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August 28, 2014 / 2 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Anger Management’

A Mother Remembered: A Year Later (Part I)

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

It’s been a year now since my mother passed away at the age of 98. In my writings, I try to focus on better ways to understand family dynamics, how to deal with our children and become better parents, spouses and friends. I believe most every event we experience in our lives gives us something to learn from. Even more so, I have come to believe that events we cannot make any sense of when they happen have some potential to make us better people – including those we deal with on a regular basis: our friends, children, parents, etc.

In this two-part article, I would like to share some of my memories of my mother, and to connect those memories to learning about better relationships.

I hesitate to say that my mother was a very special woman. Not that it isn’t true, but rather I don’t want to minimize the millions of other mothers who are, or were, special to their children. Thank G-d my mother had a very full life – a life of giving to others and caring about everyone. As this year of aveilus (mourning) comes to an end, I can’t help but reminisce about the good and bad times, the happy and the sad.

My mother was born and raised in the state of Georgia and my father in Germany. I remember growing up in Georgia during the days of segregation and learning from my parents to look beyond the popular beliefs of the time and see the good in all people. I remember our nanny who practically raised us and how my brothers and I loved her as much as she loved us.

I remember my maternal grandparents (and the impact of never knowing my paternal grandparents who were slaughtered in the Holocaust). They were extraordinary. For as long as I could remember my grandmother was an invalid. In those days they weren’t sure why she couldn’t walk, but I remember hearing that maybe she had multiple sclerosis. I remember how my mother used to go over to my grandparent’s home on a daily basis to assist my grandfather and the caregivers. I remember being in the third grade and moving in with my grandparents for almost six months while our house was being built. Years later my parents had added to our home and my grandparents and my mother’s aunt came to live with us. As a child, I never realized how much of a strain this was on my parents.

The love between my grandparents was something rarely seen, even today. My fondest memory is seeing them sitting together in front of the television, my grandfather in a large comfortable chair and my grandmother in her wheelchair, holding hands. It still amazes me that I can’t remember them ever arguing or raising their voices to one another. Every day my grandfather would put my grandmother in their old Studebaker and they would go out for a ride. And their love encompassed others – I always felt special when I would go with them.

When we were very young my father managed an abattoir (slaughter house) for a Jewish family in the small city we lived. After the plant closed, my father began working as a traveling salesman. My mother was always busy with us boys, and shopping and taking care of her parents and aunt. She never complained, and even found time to volunteer in our small Jewish community. Life in a small southern city wasn’t easy. My parents always struggled. Yet, somehow, I remember them always being there for others. Whether it was my grandparents, our extended family, my father’s employees, colleagues or family friends, everyone seemed to come to my parents if they needed help.

As a teen, I was always curious and searching, though I didn’t know what I was searching for. At some point I told my parents I wanted to go to military school. Though they couldn’t afford it, they borrowed the money and I went to military school for my last three years of high school. It was there that I became very curious about my yiddishkeit. My parents identified strongly with Judaism, but we had very little real knowledge. My early life was surrounded by prejudice and racism, yet my parents always stressed the importance of equality. With the help of my religious paternal aunt and uncle who lived in New York, I enrolled in one of the only yeshivas for boys without a background in Judaism on the day I graduated from high school.

I remember calling to tell my parents after I met my eishes chayil, and how they totally accepted her and her family before even meeting them. They insisted on making a vort (engagement party) for us in Georgia. Oh, what memories. Until her final day, my mother took great pride in calling my wife “her daughter” – as she used to say, she loved her as if she had given birth to her.

Are You A Caterpillar Or Butterfly

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

Have you ever seen pictures or a video of a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly – what a miraculous site, truly a confirmation of the Creator constantly at work. The caterpillar itself starts off as an egg and transforms into the larvae or caterpillar. Then the amazing transformation continues as it develops into the most beautiful butterfly. Another testimony to the spectacular wonders all around us..

People also undergo transformations. As a child, we speak, think and act like a child. As a teenager we speak, think and act like a teenager (whatever that means). As an adult, how do we speak, think and act? Is there a natural transformation, a metamorphosis over time for people in how they think, feel and act? This is a very philosophical question; however, it has great ramifications for our day-to-day functioning. Likewise, it serves as a starting point for how we relate to and treat others.

In fact, how we view ourselves has a direct influence on how we act. Our sense of self, our self-judgment, also referred to as our self-esteem, has major effects on our functioning capacity. Fragile self-esteem, which most of us tend to have, causes the many ebbs and tides of feelings and ability to control our emotions and actions. In a book entitled Psychological Trauma and the Adult Survivor: theory, therapy, and transformation by Lisa McCann and Laurie Anne Pearlman, they discuss how trauma victims often view themselves as if their inner sense of themselves and their world is disrupted. As in most therapies, they describe how the transformation of the sense of self is developed through a new reality that is both adaptive and safe. This is but one understanding of the importance of therapy as a means of counsel and personal growth.

So many of our clients hesitate to seek help. For some it seems to be natural to deny the need for help – for as long as possible. As they say, “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” That’s basically trying to convince yourself that if “I think its not broken, its not broken.” To seek help one has to first come to terms with and accept that there is a problem. Such acceptance is in itself anxiety producing and painful. As much energy as denial takes, admitting a problem could take more. How many times do those in psychological pain scream out, “Leave me alone”? Sometimes this is truly a sign of their depression, but other times it’s more a sense of being overwhelmed and in pain.

I often ask my clients, “What’s the difference between spending and investing?” What do you think the answer is? To seek help, to recognize the need for therapy and counselling, one must understand the significance in these two concepts.

Think of this question in terms of money. To spend means that we take the money, give it to someone else for the purpose of acquiring something on a temporary basis. Why temporary? Because everything we acquire is temporary. If we buy food, we eat it and it’s gone. If we buy clothing, we wear it until we are tired of it or it wears out and it’s gone. If we buy a large item like a car, or even a home, it depreciates and that part is gone. When we spend, we know that at the end of the day, it’s gone. However, to invest means that we give money for the purpose of, and in the hope, of walking away with more than when we started. That’s the intent.

Therapy is the same idea. If the client comes to spend time with me, they walk away spending their money and have nothing to show for it. When they leave the therapy room, everything is forgotten. They spent their time and now “on with life.” However, the client who will invest time in therapy will leave with more than they came with. This client thinks over what was realized in therapy, uses new insights and skills from the therapy session and comes back to the next session ready to acquire more than before. The client who benefits most from therapy is the one who can invest in the time they spend with the therapist.

Back to the caterpillar and butterfly… The metamorphosis from the egg to the butterfly came up in a therapy session with a 13-year-old boy last week. You ask how that could be! Well, this boy has been coming to see me for about eight months. Emile is an interesting boy. He lives with his single (divorced) dad. He has suffered much emotional distress and loss in his life. However, at 13 he would rather not be in therapy but playing with his friends; or should I say fighting with his “friends.” Emile has many social and learning problems. He has had great difficulty focusing, be it on schoolwork or socializing or listening to his father. However, over the past eight months their relationship has certainly changed. Emile has had an amazing transformation. I say amazing, because one of Emile’s interesting characteristics is his resistance to change. Actually, he is resistant to looking closely at himself, his sadness and the conflicts in his life. It has been an interesting journey as Emile’s resistance to the therapy sessions has certainly reduced while at the same time he still refuses to deal with emotional issues. He can totally shut down when delicate issues, like his mother, come up. In fact, Emile’s father sits in on each session to “help” keep Emile on track. His father is very dedicated to Emile while, at times, he gets very frustrated with his son. The frustrations extend to wanting to prove his love, to getting Emile to listen to him, to getting Emile to accept responsibility for his actions at home, school and in the community.

Celebrating Jen

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

What a beautiful woman.  Really – in every sense of the word.  She was beautiful in appearance, beautiful in conduct, beautiful in spirits and wow, what a beautiful mother, wife and daughter.

There are so many people these days who ask the question “why do bad things happen to good people?”  This will not be the focus of this article.  Rather, I would like to share with my readers the essence of a remarkable person.

Jennifer was niftar (passed away) at the age of 39 after a thirteen-year battle with cancer.  According to her doctors, she should not have lived those thirteen years, but Jen had other ideas.  Jen was my niece, my wife’s brother’s youngest daughter.  It was almost thirty years ago, though it seems like yesterday, when our families got together in Niagara Falls.  In my mind’s eye, I can see Jen jumping up and down on the bed.  In fact, I believe we even have a picture of her doing so, somewhere in one of our many albums.

Jen was a fighter who would not take “no” for an answer.  She knew what she wanted and went after it.  She fought the fight of life, against all odds.  In doing so she leaves behind a remarkable legacy.  She met her husband when she was 31.  Because of her cancer treatment, it was suggested that the only way they could have children was by harvesting her eggs and using a surrogate mother.  Jen’s life reflects challenges with rewards.  When the harvested eggs did not take and the surrogate mother could not become pregnant, they decided to apply for adoption.  The adoption agency was overwhelmed with the wonderful traits of Jen and her husband and they soon became the proud parents of a little girl.  Shortly thereafter the surrogate mother became pregnant with the last harvested egg and they became the proud parents of a little boy.  Now they had two infants five months apart.  The children were her life and for her everything revolved around them.  In fact, when Jen went into the hospital for the last time, though she was already critically ill, she insisted on being able to leave in order to take her daughter to school for the her first day of kindergarten.  That was the kind of parent she was.

Why am I sharing this story with my readers?  Because Jen deserved the tribute and you deserve to gain from Jen’s story.  Her loss is our loss and her attributes should become our attributes – that of living a better life as a better spouse, child and parent.

Jen loved music.  At her funeral, her sister, a doctor, remembered her through Bette Midler’s song “Wind Beneath My Wings”.  How appropriate these words are as they reflect Jen’s love of others and of life.

 

“So I was the one with all the glory,
while you were the one with all the strength.
A beautiful face without a name for so long.
A beautiful smile to hide the pain.

Did you ever know that you’re my hero,
and everything I would like to be?
I can fly higher than an eagle,
’cause you are the wind beneath my wings.”

 

One of my favorite old songs is “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon and Garfunkle.  I can’t help thinking of this song as I remember Jen.  Hers were the attributes of love, being there for your friends when times get tough, relationships and caring.

 

“When you’re down and out
When you’re on the street
When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you “

In her death, Jen’s attributes can be a lesson for each of us.  Here are some of the descriptions of Jen given at her funeral.  She should be a mentor for each of us:

 

  • “UNSTOPPABLE.  And this, of course was the theme of HER life.”
  • “She came to my side and got me out of trouble on a regular basis….and this was the theme of OUR relationship”
  • “No hurdle too big for her”
  • “Gives you the shirt off her back”
  •  “Love and pride of her family”
  • “Thinking of others”
    • “Fun”
    • “Determination, tenacity, and her will to slay the dragon”
    • “Conviction, drive, determination, and inner strength”
    • “Persuasive in getting what she wanted”
    • “Message of love and a physical representation of hope, beauty, and pride”
    • “Confidante”
    • “Tenacity”
    • “Great mother”
    • “Didn’t question the wonderfulness of being here on earth”
    • “Celebrated life and fought for it like nothing you’ve ever seen”
    • “We all learned to live each day to the max and celebrate EVERY occasion”
    • “To know, know, know you is to love you”
    • “Fought a valiant fight”
    • “It is what it is.”
    • “Knew how to live life to its fullest and taught everyone else around her how to do just that”
    • “Her kids were her number one priority. Family was number 2. After that she had a long list”
    • “The key lesson that Jen taught us was to always try and not dwell on what is wrong with your life, but what is right with it. To plan your life and live it to the fullest, just like she did.”

 

“Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity.” –Henry Van Dyke.

My hope for my family, and you, my readers, is that you will be inspired by Jen.  Learn to love like Jen did. Love your children, your spouse, but equally, and maybe more so, love yourself.

 

Mr. Schild is the Executive Director of Regesh Family and Child Services in Toronto, Ontario Canada.  He is certified as an Anger Management trainer and conducts many therapeutic workshops.  Regesh runs many programs helping families and youth dealing with personal and family issues in their lives.  He is currently open to speaking engagements.  He can be reached at 416-495-8832 extension 222 or eschild@regesh.com.  Visit www.regesh.com.  See our second website specific to our enhanced anger management clinic at www.regeshangerclinic.com.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/parenting-our-children/celebrating-jen/2010/10/20/

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