San Diego Rabbi Explores 'The Blessing Of Sorrow' In New Book
The death of a loved one puts a stop on your normal life. The loss can overtake your thoughts and habits until sadness is the only thing left. It is a terrible experience but maybe somewhere within that pain is also a blessing that at least is the premise of a new book about grief by Rabbi Ben Kamen who served for several years as senior rabbi at San Diego's Congregation Beth Israel. Rabbi Kamin has been counseling the bereaved for more than 40 years. His new book is called The Blessing of sorrow turning grief into healing. Rabbi Kamin welcome to the program. Thank you very much Boraine I'm delighted to be here. You know in the world we live in. Rabbi we don't see sorrow as a blessing. It's something that we need to get rid of as fast as possible by taking a pill or something. How do you see it as a blessing. If grief is dealt with directly and openly and if certainly if we do not defer it for whatever reasons which we might be discussing as well than it it can really do some some psychological even physical damage to people if we happened to have the courage that it takes to simply let it unfold within ourselves and let us react to it. Painful as it may be it will inform our lives and that healing will be very real and satisfying because we just will have come back from this with more experience which is the point of grief for the living because grief is a blessing. If it sends us back to serve the living you dedicate this book to your father who you lost when you were 23 years old. Do you think you grieved for your father in a way that he'll do you know and I think that went with me for four decades and certainly played into my role as a clergyman with bereavements. We were totally unprepared for it. He was quite young. He was 45 and died suddenly from a heart attack. I said Explain the home I grew up in and Cincinnati Ohio was actually filled with Israeli culture. And we didn't really relate to or talk much about death but the rabbi meant well but didn't help very much because he to us a lot of really theological platitudes. And it was an incomplete process and everyone wound up withdrawing into themselves. My mother my brother my sister and myself and we really were damaged by the lack of process or the lack of awareness that should've attended our grief. Rabbi came in in your book the blessing of sorrow you outlined your Ten Commandments of grief. Can you share with us a few of the most important. I'd be delighted to. The first one is very significant to me talking about it. You're not there for your sorrow grieve openly directly and immediately. And that's not easy to do it goes against the American impulse our cultural impulse to to be joyous to be young and not to particularly pay attention to end of life issues. I write do not submit to any formula. Grief is personal and a function of family history. That doesn't mean that I anyway reject the significant help that theological structures offer in the process. But if we just submit to what is wrote and what is basically as I say formulaic we're servicing the face not servicing ourselves both can be done. And people have to be freed not only to grieve in their own way but not to be judged by anybody visiting the grieving for not doing this or that. Right. So when my father died somebody came to our house we observed the seven day shift period which was more common in Judaism than it is now. And I started reading my my mother and all of us for not covering our mirrors with cloth which is a significant and important Jewish custom but it was not particularly pickable to our family in the way we observe Judaism. Most people do well and meanwhile I guess I won't make that clear but this individual came through our house not to help us confront the grief but to judge us as to how we were handling grief. One of the most interesting of the Ten Commandments I think is the last one you say remember your dead as they plainly were. Do not make them larger in death than they were in life. I think that's something a lot of people could take to heart. In this culture and in other places as well. We talk about people who've died. I'm not saying we need to examine or develop a whole thesis about all the things that about them that made us crazy or frustrated us but the fact that somebody who's with me sometimes because remember something is to remember it in reality. And I think that's much more helpful and even healthy. Think creating a legend. No human being is a legend. He or she was a person with troubles with joys with professional ambitions and things that didn't work out so well with their own set of children and grandchildren if that's applicable. We just have to let them express their memories of the deceased because we know it's not skewed what blessings do you think you receive through sorrow. I love life. My granddaughters were. I have twin granddaughters who were born two years ago and my appreciation for them is totally life oriented of course and helping that dad. I hope I have that grieving for the dead has been a tremendous source of bittersweet wisdom for me. You see a lot of tenderness in these moments and when you are stand around an open grave with people who are burying someone very precious to them. If it doesn't humble you if it doesn't inspire you to appreciate this lives then it's not working for you. As someone who's visiting or someone like myself who's officiating. So yeah all these things that I've gone through personally I've only augmented my values my sense of what's important. And ultimately it has freed me from any fear of deaths that I've had. I've been speaking with Rabbi Ben Kamin his new book is called The Blessing of sorrow turning grief into healing. Rabbi thank you. It's my pleasure. Thank you and be well.
Coping with the death of a loved one can be difficult. The loss can overtake a person's thoughts and habits until sadness is the only thing left.
But maybe somewhere within that pain is also a blessing.
In his new book, "The Blessing of Sorrow: Turning Grief Into Healing," Rabbi Ben Kamin explores the grieving process and why it's essential to recovering after experiencing loss. Kamin, who lost his father when he was 23 years old, has been counseling the bereaved for more than 40 years.
"If we happen to have the courage that it takes to simply let it (grief) unfold within ourselves and let us react to it, as painful as it may be, it will inform our lives and the healing will be very real and satisfying," Kamin said. "Grief is a blessing if it sends us back to serve the living."
Kamin joins Midday Edition Thursday to discuss his new book and share his 10 commandments of grief.