Miscarriage: grieving the loss

Dear Rabbi,

I am having trouble coping and comforting my precious daughter for an overwhelming loss. With all the months of joyous anticipation of bringing a new life into this world, she lost her first pregnancy in the ninth month. I can’t comfort her since I, myself, have trouble understanding what is the sense of all this; it just seems so futile. Can you help us deal with this grief?

Marylin T.

Dear Marylin,

Your and your daughter’s pain is very real, palpable and overwhelming, as I can attest to from personal experience. No philosophical answer can erase the pain in your hearts, especially so close to this profound loss, nor should you expect it to, as the grieving process is necessary to allow expression to your feelings. I will, nonetheless, offer a few thoughts which helped me through this process.

Jewish tradition teaches that every soul enters this world with a mission. The context and challenges of each person’s life provide that individual with the necessary tools to fulfill the purpose and life mission of that soul.

There are souls that need a long and productive life to bring themselves to the fulfillment of their mission. There are, however, souls that are so pure that they need only a short time in this world to achieve their perfection. The definition of a “full life” is very relative and only the Creator of every soul knows its needs.

The Talmud teaches that the soul enters the baby’s body on the 40th day from conception. At that point the soul has left its lofty place in heaven and joined, in a hidden way, the land of the living. 

As we said, there are situations where that short blink of time when the soul lives in its mother’s womb is all it needs to achieve its “tikkun” or completion. (To understand this we need to mention the Kabbalistic idea of gilgul neshamos, reincarnation, the return of a soul to this world to complete some unfinished business in a previous life to achieve its completion [Zohar, Parashas Chaye Sara, Vayeshev, Yisro and Mishpatim. See also Ari z”l, Shaar Hagilgulim at length.].) At times the soul, in a previous life, was near completion and only needs to return to this earth for the shortest of times, perhaps only to the womb, in order to complete its mission.

From the perspective of the eternal life of the soul, a mother of a few months in the womb is no less a mother than one who brought out the soul which lived to a ripe old age. Both mothered that soul to become what it needed to become in order to fulfill its purpose and enter the final bliss of eternity.

There is a moving letter written by the sage Rabbi Moshe Feinstein ob”m to an only child whose mother had, sadly, undergone numerous miscarriages. The boy was very broken and seeking counsel. The rabbi explained that his mother had the merit to conceive a number of very special and pure souls. He assured the boy that he and his parents will be reunited with these souls in the world to come, where they will be so proud to be the parents and brother of such sparkling, shining and perfect souls for eternity.

May you and your daughter merit many beautiful children and grandchildren in this world and the next.

Rabbi Yerachmiel Fried is dean of DATA–Dallas Area Torah Association.

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