Saying Goodbye before Saying Hello

By Rabbi Emily Ilana Losben-Ostrov

June 19th was supposed to be my due date.  My first child was supposed to be born on June 19th. As a congregational rabbi, I thought this would be perfect. I would take my maternity leave during the summer- the quiet time of the year and be back to work before the High Holy Days. However, as they say in Yiddish, Mann traoch, Gott Lauch- Man Plans and God Laughs. Except with us, God wasn’t laughing…in fact it even took me quite a while before I was able to laugh again.

My pregnancy was going relatively smoothly and then, like a Mack truck, I was sent to a specialist at the end of my 24th week. I was told by the doctor that I needed to rest as much as possible and drink a ridiculous amout of water (my words, not his). He also said that realistically speaking, I might be fighting to remain pregnant for weeks and not the remaining months until my due date. He didn’t seem overly concerned. He calmly said I might have to be on bed-rest or even hospitalized and that my baby might need to be in the NICU, but he didn’t seem to think anything worse would happen.

So, I followed “doctor’s orders” and took off from work, rested and drank a ridiculous amount of water.   I must say, that my congregation was incredibly supportive and the parents from the Religious School immediately sent over food, activity books, magazines and even flowers for me and my husband and a dog treat for our puppy. I rested and drank water, rested and drank water and rested some more and drank a little more water. I went back to the specialist the following week, thinking (and praying) that my situation had improved.

However, as you know from the title of this blog…there would be no improvement. In fact we found out that our baby’s heart had stopped before he would ever get the chance to take a breath outside my womb. As soon as I heard the news I began to cry and even wail. My husband and I cried together and then left the doctor’s office to begin making the plans for me to go to the hospital and go through labor. Without going into all the details, suffice it to say that in a period of 4 days we went from picking out names and thinking about cribs to picking out a burial place for our son.

I have been sitting in my grief and trying to find purpose. Why did I have to go through all of this? What was the purpose of all the suffering?

I do believe that we can find purpose and meaning even in difficult and tragic situations. It doesn’t make it “alright,” and it doesn’t make it “fair,” or even explain why something happens. As Rabbi Harold Kushner details in his famous book, I don’t know why “bad things happen to good people,” but I know that they do. If we can at least search for meaning in bad things it may help us to move forward- to go on with our life.

In fact, that is what my husband said to me as soon as we found out the horrible news- that we will go on. It was his way of saying, “we have each other and we’ll get through this together.” He, along with my parents, siblings, friends, congregants and even strangers have truly been there for me. I have been blessed with a truly caring community and for that I will always be grateful.

I’m still searching for the meaning in all of this loss and in some ways I may search for that meaning for my entire life. I do know, though, that one place I’ve found purpose is by sharing my story. This has allowed me to let others, like me, know that they are not alone and that they too, will get through this. And God-willing, they too will find purpose even in a tragedy.

Rabbi Emily Ilana Losben-Ostrov

Rabbi Losben-Ostrov is the Rabbi and Educator at Sinai Reform Temple ( in Bay Shore, NY.


11 thoughts on “Saying Goodbye before Saying Hello

  1. Emily, dear friend from our CPE days in Cincinnati this is a beautiful message; one that we all need to hear many times in our lives. Because others have shared their stories, you are able to share yours. Because you share your story, others will be able to share theirs. And God heals us.

    What you teach as a rabbi is not mere words or platitudes, not that which you know only in your head. You teach what you know also in your heart and by faith.

    God loves and blesses you as you know good and as you know bad and your love for God allows you to experience this.


  2. Our hearts go out to you in your time of grief. By sharing, you have made it easier for others to reach out to you. Be strong and go forward.

  3. Dear Rabbi Emily:
    As I read …tears roll down my face…I am so sad for you and your husband. You are such a beautiful person…as I am sure your husband is as well. A piece of my heart goes out to you. There is no greater loss than the loss of a child. To find meaning and purpose in tragedy has been a many a life lesson for me and has brought me great gifts. Yet it has been and continues to be a reflective struggle. I pray for you and your husband’s healing and path of enlightenment at what can be such a dark time. May you find streaks of sunshine that bring you glorious light.

  4. Rabbi Emily, your story is beautiful and lessons are in it for others. My girlfriend just had the same thing happen to her. No heart beat. I will share your story with her. You have such a beautiful heart. I am proud to know you.

  5. Emily, you are so courageous to write this as you venture out to heal through the telling of the story.

  6. Emily, we love you and are proud of all your accomplishments. It was heart-breaking for Dad, Josh, Samantha, and I to watch you go through such pain and suffering. As I told you then, we don’t know why this had to happen to your little boy, but we know that he will always be a part of our family and through him, you and Ruben will be stronger always. Love, Mom

  7. thank you for sharing your tragic story in such a beautiful and honest way. Being pregnant myself, I am now constantly uncovering and learning about women’s struggles and losses as they embark on this path. It is something that no one tells you when you first get married or think about starting a family. There is so much loss and pain amidst the stories of joy and life. May you continue to share your story and may we all continue to learn from your journey.

  8. Beautiful logo-therapy. Thank you for sharing your story and enlightening others to always find the meaning in their sufferings as well. From an amazing book titled Man’s Search For Meaning (which I recommend you read, I can gladly let you borrow it) “There is only one thing that I dread: not to be worthy of my sufferings. These words frequently came to my mind after I became acquainted with those martyrs whose behavior in the [concentration] camp, whose suffering and death, bore witness to the fact that the last inner freedom cannot be lost. It can be said that they were worthy of their sufferings; the way they bore their suffering was a genuine inner achievement. It is this spiritual freedom— which cannot be taken away— that makes life meaningful and purposeful.” Continue to Stay Strong♥

  9. Emily, what can I say… I feel you my twin sharing this tragedy in our life… I was starting 25 week when I lost my daughter. I started my blog on her supposed due date. I was desperately looking for ‘the meaning’….but I realized that I have you. Please do know that you have me, too. Love you more. And I believe our children are never lonely, playing together now.

  10. Pingback: Chai for Chai- 18 For Life-Jewish Weight Loss | kol isha

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