Why No Mourning for a Stillborn? ­ Article ­ BINA

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Why No Mourning for a Stillborn?

by Rabbi Aron Moss

Question:
 
Why don't we observe mourning customs for a stillborn? A friend recently lost her baby full term and was told there is no funeral, no Kaddish[1], no sitting shiva[2], no yorzheit[3]. Are we supposed to pretend nothing happened? Why not acknowledge the loss and mourn as we would for any other death?
 
Answer:
 
The loss of an unborn baby is a terrible tragedy, and of course it needs to be acknowledged. But it is not the same as losing a child (G-d forbid), and so it is not mourned in the same way.
 
Jewish mourning customs serve a dual purpose. They help the departed soul on its journey to the next world, and they help the mourners come to terms with their loss. 
 
The soul of the departed has a difficult journey. After being in this physical world it has to now adjust to the other world, the world of souls. Similarly, the mourners have to adjust to a new reality, a life without a loved one who is no longer among us.
 
By sitting shiva, reciting the Kaddish prayer, studying Torah and observing the yorzheit every year, the mourner helps elevate the soul of the departed to higher places of rest, and helps himself, by channeling the void created by loss into positive action. It is a comfort to both the living and the dead.
 
None of this applies to a stillborn. Their soul never fully descended into this world, never truly entered the physical realm. A stillborn soul didn't make the crossover to this world, and so doesn't need our assistance to cross back.
 
So the first reason for the mourning customs, to help the departed soul, does not apply to a stillborn.  Neither does the second reason, to help the mourners deal with the loss. It can't be called a loss, because we never had it in the first place. We were not given this soul, it never entered our realm. It is sad, it is hard, it will take time to heal. But it simply cannot be compared to the loss of a loved one.
 
This in no way negates the pain experienced by parents of a stillborn. Each individual has to deal with the tragedy in their own way.  But they should not to feel guilty if they eventually move on. While it is proper and good to perpetuate the memory of a departed soul and keep their presence with us always, it may not be so for a soul that was never among us in the first place.
 
All souls come from heaven. Some never really leave heaven. Such souls don't need any assistance to get back home.

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[1] Prayer recited by mourners
[2] Seven days of mourning
[3] Observance of anniversary of passing

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