Consolation: The Spiritual Journey beyond Grief

Consolation: The Spiritual Journey beyond Grief

Consolation: The Spiritual Journey beyond Grief

Consolation: The Spiritual Journey beyond Grief


In this, his sequel to the best-selling The Jewish Way in Death and Mourning (over 350,000 copies sold), Rabbi Lamm helps mourners not just get through their grief, but also grow through it. He gently steers mourners on the path that allows their sorrow to teach them important lessons about life. And he shows consolers how to listen and speak with their hearts so that they can provide real comfort to others.

His marvelous insights on the days of shiva, the year of kaddish, and the lovingkindness of others reveal the richness and true purpose of Jewish mourning rituals and customs. They prepare us to receive consolation and ready us for the journey that will take us beyond grief.

His "Words for a Loss When at a Loss for Words" is a treasury of readings for finding and giving comfort by transforming the spiritual ideas of an ancient faith into contemporary language. Here there are stories and fables that illuminate our complicated lives, meditations from the depths of human experience, and a gallery of unforgettable images that speak to our souls during times of loss.


When I wrote The Jewish Way in Death and Mourning I did not fully appreciate the depth of Judaism's relationship with grief, and I assumed that the laws of mourning were self-explanatory. But now, older and I hope wiser, I understand much better the subtleties of our mourning laws and rituals and the comfort they can bring. I also now know the difference between comforting and consoling, and I have come to a disturbing realization: I have not satisfactorily consoled a single mourner during my entire rabbinic career.

How do I know this? Because I finally realize that there is no effective consolation without God's intervention, that real consoling is beyond the capability of mere people. To comfort is human; to console divine. That is why the traditional Jewish farewell is: “May God console you.” In other words, “May God console you because I cannot do it by myself.” This belated and jolting realization is the first reason I had to write this book: to enable me at long last to help mourners find their paths to true consolation.

Second, in my pastoral work I have seen time and time again that most mourners just want to “get through it,” they want to “just suffer and then let it go,” “make it go away,” “get back to myself.” For most of us, mourning is something to be endured, and we are thankful when it's over. We don't entertain even a fleeting thought that bereavement could be an enriching experience, even as it is a sorrowful and often tragic one. Instead, we become passive spectators of our own pain, and we see our grief period as a spindly mound that we must climb over. When our hearts are shattered, we aren't interested in deriving spiritual teachings from the experience. I hope that my book will help mourners not just get through their grief, but also grow through it.

Third, most of us believe that it is our moral duty to console mourners, but we perform this duty mindlessly: stammering a hello, rambling through a good-bye, and then just glad to get out of there. We prepare . . .

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