By Malkie Hirsch
Different people approach me in different ways.
Sometimes, it’s with initial hesitation and they start by saying that they didn’t want to come over because they felt awkward or uncomfortable and didn’t know how I’d respond to what they had to say.
Other times, I’m approached with directness and am told how I impact their lives, how my writing puts things into perspective in their lives, and how thankful they are for the lessons being learned via my published articles.
What I want people to know is that whatever you have to say is always welcome. It’s always meaningful and it’s humbling to know that I can have the ability to make a difference in others’ lives, no matter what the tragic circumstance was as the impetus.
What happened had to happen and I could have reacted differently. I could have shut people out and coped in an entirely different manner. I could have done it a bunch of different ways and none of them would have necessarily been the wrong way.
There’s no manual on grief and one way is not better than another and will work better at getting through that grief. I do know that my manner is never one of isolation and for me, sharing what I’m going through helps me bring light to something a lot of people suffer through at one point or another during their lives, as death is unavoidable and suffering the loss of a loved one, while painful, is more manageable when you know others have been through the same experience and have come out of it, at times even stronger than they were previous to the loss they lived through.
Maybe that’s me.
Maybe I didn’t know my worth, didn’t realize my strength, and didn’t understand what I could do for people up until now.
Maybe this could have played out a variety of different ways but I chose the way that would simultaneously help myself as much as others.
There are a lot of maybes but there are also things I know for certain.
Whether you walk over thinking that you’ll sound silly or what you say won’t make a difference, or you walk over confidently, knowing what you want to say, it’s always helpful and appreciated. It always makes my day knowing that I could make a difference to you like so many have made a difference in mine and my children’s lives as of late.
Like my writing, I know your comments are heartfelt and coming from a place of love. No matter how awkward you think it sounds, or the fact that you precede your thought with an apology, know that it will make a difference in my life.
Know that everyone’s story is different and unique but that I learn and gain so much from people around me when I hear that they went through life experiences that seemed insurmountable at the start. Until it wasn’t and they got through it.
It can be the girl who I knew from my neighborhood as a teenager who walked up to me and told me that she went through a divorce and was a single mother, far from family, and raising kids very much alone. She met her new husband last year and relocated and wanted to tell me that she’s been in a dark place once too.
Though it’s a different loss than mine, it’s a loss nonetheless. It’s something she went through and felt like maybe it’s something I could benefit from hearing. And of course I did.
It can be the girl who told me about her father-in-law marrying a woman who lost her husband many years prior but blended their large families and celebrated Shabbos Chanukah together as one (super-sized) family unit, regardless of the short time they’ve been actual family.
It comes often and from so many people and various stories, but there are lessons in every single one. Lessons on life, lessons on surviving loss, lessons on rebuilding one’s life and starting the next chapter. Lessons on keeping your faith, remaining thankful to G-d for blessings in the face of tragedy, lessons on human resilience.
I get why it can be intimidating to approach someone who’s suffered unimaginable loss, someone who is vocal and public about her life. I don’t know exactly what made me so public with my grief. Maybe I instinctively understood: Lo tov heyot ha’adam l’vado — It’s not good for man to be alone. And while I felt alone initially, the dozens, hundreds of you who have shown up for me have made it clear that I’m absolutely not. Chanukah is not only about salvation but also about publicizing faith, the miraculous ability of Jews to see light, to be light in the darkest places. Pirsumei nisa, the obligation to publicize the light, the faith, the spark of human soul and resilience transcends pain, and connects us to each other.
When I share my struggles and nissim publicly, I want to give strength and light to others, and when you approach me and tell me you see the light, feel the light, you reflect it right back to me. That warms my soul, and kindling more strength to generate more light and I know I’m not alone. So I will keep writing, keep lighting, and you keep coming over and reminding me that we do this for each other, in a virtuous cycle of healing — regardless of the particular pain. The miracle of surviving the worst darkness is the exact theme of Jewish destiny, and the secret sauce is our unity.
Last night was the final night of Chanukah. The boys were by my sister and I sat by the table, trying to emotionally prepare myself for how drastically different the scene would be of lighting the menorah with Alana and Rosie, my voice remembering the way Moshe recited the berachos, and sang the songs.
As the flames danced before my eyes and the tears started to fall, I thought about the bakashos I wrote out on a piece of paper and placed under the menorah before lighting. I thought about how different this year was to last and how different the year to come can be to this one.
There’s a magic in possibility. There’s a magic in hope. There’s a magic in life and the road it can lead you.
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 privileged to share her writings and reflections with our readership. May Moshe’s memory be a blessing for Malkie and her beautiful family.