A Letter to G-d for the High Holidays

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Photo of hands of the author's stillborn daughter

Dear G-d,

The High Holidays are here once again. I know this is the time when many of Your creations have their most intense, longest and deepest conversations with You. I think about what I was always taught this time of year in school: “The King is in the field.”

But this year, I am having a hard time figuring out how to approach You.

I remember clearly what these days felt like last year. So much excitement and happiness. Choosing which special dishes to make with the kids. Oohing and aahhhing over their holiday projects. My husband and I had decided to expand our family, and I was privately filled with so much anticipation and hope. I learned in between the High Holidays and Sukkot that I was pregnant, and it felt like a blessing, like You had heard my prayers and granted them.

G-d, that feels like a very long time ago.

I feel that there must be something You are trying to tell me, something I am obligated to learn. But G-d, I feel very empty and slow right now. I am afraid I will miss Your point.

Over the last few months, I have struggled to understand Your purpose in this. I was always taught that we should think of the world as if it was created for us alone, as if every whisper of wind through the leaves was a message from You to us. I feel that there must be something You are trying to tell me, something I am obligated to learn. But G-d, I feel very empty and slow right now. I am afraid I will miss Your point.

There are many books and people who have offered to clarify it for me. Something I hear often is that You have a haichel neshamos, a tent of souls, up there in Heaven, and that it must be emptied before Mashiach can come, but that the purest of souls do not want to be sullied by this world, so You, in Your mercy, send them down for the shortest amount of time possible. That is why they die in utero. Or perhaps, they are the souls of great tzadikim who only need the smallest tikun, the smallest adjustment to their spiritual stories in the world of the living, in order to bring them closer to You. People have tried to tell me that it is an honor to have been chosen to carry such a soul, that it means my husband and I are special people. I have been told that the word “miscarriage” is a misnomer in Judaism, because a lost pregnancy still fulfills what You mean it to achieve for that soul.

G-d, please forgive me. I am glad that these ideas bring comfort and a sense of purpose to others. I hope I am not offending You when I tell You that they do not bring comfort to me. If You have a heichel neshamos up there, why does it need to be emptied? Why send souls to this world who do not want to be here? What tikun could there really be in existing only as an unborn baby? I have tried to envision my baby reflected in these lofty ideals, but all I see is what I saw that day in the hospital: a beautiful little girl, so much like my other children, except that I will never know who she might have become. A little girl I longed to hold and sing to and watch grow up and become a part of our family. G-d, I still long for that so much.

I have been told, too, that this is meant to test my faith, to give me the opportunity to demonstrate my complete trust in You, to serve You with joy, even when I do not understand Your purpose, even when You do things that seem cruel and painful, so that I will merit a greater reward in the World-to-Come. The World-to-Come, I am told, is a world of magnification, and everything that happens here is nothing compared to it. I am told that perhaps this is an atonement for sins I have committed which would have led to great punishment in the Next World, but in living through this, I am wiping those sins away. Perhaps, I have been told, I am getting off lightly. G-d, forgive me—I cannot feel this is getting off lightly.

I don’t want to live my life with the gut-wrenching fear that if I disappoint You, You will hurt me. I find no peace or comfort in thinking of our relationship this way.

G-d, I have been told that, sometimes, things like this happen because You long to hear from Your creations, and I did not turn to You enough. It is true that since my oldest daughter was born five years ago, my prayer has been inconsistent at best. I have often felt that I didn’t have time in the day for it; having a baby upended my idea of time. So it is true that I didn’t pray to You as I should have. But it troubles me to think of You as a Being Who would cause me such pain just to get my attention. That feels unworthy of the Master of the universe as I envision You. And if it is true, it terrifies me: what if I still do not speak with You the right way? What if I make another mistake? What else will You take away?

G-d, I struggle with these ideas and feelings. I want to be good. I have always wanted You to be proud of me. But I feel paralyzed with indecision now. I don’t feel I understand what “being good” means anymore. And I don’t want to live my life with the gut-wrenching fear that if I disappoint You, You will hurt me. I find no peace or comfort in thinking of our relationship this way.

G-d, I am exhausted and afraid and so, so sad. G-d, I love my children, I love my husband, I love my parents and my brothers and sisters, but there is a darkness inside me now, a black hole that pulls me toward its center every day. And every day I have to fight my way free, and sometimes I don’t even want to. G-d, I know You know this already. We say it in our holiday prayers: G-d, Who knows our innermost secrets.

So, as the High Holidays are here again, if You are truly in the field, this is what I ask from You, G-d…whether I am worthy to approach You or not.

G-d, please help me survive this. Please help me survive the OB waiting room. Please help me survive the birthdays that will never be. Please help me survive shul, whenever that happens again. Please help me survive the family holidays. Please give me the strength to not be torn apart by the happiness of others just because I am sad. Please give me the strength to not give in to the pull of that black hole. Please give me the strength to grow from this, instead of shrinking into nothingness.

There is a darkness inside me now, a black hole that pulls me toward its center every day. And every day I have to fight my way free, and sometimes I don’t even want to.

G-d, please teach me how to be there for my husband, so that I can lift him up when he is sad, instead of pulling him down into darker depths. Please teach me how to make this something that strengthens us together, instead of destroying us individually.

G-d, please help me learn to be happy again. To be really happy, not just okay sometimes, but happy. Please help me learn to see those bright and good moments, and seize them, and live for them.

G-d, please help me find my sense of purpose again. I know that each moment we are alive is so precious and important. I know You have left me in this world for a reason. But right now, I don’t know what it is. Please help me find the reason, so I can do my best with the rest of my life. G-d, please forgive me if I don’t do this whole grief thing right, if I say things I shouldn’t say, or do things I shouldn’t do. Please believe that I am trying.

G-d, please give me more healthy children, children that I can raise, children who I can know, who can live in the same world as I do. Maybe this is a selfish request, G-d, but I can’t pretend it isn’t the thing I want most. G-d, please bless our family with more healthy children. I will work so hard to be worthy of them, G-d.

G-d, please be with me in this darkness. If it is true that You love each of us as parents love their children, please do not leave me alone in the dark. Please comfort me.

G-d, if she is up there with You, please share my love with my little Menucha. Please tell her I miss her. Please tell her I am so sorry that we did not get to know each other as I thought we would.

With all my love, and all the pieces of my broken heart,

Your daughter,

Perel

3 COMMENTS

  1. Perel, beautifully written. Please reach out if you are interested in joining a wonderful online community for Jewish mothers who have suffered stillbirth and infant loss. It is the loss of a child on every way. Continue being gentle with yourself.

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