How to Cope with Losing a Father?

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At his father’s funeral yesterday, Ilan* could hardly concentrate on the eulogies being delivered. Instead, the lanky tenth-grade Boys Town Jerusalem student closed his eyes to try and call up pictures in his mind of how happy his family once was, just two short years ago. Yet his mind only showed the cold, painful blank of a shattered world.

“Ilan has been in terrible emotional turmoil for well over a year”

The trouble had come out of nowhere when Ilan’s father began bursting into loud, vicious, repeated outbursts of anger. This young man who had been an amiable husband and father was now transformed into a monster who tortured the lives of his wife and children. Eventually Ilan’s mother demanded that she and her husband separate, and his father moved to the north of the country. Although the children missed their father, their mother forbade them from contacting him for fear that he posed a threat to their wellbeing.

With the main breadwinner gone, the family’s financial situation plunged into near-poverty. As time went on, the children took out their frustration and anger on their mother in very ugly encounters. Recently, however, the unthinkable happened: Ilan’s father was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, which had been the cause all along for his drastic personality change. He returned to his home and family, but his condition quickly deteriorated. Unable to care for her husband at home (to her children’s anger), Ilan’s mother moved him to a hospice. His death was long and agonizing.

“His teachers are all aware of his complex situation and give him understanding and support.”

“Ilan has been in terrible emotional turmoil for well over a year,” said Principal Yehudah Rosencrantz. “His teachers are all aware of his complex situation and give him understanding and support. The social worker and I are in constant touch with his mother, making every effort to help reconcile the painful differences between the two. Fortunately, Ilan frequently comes to talk with me and discuss his feelings. He also found a welcome ray of light in the extracurricular activities (fully subsidized) that we arranged for him to attend.”

During the funeral, Rabbi Rosencrantz and other Boys Town Jerusalem faculty were close by Ilan’s side. Throughout the shiva mourning week, his teachers and classmates will come in small groups to Ilan’s home to pay condolence calls. “Once he returns to school, we’ll be with Ilan as he recites the mourner’s kaddish prayer each day. Most important, we’ll try in every way to turn Ilan’s thoughts to how much he has to live for, now and in the future.”

*not his real name

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