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How the Death of My Son Helped Me Find a Deeper Purpose in Life

We can find Purpose and happiness even in life’s imperfections and greatest challenges through the Eight Paths of Purpose.

The Eight Paths of Purpose – Finding Purpose after Grief

By Rabbi Tuvia Teldon In 1977, at the age of 25, I became a rabbi despite having sworn off Judaism after my Bar Mitzvah. I found this spiritual path to be emotionally uplifting, intellectually challenging, and spiritually fulfilling. The fulfillment multiplied when my first child, Baruch, was born. My wife Chaya and I felt secure that we had our basic Purpose in life well defined. I had studied much to understand the teachings of Judaism and Kabbalah. We were looking forward to an exciting future together, raising a family, and making a difference in our community.

But when Baruch was all five hours old, we learned he had a severe case of Cystic Fibrosis. We were told that we should expect therapies, hospitalizations, and an ongoing decline in his health throughout his short life and that his care would cost us about $50,000 a year.

We were beyond devastated. I was angry at G-d for inserting this totally unexpected and undeserved setback into my life. Suddenly, all I had were questions: How could this happen to us? What did we do to deserve this? What would happen to our marriage, our aspirations, and our future children? My sense of Purpose got a brutal punch in the stomach. Rediscovering the Sense of Purpose

It took me more than a year to emotionally accept that my son and his illness were part of our lives and to see that there was a positive side. The people we met because of him and the compassion we grew to have for people with special needs all gave deep meaning to our lives and his. He had a great personality and a captivating laugh. With time our family grew. We found peace of mind and Purpose in our new life.

But when Baruch was twelve, his condition took a turn for the worst. With his lungs failing, he became the first pediatric double-lung recipient in the country. We were filled with hope – only to have the hope shattered when he experienced a quick and massive rejection of his new lungs and died after a very short time.

With Baruch gone, I was driven to search for answers about the Purpose and find some sort of meaning in pain.

All religions and spiritual paths seek to explain life’s mysteries and adversities, but they all provide generalized answers. I wanted to know what my son’s unique Purpose on the earth had been and why tragedies like this happen to individuals in general. I became convinced that there must be something in all of our life stories that explains why we have to go through what we go through during our lives. The Eight Paths of Purpose It took me 28 years to reflect on and study this and ultimately write the book Eight Paths of Purpose. This book explains how purpose “thinks” and offers eight distinct but complementary paths we can each take to better fulfill our specific Purpose in life. As I discovered, one of these paths entails accepting obstacles, conflicts and struggles, and pain as necessary stepping stones on the path to Purpose. Here is what I learned:

We can find Purpose and happiness even in life’s imperfections and greatest challenge We all have imperfections in our lives, our own unique collection of problems. This is our custom-made “package.” No two people’s problems and imperfections are the same. They can be external in pandemics, financial difficulties, health problems, or relationship challenges. They can be internal in the form of trauma, depression, addiction, personal loss, or any of a myriad of issues. Our Purpose as humans is to view these imperfections as meaningful pieces of our life puzzle that it is our job to fix or solve. Problems can be seen as opportunities.

We often look at these problems as a distraction from our goals and aspirations in life. We do our best to get past them as quickly as possible with the hope that we can return to ‘normal’ asap. They all seem to be obstacles to what we are really in this world to accomplish. But what if we look at these problems as personal challenges we must rise to? What if we saw each of them as part of our unique package. Each of them presents opportunities to go out of our comfort zone and impact a part of this world that we would otherwise never deal with? Then we might see new ways to fix, heal, elevate or improve upon certain situations during our lives. Challenges and hardships can force us to accomplish great things.

A life of comfort with very few challenges can be very pleasant, but will we really fulfill our full potential if we take the easy route? When we view each challenge as infused with a purpose that will take us on a journey into new emotions, feelings, experiences, and relationships, we can face these events in life with much greater inner fortitude and a more confident attitude.

The unique challenges and hardships we each face help explain our Purpose in this world. Let’s take the point above one step further. If each of us has a unique custom-made list of challenges and hardships we will face during our lifetime, perhaps these events define part of the Purpose of our individual life – even why our soul came into this world to spend time here. We don’t know how our biography will look at the end of our life, but we know that the way we deal with challenges will help define our accomplishments. For me, the birth and death of my son wrote a script I would have never asked for. I would gladly rewrite the script without his illness and death. However, once I knew that this is part of my custom-made list, I have to take ownership of it and deal with it as best I can so it makes him, me, and all around us better human beings as a result. We all have a choice – to be a victim of circumstances or a person who can flow with life’s curveballs and infuse Purpose into the good, the bad, and even the ugly. The latter is much harder, but the sense of Purpose and fulfillment one can attain, even after great pain, leads to a happiness that shines from within.

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