Over the last little while I have been wondering if the time has come to stop writing for Still Standing. It has been 3.5 years since a rare cord accident took away my Gabi at 32 weeks. She was the baby that we thought we could never have and in the words of one medical professional, the baby we never deserved. At the moment of her loss, my life was no longer under my control. I was there to support my wife Rachel through her 22 months of deep depression from the loss of Gabi. After Rachel’s death, I was in basic survival mode trying to keep myself above water in my role of a single parent.
I am no longer in that dark place anymore. I am remarried and I have been able to slowly rebuild my life. Friendships that I have been hanging on to for dear life during the darkest days have backed off and given me the chance to get back on my own two feet.
A few weeks ago, we had to make a major purchasing decision. As with other purchasing decisions we sat down and did a cost/benefit analysis. At the end there were two very different choices without a clear cut winner. I responded that “I want that one”. I wasn’t just look at making a purchase from what I needed, but a focus on what I want. It was a reminder that I can have wants and desires when figuring out what I need.
Those who know me well and those who have been following my story see how much better I am doing. For some of them they see this as a sign to break away from the burdens of my past and focus on the future. However, it is for that very reason that it is important to share my story. For those of you whose loss is fresh, I want you to know that there is a path that you can follow. It is filled with obstacles and challenges, as well as people who will tell you that you are not moving fast enough. The grieving process is a path the needs to be experienced and with it you have the potential to rebuild what is broken. It will not take away the ugly scar but it hold you together.
There is a second and more important reason to keep writing. Although my life is clearly on the right path, there is still pain as I work through certain challenges that I often don’t let those around me see. With my found safety and security allowing me to exit that basic survival mode, emotions that I had been forced to bury away have reimerged. Earlier this year, I decided I needed to work through those difficult feelings in order to get myself better. I was diagnosed with depression from acute trauma as well as PTSD. Through medication and therapy I find myself on the right path. I know I can be successful but I also know that it is going to take a lot of work.
How to handle trauma is not just a life lesson learned from losing our children. A few weeks ago I was out taking my dog for his evening pee. Out of nowhere the air raid siren went off. We quickly aborted the bathroom break as we ran up the two flights of stairs in order to get to our sealed room. My wife, 10 year old daughter and 3 dogs sat in the room for the required 10 minutes as we were trying to figure out what had happened. After some time it became clear that what had intially been reported as a false alarm was actually a rocket attack directed toward our little city of close to 100,000 people. That night fear and concern set in for those who had experienced the sirens and for those who had heard about it. We all were begining to feel the reality of the potential danger we could be in.
The following night the air raid siren sounded again. This time the tone was different. Our first reaction was, “Here we go again,” as we quickly made our way to the sealed room for the mandatory 10 minutes. Attitudes started to to change as people were using humour to help take the edge off of the fear and danger we are in. Facebook groups like “Bomb Shelter Selfies” emerged for those who lived in older buildings and require the use of a community bomb shelter. There were jokes about what to wear when going to the bomb shelter in the middle of the night, as well as potential embarrassing situations that could arise depending on sleeping preferences. The city of Sderot has been dealing with rocket attacks for years, and had developed a song with actions for Kindergarten kids. It encompasses EMDR (a technique used for the treatment of PTSD) principles to help the kids deal with the trauma.
Despite all of the joking around, we do know the seriousness of the situation. We know our boys are dying in order to stop the rocket attacks and make our lives safer. Some funerals have been attended by between 10,000 and 30,000 people. We know the fear is real. If we let the fear take over our lives , we will just sit around all day waiting for bad things to happen. Despite fear and trauma, we have to find a way to go on with our lives even if those fears cause us to change our approaches to everyday life. So far we have been lucky with only having to experience 10 air raid sirens and only one of those was in the middle of the night. We are still aware that whenever we go somewhere, there is the potential of another siren and in the back of our minds we have a plan of the correct way to protect ourselves.
When tragedy strikes it destroys our world. It is almost impossible to see beyond the pain, hurt and shock of such an unexpected change in our lives. It is natural to want to quit. It is natural to feel like you’re living your life on your basic survival instincts. Although, that isn’t really true because even eating, drinking, sleeping or getting out of bed in the morning can feel like impossible tasks. It is okay to live like that for a period of time. Hopefully, there will be friends and family to help hold you up during that initial shock.
Then, at some point we are faced with a decision. Do we let the fear and pain take over our life or do we live our life to its fullest, carrying with us the inspiration of those who cannot be here to enjoy it with us? I miss Rachel and Gabi. I think they would be much prouder with having their memories inspire me to be a better person and make the world a better place than having the pain of their loss destroy me.