I’ve lost my faith – but my hus­band has his

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE -

QMY HUS­BAND is very re­li­gious but, af­ter los­ing my mother, I’ve lost what faith I had. I used to go to shul with him ev­ery week, but now I don’t see the point. Should I be a hyp­ocrite and go just to keep him happy? I’m wor­ried about caus­ing a rift in our mar­riage if I tell him how I feel.

AI AM very sorry to hear of your mother’s death and its im­pact on you. Los­ing a loved one is, for most of us, the sin­gle most up­set­ting and un­set­tling life ex­pe­ri­ence we’ll ever have to en­dure. For some, re­li­gious be­lief and prac­tice will be a com­fort and a help — and, in fact, a study pub­lished in the BMJ in 2002 found that peo­ple who pro­fess stronger spir­i­tual be­liefs seem to re­solve their grief more rapidly and com­pletely af­ter the death of a close per­son than do peo­ple with no spir­i­tual be­liefs.

But, as in your case, a be­reave­ment may also make us have a cri­sis of faith, ques­tion­ing the ex­is­tence of any higher power and re­ject­ing the way we’ve lived our lives up to this point. We may also feel an­gry, es­pe­cially if the per­son we’ve lost has suf­fered, and want to lash out at some­thing. Or we might just feel that we want to push re­li­gion away be­cause it’s use­less and fu­tile. Of course, los­ing your faith is also a type of be­reave­ment, so this is mak­ing things dou­bly hard for you.

From the sparse de­tails in your ques­tion, it’s not clear ex­actly what as­pect of your mother’s death has prompted you to lose your faith. It sounds like your re­li­gious be­lief has never been strong and that you were go­ing to sy­n­a­gogue mainly to please your hus­band who is more ob­ser­vant than you. Were you, on some level, go­ing to sy­n­a­gogue to please your mother, too? Or do you feel that your link to Ju­daism has died with her? Many peo­ple in­herit their faith, as well as re­li­gious tra­di­tions, from their moth­ers — lit­er­ally in Ju­daism, which passes down the ma­tri­lin­eal line. Or is it some­thing else? Are you feel­ing an­gry at the way she died, or the sup­port she re­ceived be­fore her death?

It is not my place or re­mit to give you re­li­gious coun­sel. But I can tell you that it’s hard to un­tan­gle spir­i­tual ques­tions from the many con­flict­ing emo­tions you’re likely to feel dur­ing the griev­ing process. It is now fairly well ac­cepted that there are stages of be­reave­ment, among them shock, anger and ac­cep­tance, and you may go in and out of them, in no par­tic­u­lar or­der. So, what you’re feel­ing now may not be how you are feel­ing in a month, six months or a year’s time.

You say you’re wor­ried about caus­ing a rift in your mar­riage if you tell your hus­band how you feel, but I’d be more con­cerned that you’ll cause a rift if you don’t.

Your faith, or the lack of it, is deeply per­sonal to you and it’s im­por­tant that you talk to him about your emo­tions and your cri­sis of faith, and that you’re hon­est with him. Bot­tling things up will serve only to com­pound your grief and cre­ate dis­tance be­tween you, at the time you most need him.

If go­ing to sy­n­a­gogue is mak­ing you feel worse, then you shouldn’t force your­self to go, and cer­tainly not just to please him. If he loves you, he will be un­der­stand­ing. But go­ing will not make you a hyp­ocrite. In my opin­ion, go­ing to sy­n­a­gogue isn’t just about be­lief, it’s also about be­ing with your com­mu­nity. And that might ac­tu­ally be a help to you. If you don’t want to join in with the prayers then you could use it as a time of quiet con­tem­pla­tion to re­mem­ber your mother. If you stay at home, alone, do you think you will feel bet­ter or worse?

Have you talked to any­one about your feel­ings? If you re­ally think this isn’t some­thing you can dis­cuss with your hus­band, then think about con­fid­ing in an­other rel­a­tive or close friend.

Or if you’d rather talk to some­one who doesn’t know you, what about hav­ing some be­reave­ment coun­selling? The Jewish Be­reave­ment Coun­selling Ser­vice can help with both your grief and its im­pact on your re­li­gious faith. Call them on 0208 951 3881 or con­tact them via: en­quiries@jbcs. org.uk

There is also the char­ity Cruse Be­reave­ment Care (www.cruse. org.uk), which of­fers free, con­fi­den­tial ad­vice and in­for­ma­tion for any­one af­fected by be­reave­ment. You can call their helpline on 0808 808 1677. Please re­mem­ber that you won’t al­ways feel this way.

Do you agree with Hi­lary? What ad­vice would you give? We’re keen to hear what read­ers think and will print some re­sponses on­line. Con­tact Hi­lary with com­ments or with your prob­lems via email at agony@thejc. com, anony­mously or not. Or write to her at 28 St Al­bans Lane, Lon­don NW11 7QF

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