By Malkie Hirsch
It’s a wonder what your body does to protect your mind and heart when a trauma happens.
It goes numb, but, at least in my case, I was able to carry on with the tasks I set out to do. When it comes to G-d and His creations, He definitely pulled out all the stops when he created humans. It obviously takes a backseat to the creation of the world at large, but really, He thought of so many different “what ifs” when He was molding us.
I sat in the shul’s coat room, which was a makeshift room to receive condolences from my shocked family and friends at Moshe’s levayah, which took place at our shul. The irony wasn’t lost on me that I was once again placed in the closet, as that was my regular seat in the original shul building, which was a converted hi-ranch house. My seat was literally in the closet, with the doors removed.
And really, who has these types of thoughts when told that her life is about to be turned upside down? But the thoughts were flying in every direction and so that was a fleeting one as I sat there, thankfully numb.
When she walked into the room, I was relieved because she’d been through the same thing many years ago, and a feeling of comfort passed over me, knowing that she was still living and doing her thing and the death of her husband hadn’t stopped her.
She pulled me into a hug and tightened her grip around my back. She whispered in my ear, “They say it gets easier, but it never does.” Her voice cracked with emotion as she said the last few words, because I know she was reliving her last few years without her husband, recounting her journey to single motherhood and self-discovery, and naturally it made her emotional and empathetic towards me and my plight. I didn’t respond to her comment. Because, as you all know, I was numb, completely devoid of emotion at that time. But that comment of hers made such a tremendous impact and I still today hear it echoed in my mind from time to time. And it’s not because she was correct in her assessment. At least not for me and my journey thus far.
On the contrary, I’m overjoyed to report to you readers that as time inches on slowly on some days, and at a rapid pace on others, I’ve come to learn that your grief becomes something you’re able to live with. It becomes the figurative amputation that you thought would deem you imbalanced for the rest of your years on earth, but then you realize that with therapy and support and a good prosthetic (a.k.a. family and friends) you can regain your balance and move forward in your life.
It’s not always easy and there are days when I can’t shake the sadness and it completely overtakes me. I hear people’s thoughts when they see me and I feel the pity, and that can slow me down at times and put me in a place I’d rather not be. But I also know that every day that I choose to compartmentalize feelings that should stop me in my tracks, and decide that today’s not the day that something this life-altering and huge is going to stop me, is a day when I actually inspire others.
I can show them what I can do and they in turn will realize that they can overcome their struggles and move forward too.
Those days — when I can feel like I’m giving chizuk to others instead of just receiving—are happy days. It’s a day when I see myself healing, getting stronger, and gaining clarity on what I have to do as a parent and how I could still be there as a friend and eventually a mentor to others going through hardships. Because although no one chooses to go through something like this, it’s what you do with the place you’re at that counts the most. How will you make a difference, how can you help others, which in turn helps you?
I won’t lie and tell you that after that comment in the shul coat room was made, I wasn’t scared of what the rest of my life raising my children would look like. In that moment, things looked pretty bleak. I understand that not everyone can do what I do, but I’m telling you right now that if you practice it bit by bit, it will change your life and its outlook.
If you’re able to take any situation, no matter how dire it is, and think of something good that can result in it, how you can be grateful for something that should leave you bitter, you’ll be a happier person, a more enlightened person, a more thankful person.
Every day that I wake up, that my kids wake up, and I realize we’ve been gifted by G-d to have another day — that’s a day to appreciate what you have. Not what’s been taken from you, but what you currently have. The only reason I think about this is because someone who was so close to us, did everything with us, someone we loved so much, didn’t have that other day. When you see something like that happen to someone in your life, you realize how precious every day is. It’s a gift that can’t be taken for granted, even though on some days, you might not feel the strength to get through the day.
When I look around at the people who are in our lives now, post-tragedy, people who have a hand at making it run on the daily, I see the beauty in a situation that you’d think is only sadness and grief.
So when I walk into a room of someone suffering the loss of a loved one, I’ll sound different than the woman who whispered in my ear on the day of Moshe’s levayah. I’ll take her hand, look at her, and say, “They say it gets easier, and it does. Time heals that impossible pain you feel now. The hole in your heart might remain for years to come, but you find a way to peacefully coexist with it and walk with it, being ever so careful not to fall into that darkness that you might want to at times because things seem like they’ll never improve. Take things minute to minute in the beginning and then increase that time to hours and then days. Be happy around your children because that will set the tone for so much in their lives. Appreciate every day and realize that it’s all a gift. Be aware that there is a plan and structure to the world that sometimes defies human logic, that we have to accept and sometimes be happy about — even when it hurts.”
Malkie’s husband, Moshe, a’h, passed away in March at the age of 40. She has been sharing her thoughts and emotions with readers on her Instagram page @Kissthekoshercook. We are now privileged to share her writings and reflections with our readership. May Moshe’s memory be a blessing for Malkie and her beautiful family.