I was home after spending the day in the hospital. I had held my baby girl Gabi for the only time. I had seen with my own eyes the knot in the umbilical cord that took her life at 32 weeks. We had met with the hospital social worker. The hospital psychologist had also been called in that evening. My daughter Channah was sleeping at a friend’s house. The little bit of baby stuff we brought into the apartment, including the stroller we bought 4 days earlier. had been made to disappear. I was home all alone.
That night was a mix of crying and calling a friend to receive comfort. I gave myself that night to grieve, for I knew there were dark days ahead. I had no choice. I had to be the rock that held my family together. For the next 22 months I stood by my wife Rachel’s side as her battle with depression took control of our lives. The last two weeks of her life, she had been able to break free long enough to have her life end with some happy memories.
You can hold onto a rock as the waves of depression try to drown you. You can kick them, scream at them and they will not move. No matter what you do, they will still be there for you to rest against. Rocks are not soft. They are not cuddly. They can hold you together but they don’t offer comfort. I became that rock.
After my article last month, I was contacted by a friend who told me that people would be shocked at how bad struggling through life was. The time period from the morning Gabi died until my wife Rachel’s death 22 months later was really incredibly hard. I still have nightmares that would make the latest horror film look like a Disney Movie in comparison.
That left me wondering why would people not know how difficult life was? It wasn’t that we hid that things were bad. At times, we were even criticized for sharing too much. While we asked for help a lot at times, we also didn’t ask for help because we felt we had asked for too much already. Was it the natural process of grieving after a tragedy, where those not immediately affected by the loss moved on and then wondered why we didn’t? Did I push away or not ask for help from people who were there and ready to offer their support? Did I get angry at people who wanted to be there for us but couldn’t because of their own difficult struggles?
A short time after Gabi’s death there was another tragedy in our community. It wasn’t someone I knew anymore directly other then than I had been an occasional customer of their family business. Their teenage son was killed when Hamas decided to fire an Anti-Tank missile at the school bus he was riding. As the last one off the bus, he was the only one killed in the attack. Some time later, we asked a friend who had some type of relationship with the family, how the family was doing? They responded that they didn’t know. The family had been through such a horrible tragedy and they had pulled back in the beginning. The friend expressed that she does not know how to just walk in to their lives again after such a tragic loss, when the friend took a step back from the loss, but was now ready to offer their support.
People grieve in their own way. People who have to live with their grief day in and day out don’t have the same luxury to just walk away for a few hours, days, weeks or months. When facing your own personal grief, the casual acquaintances will run away and hide, sometimes forever. Those who care about you and love you will be there to support you as best as they can. They are there even if they seemed to have completely walked away. Sometimes you need to remember to ask and sometimes you need to just let them in.
I have seen death both as a warm baby girl curled up in my arms and in the cold body of a person who was a key part of my life for more than half of it. I have seen friendships broken because of my grief. I have also seen caring, kindness, generosity and love waiting to take the sting out of life’s rough patches. Either up close or at a distance people have been there for me. Either up close or from a distance I know those people will never realize how much they have done.