Zachor — A Prayer for Unacknowledged Mourners by Rabbi Laurie Dinnerstein-Kurs

May 11, 2016

I am mourning the loss of my beloved grandchild. I am the mother (father) of the mourner, and the grandmother (grandfather) of the mait (maita) — but oddly — I sit in this Shiva house without anything spiritual to bring comfort or peace.  There is nothing for me to hold on to, as I walk through this valley of deepest darkness.

This shiva house belongs to my son and daughter in law, as it must be

The Kaddish they offer is their spiritual hanger to hang their tears on, as it should be.

The rabbi that leads the service addresses them in their time of need — as it should be. 

The wonderful, thoughtful sensitive visitors upon entering the house…give the parents words of comfort first…as they should. 

The needed and considerate trays of food arrive at the Shiva house for the direct mourners, the parents…as it should be.

All 7 days, the shiva house is busy …as it should be.


It was also MY heart that was wrenched and shattered upon learning of the death of my beloved grandchild.

It was also MY very being that was overcome in anguish when I saw MY son’s tortured face as the aron was lowered.

It was also MY sorrow seeing the pain in the faces of MY other grandchildren. 

It is MY heart that screamed silently as it watched MY son say Kaddish for his son. 

The trauma of the death is carved into MY very soul.

It is MY complete and utter feeling of being totally stranded in a sea of pain and sadness — where there is no ritual, tradition, custom or even prayer for grandparents to hang our tears on.

What bit of consolation can a grandparent find in a shiva house for which we are — understandably, and realistically — removed from most of the shiva rituals, and are perhaps more like onlookers, apart and looking in.   

And so, I offer my own prayer for grandparents at this unbearably difficult, exquisitely painful and most agonizing time.



Laurie Dinnerstein-Kurs


G—D, It was always our earnest prayer that our children be spared all pain and suffering.  We yearned — May this be your will.

G—D, It was always our impassioned prayer that our children all warrant peace and serenity in their lives.   We yearned — May this be your will.

G—D, It was always our fervent prayer that you, the Almighty, see to it that our children are unhampered by illness or tragedy. We yearned — May this be your will.

But, today we are devastated — all our heartfelt prayers have gone unheeded

We are devastated — all our hopes, dreams, and wishes for this grandchild have evaporated into nothingness

We are devastated — as all our fierce petitions for his safety and health were for naught

Hashem — weren’t you listening??? Didn’t you hear my cries and supplications to keep, safeguard and protect my grandchild??? 

Though I prayed with all my heart, my heart has been ripped apart

Though I prayed with great kavanah that my grandchild be well and healthy, my very soul has been fractured

Though I prayed with total emunah … I am overwhelmed and totally brokenhearted that my beloved grandchild has left this life  

I am distraught that my pleas and petitions fell on deaf ears 

I am shattered and beside myself with grief 4 times over — once for having to witness my own child’s pain saying good bye to their child, and then for my own pain saying goodbye to my beloved grandchild. Once more, watching the mother/father searching to make sense of her/his loss of child, and then, once again, being faced with the siblings who just do not understand

This is NOT the right order … there is something definitely amiss when a doting, loving grandmother (grandfather) will not be needed any longer to tell stories of the past to her/his beloved grandchild, or to see that special smile when I may say “YES” after they may had heard “NO”

I am beyond distraught and I am heavily burdened with the onus of realizing I AM old and “here”, and they ARE young and “there”

My heart is so very, very heavy

I stuff my tears down deep to appear strong for my child  

I see my child suffering and in pain and there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that I can do, to ease his way  

Hashem, please help all of us to carry this intense heavy burden of loss without any additional hurdles. Please — without delay —— allow healing of our spirit and healing of our hearts as we begin to accept what we cannot change 

Adonai, we beseech you to allow us, the grandparents, to be strong for our children, to be stalwart for the sake of the other grandchildren and yet to be kind to ourselves in our own grief 

May we all find, in due time, the strength to move forward with kindness, patience and tolerance

G—D, please grant menuchah nechonah — a true rest, to my grandchild and may he soar ON the wings of Shechinah




Rabbi Laurie Dinerstein-Kurs, I am from Brooklyn, currently living in NJ.  Having originally learned about Taharah as a yeshiva student, I knew I would participate as soon as the opportunity presented itself.  I have participated in doing Taharah for almost 30 years.  I am currently the ROSHA of our chevrah.  When not doing Taharah, I taught school – up until I retired and went back to school and became a chaplain.  I held the Federation position of County (Mercer) Chaplain for 15 years.   Married for 46 years, our two children have blessed us with grandchildren.






Taste of Gamliel registration is still open. Join us for the conclusion of this webinar series with the theme The World To Come – Do You Have Your Ticket?


The series includes five sessions. All sessions are recorded and available to those who are registered; signing up at any point in the series grants access to all of them.  


The final session in this series will be on May 15th, and features Beth Huppin. The session is 5 pm PDST/8 pm EDST.


Free, with a suggested $36 donation for the entire series to help us defray the expenses of presenting these amazing webinars.


View the program titles and speakers by clicking here (http://jewish-funerals.org/taste-gamliel).


Register HEREhttp://bit.ly/1PvJ5kw.




Now Online: information about the 14th Annual North American Chevrah Kadisha and Jewish Cemetery Conference, to be held in Lexington, MA Sunday to Tuesday, June 5-7, 2016. Register here (http://bit.ly/1OyNu34).

Check online for information on almost anything you might want to know. Click here to register now. Read more about the conference and our plenary speakers. Review hotel and home hospitality options. Look at the direct flights to Boston.



Gamliel Institute students (past and present) are also encouraged to attend the conference and plan to remain for an additional day (through mid-day/lunch Wednesday) following the conference for a live educational program we are calling Day of Learning. During the conference, we will be celebrating the first group of graduates of the Gamliel Institute, and looking forward to the next cohort. Immediately following the close of the conference, we continue with learning specifically geared to Gamliel Students. We have as our instructors for this fabulous closed session series of Text study opportunities Reuven Kimmelman on Kaddish, Eddie Feld on Psalm 49, and Ruth Langer on Tziduk Hadin. This will be an in-depth, informative, and inspirational program! Mark your calendar, make your plans, and register to attend now! The class is free to Gamliel students, but donations to help us offset the cost are very welcome.  Please RSVP to David Zinner info@jewish-funerals.org to let us know to expect you.   

And please visit our website for Gamliel Institute information, and look over the amazing Gamliel Student projects posted there at Gamliel.Institute.





Please Tell Anyone Who May Be Interested!

Fall 2016:

Gamliel Institute Course 5, Chevrah Kadisha Ritual, Practices, & Liturgy (RPL) will be offered from September 6th, 2016 to November 22nd 2016. The focus is on practices and all ritual and liturgy, excluding Taharah & Shmirah (which are covered in Course 2). Please register, note it on your calendar, and plan to attend.

You can register for Gamliel Institute courses online at jewish-funerals.org/gamreg. A full description of the courses is there as well. For more information, visit the Gamliel Institute website, or look at information on the Gamliel Institute at the Kavod v’Nichum website.


Please contact us for information or assistance. info@jewish-funerals.org or j.blair@jewish-funerals.org, or call 410-733-3700, or 925-272-8563.



Donations are always needed and most welcome. Donations support the work of the Gamliel Institute, help us provide scholarships to students, support programs such as Taste of Gamliel, and many other programs and activities. You can donate online at  http://jewish-funerals.org/gamliel-institute-financial-support or by snail mail to: Gamliel Institute, c/o David Zinner, Executive Director, Kavod v’Nichum, 8112 Sea Water Path, Columbia, MD  21045. The Gamliel Institute is a 501(c)(3) organization, and donations may be tax-deductible. Call 410-733-3700 if you have any questions or want to know more about supporting the Gamliel Institute. You can also become a member (Individual or Group) of Kavod v’Nichum to help support our work. Click here (http://www.jewish-funerals.org/money/).



If you would like to receive the Kavod v’Nichum newsletter by email, or be added to the email discussion list, please be in touch and let us know at info@jewish-funerals.org.

You can also be sent an email link to the Expired And Inspired blog each week by sending a message requesting to be added to the distribution list to j.blair@jewish-funerals.org.

Be sure to check out the Kavod V’Nichum website at www.jewish-funerals.org.



Sign up on our Facebook Group page: just search for and LIKE Chevra Kadisha sponsored by Kavod vNichum, or follow our Twitter feed @chevra_kadisha.


To find a list of other blogs and resources we think you, our reader, may find to be of interest, click on “About” on the right side of the page.There is a link at the end of that section to read more about us.



Did you enjoy this article?
You'll love our roundtable.

Editor's Picks

Latest Articles

More news and opinions than at a
Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.