“Death” is a scary word. When my father died after battling an illness for eight long years, I was forced to confront it.

I was the middle child of eight, a typical 16-year-old teenager, when my life was shattered. Seven years have passed since my father’s death and I have come a long way in accepting what happened and growing from the experience.

The author, celebrating his bar mitzvah with his father at the Kotel.The author, celebrating his bar mitzvah with his father at the Kotel.

I want to share three lessons that helped me cope with the death of my father and that have made me a stronger person.

1. My father is in a better place

The Mishna states that this world is a corridor to the World to Come. We believe a person is not created solely for his existence in this world. God first places man in this world in order to fulfill his purpose in life. Once that purpose is completed, his soul returns to the World of Truth where he yearns to dwell in the presence of the Almighty.

The connection that the soul has with God in the Next World is created through the person’s choices and hardships in this world. The Next World is where we reap what we sow in this world. My father, of blessed memory, suffered immensely. He had a weak immune system causing him to get sick easily and he was legally blind. He had to call 1-800TELLME just to get the time.

A little while after his passing I realized he’s not suffering anymore! It hit me like a ton of bricks. He is in the best possible place; better than any hospital, rehabilitation center, or five-star hotel. My father fulfilled his purpose in this world and reached his ultimate resting place.

This concept will not remove all your pain, but I do believe it can provide comfort. By internalizing this idea, bringing it from the mind to the heart, it can alleviate some of the pain.

2. I am not alone

Our sages teach us that a person is created through three partners: his father, his mother, and God. Our Sages teach that if a father or mother no longer function, then God takes over their role. When my father passed away I felt completely lost. My father who took total care of me and my family was no longer with us. I often thought, How could my life go on? A boy needs his father. My mother really stepped up to the plate and continued to raise me and my siblings with love and strength. She went above and beyond what a woman should be able to do after dealing with such a loss; I am forever grateful to her. However, as supportive and loving as she was, she could not take the place of my father. No one could take the place of my father, I thought.

But looking back, I realize that God was with me during my suffering and I felt His presence then stronger than ever. Along with my incredible mother, He took care of me and provided for me. I was privileged to go to wonderful schools and really connect with some of the Rabbis who became sources of strength and inspiration. Several years later, I married the girl of my dreams and was welcomed into her family, who is now like my own.

So when you feel lonely just lift up your eyes and keep in mind that God is paying extra attention to you. He loves you and is right there by your side.

3. Springboard for growth

When my father first passed away it was difficult for me to talk about it or even to think about him. However, over time, talking and thinking about him has become a source of strength and I realized that I am in the unique position to perpetuate his legacy. He wasn’t just my father; he was my role model and teacher.

He taught me to be strong because he never backed down. Despite his many physical ailments he never complained. In fact, he was the most grateful person I ever knew. He taught us to be kind to every single person. He was loved by all, from his Rabbi’s to his taxi drivers. He never had a bad word to say about anyone or anything. He taught us to see the positive and only speak good. “You must always have a compliment to give someone,” he would often tell us. If anyone knew how to lift a person’s spirits, it was my father. Most importantly, he was a man of truth and taught us not to be blinded by the falsehood of the world we live in.

When I think about my father, I become invigorated. I feel motivated to do great things, to become someone great, to follow in his footsteps. This is how I grow from my loss. It’s also how I feel close to my father, even though he is no longer with me. It doesn’t come easy. A person must work on his willpower muscles. Take the lessons that your loved one left for you and grow from them. Push through the negative. Push through the sorrow. Be strong, and slowly but surely you’ll get there.

May this be a merit for my father, Alan Grodko, obm, Avraham Yosef ben Shraga Feivel and may his memory serve as a blessing for all of us.