Prayers for the Survivors of Suicide

Prayers from the heart of someone who knows.

Reflecting Out Loud

The following prayers are written in memory of my father, Lowell Jay Herman. He took his life on April 20, 2015. They are a reflection of the pain that my family & I have grappled with.

A Prayer for My Father

Adonai, darkness descended upon him;
cloaking and immersing him in a shroud of shame and sadness.
Mental illness took hold and metastasized into his soul
until he could bear the pain no more.

Adonai, we who loved him are left to navigate the murky waters, the tsunami of grief and the inexplicable pain of his suicide.
Help us not to lose ourselves in the unanswerable question of why, though it is a question we must ask; over and over and over again.
Strengthen us in the face of despair, guilt, shock, anger and overwhelming sadness.
Adonai, help us find the courage to speak the truth, his truth, our truth.

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Rabbi Ruth Adar is a teaching rabbi in San Leandro, CA. She has many hats: rabbi, granny, and ham radio operator K6RAV. She blogs at and teaches at Hamaqom | The Place in Berkeley, CA.

2 thoughts on “Prayers for the Survivors of Suicide”

  1. I just returned from my hometown for a family reunion and it was a wonderful occasion. One of the things we did as a group was to visit the Orthodox cemetery where my paternal grandparents and my father’s two elder brothers and their wives plus family members going back generations that I barely remember or don’t remember at all are at rest. One of the things I noted is the several, but few grave sites that are there just outside the fence of the cemetery for those souls who passed as a result of suicide. Sadly this includes the son of one of my father’s cousins who passed about 20 years ago. His grave site is the newest among those outsiders. To me the this is the largest tragedy visiting a gravesite of a loved one who is not given the honor of a decent burial due to the demons that insanity can cause. Insanity is a disease and needs to be treated as such with the same ending grace as those who passed from any other disease or from natural cause. To me this is a “shanda.”

    For you Rabbi Ruth I wish you and your family healing that includes healing of beautiful memories and love that your father gave you. May his memory be a testament to your family of all that you have become. My sympathy to you and yours.

    Thank you for this beautiful prayer.


  2. Sheila, I should have made it more clear: this entry is “reblogged” from another blog. The prayers were written by a woman named Deborah, in memory of her father. Her blog is absolutely on target and beautifully written: if you click on “View original” in the post it will take you there.

    Traditional understandings of suicide are shocking to us today. Jewish law on this subject was informed primarily by the understanding that suicide was an act of will; we have come to understand that often the person who commits suicide does so because they are in extremis, in unbearable pain, and are therefore not acting out of free will or in their right mind. I think it is safe to say that most rabbis will seek out some evidence that the suicide was not voluntary, so that the family will not be shamed and punished by burial outside the fence.

    Thank you so much for your readership and your kind voice!

    Liked by 1 person

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