” to delve into. I will not do it here. Call it “Five-Minute Therapy” or whatever you will, but I am here to tell you the letter writer, and you the reader, that however you react to someone’s death is fine. You have no one to answer to but yourself. I remember going to the levayah of a relatively young man. A husband, father, someone who did a lot of good in his life and had not yet reached his prime; and here hundreds of people were crying at the levayah. I was distraught about the death, as well, and cried in the car on the way to the levayah and at home in the days that followed, but I was not able to cry during the levayah. I think I was the only person who didn’t shed a tear. I couldn’t make my eyes water on command, and you know what? I wanted my emotions to be genuine and if I was only able to mourn when I was alone and not amongst others gently dabbing at my eyes, lined with mascara, then who cares?! I’m sure one or two people probably thought I was heartless, “Look at her! Not a single tear! Not a watery eye! Not even allergies for her!” You be you, and react however you are comfortable. Many times young children don’t know how to react to what is going on when they live in a house where someone is sitting shiv’ah, so that is why I wrote Where Has Zaidy Gone? – to tell children what happened in a way they can understand, and to tell them that it’s okay to feel sad if that is what they are feeling.
Hatzlachah to everyone.