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Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communites

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Dear Rachel,

I need to get this off my chest, so please bear with me. It’s been three long months since my husband and I suffered the traumatic experience of losing our long awaited baby. There was no warning that anything was wrong. Though I’d suffered some early miscarriages before, this pregnancy was normal until the very end.

But it was not to be and our full term first child was called back to Shamayim even before it got to take its first breath.

Luckily for us it happened over a weekend in which Shabbos led to a 2-day Yom Tov. Since no one in our extended families was aware we’d gone to the hospital, we had several hours of privacy that helped us come to grips with the tragedy that had so suddenly befallen us. Not for long though…

The dreaded hour came, when we had no choice but to break the sad news to our parents, and I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how quickly the word spread. Rachel, I am at a loss of words as to how to begin to tell you of my endless frustration since.

People I hardly knew bombarded us with messages asking how they could help and what they could do. Somehow, the thought that I may not be up to hosting visitors escaped them. Both my husband and I relayed in every way we could that we’d be sure to let them know if and when they were needed.

It didn’t take a day after one such message was conveyed (via next of kin) for a woman I wasn’t particularly close with to come knocking on our door. She was crying. Hysterically.  I had to calm her, to assure her that I was okay and not to take it so hard. In spite of my pain and discomfort, I must have been doing a marvelous job because my uninvited guest was in no rush to leave.

On one evening, a close cousin was over to visit. By the time she was about to leave, I was more than ready to retire for the night. As I walked my guest to the door to let her out, the doorbell rang; there stood a woman I barely knew, with a startled expression on her face. “I was sure you weren’t going to answer the door…” she managed, seeming mortified that I actually had.

I invited her in — did I have a choice? Rachel, believe it or not, she just sat there and said nothing. I was beginning to wonder whether she knew… but of course she did, for she kept looking at me with pity written all over her face. The stress of that unsolicited and unexpected visit killed my night and carried over into the following day.

A word to those who generously offer a generic “If you need anything, just call…” No, I won’t chase you. That would be more than a bit awkward on my part. Unless you are a close friend really ready to help and to make yourself available please don’t bother with empty gestures.

Then there are the women who tell me they know exactly how I’m feeling (no, you don’t!) and even have the remedy handy: “If you go back to work right away, it will help you forget…” At the opposite end, one close relative was so jittery about how to act and what to say that she decided to completely ignore the whole thing and pretend that nothing happened. Let me tell you, that sure felt weird.

Other well-meaning souls who don’t know what to say or how to react have come up with a novel (literally) solution: they put things down on paper — I mean pages of it, filled with G-d knows what. I certainly don’t and neither do I have any intention of reading them to find out. I suppose they need to unburden their heavy hearts. Well, I’m sorry to have to say that their load is too heavy for me to carry at this time.

Please don’t misunderstand me, Rachel… I’m really not a bad person. It’s only that I have no strength for the heavy-handed. A card, a brief call or short e-mail can go a long way in expressing one’s sympathy and good wishes. And yes, thankfully some of my relatives and close friends did have the intelligence and forethought to leave a brief text or message that said simply, “Thinking of you. Tell me when you’re ready to talk… I’m here for you.”

Baruch Hashem time heals and incredible organizations such as Bonei Olam and A TIME help the process along with their wonderful resources. And I must say that our parents have been amazing in their support at what must be a most trying time for them as well.

I’d like to add that a man suffers too and my husband was hurt at the lack of acknowledgment from members of his own large extended family. People seem to be of the mistaken belief that such a crisis effects mainly the wife, while in actuality a man has the double burden of dealing with his wife’s fluctuating emotions and coping with his own pain and anguish at the same time.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to vent.

Surviving, one day at a time…

Dear Surviving,

Thank you for setting us straight. As you indicate, most people do mean well. Unfortunately, some fail to realize that it is their own emotions (in this case triggered by your tragedy) they are trying to deal with, and by psychologically transferring them to you, they do you no favors (to put it mildly).

To reiterate one of your points: There is no way that anyone who hasn’t walked in your shoes can possibly fathom what you have been through. The physical and emotional ordeal in suffering a miscarriage is devastating enough and yet cannot be likened to the torment of carrying and nurturing a viable life under one’s heart for a full nine months and losing it just when the buildup of a powerful bond between mother and unborn child is set to culminate in a state of indescribable joy and euphoria.

To caring friends and family who feel the need to help: The best thing you can do is undertake to keep this young wife/mother in your tefillos daily, to beseech Hashem to grant her a speedy recovery and healthy offspring. Yes, I did say “mother” — for though the neshama she carried to term was recalled (much too soon as we see it), she has earned her title and these parents will reunite with their lost offspring at the end of time when we will gain a new understanding of His ways.

About the Author: We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to rachel@jewishpress.com or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.


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