Widowhood as a Single Mom

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The hardest thing I have ever done was when I had to tell my five year-old daughter that her father had died.

They had a special relationship. She adored my husband and looked up to him as a role model for everything. The moment that I was forced to tell her that he was gone- I can’t describe how excruciatingly painful it felt.

My children were not present the moment we lost him. My incredible sister took my children to England, and I was in Austria with my husband when he passed. I then went to Israel for the funeral, and spent part of the shiva there as well. I had time to practice in my head what I would say. How I would tell them this horrible news. But all that I had practiced could never have prepared me for the reality of those words coming out of my mouth.

As I watched my daughter’s face turn red with anger, my heart broke into a million pieces. Knowing that he was in a coma for three days before he passed, she stormed and raged, “No! My Abba is just sick in the hospital! He cannot be dead!!” It took her a long time to process and accept the news. It took me even longer to understand it myself.

I will never forget the moment that can never be undone.

I was drinking cold water on the porch. My mother entered and gently said, “I’m so sorry, sweetie. Yonatan has passed away.”

I didn’t believe her. I said it over and over, while I was absolutely stunned. I could not even process the information enough to cry.

The first time I really began to understand was my first Shabbos back in England, after it was all over. It was Friday night, and the impact of the fact that I was suddenly all alone hit me like a ton of bricks. I was overwhelmed with anger; fuming at my husband for leaving me alone with the kids. Wondering if there was something we could have done to prevent this. Overwhelmed with the idea of raising our kids, without him.

So now I am a single mom. The challenge of caring for my kids alone, while grieving for my husband, is difficult to put into words. It is such a lonely existence.

Practically everything becomes more complicated now. I now carry the job of two people, by myself. I can only be in so many places at one time before everything gets tangled up in a mess. The other day my son developed a high fever and because I had no other recourse I called Hatzalah. I don’t have a spouse that can run out to the pharmacy, or help me bring him to Terem, while one of us stays behind watching our daughter. The stress of trying to be in all places and all times makes my head spin.

The nighttime is the hardest. The utter loneliness of sleeping alone in an empty bed. I miss the feeling of safety and contentment that came with being married. The knowledge that no matter what, there will be someone next to you to share the burden of life. To be there for you when you need help. To love you unconditionally, as you experience the world together.

He was my best friend. I miss him more than I can explain. I wish that I could wake up from this whole nightmare and have it just be a bad dream. What I would give, for the chance to do it all again. Unfortunately, for myself and my children, this is our new reality from which we cannot wake up.

For now I take comfort in my family and friends who are there for us. We lean on those who love us, and are grateful for the amazing support we have received.

My daughter still cries for him. She asks me, “When will Moshiach come?” – hoping that he will return when we all reach our ultimate redemption.

In response I assure her, “Soon. Very soon, my love. Keep believing and you will see him again one day.”


Aviva Ben-Zev/Rosenbaum is a widow, a mother, Jewish Modern Orthodox woman living in Rehavia Jerusalem. She has bipolar. She loves traveling and exploring the world/nature She loves baking, cooking, Starbucks, and binge watches Netflix. Her kids are the light to her day.
To follow her mental health journey, follow @aviva_mania on Instagram.