Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Dear Readers:

As many of you know I recently lost my beloved husband of 41 years ( almost 42 years). It was so sudden, so traumatic, that I really needed outside support and therapy to get back to myself. (I am still a work in progress.)

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I wanted to share with you my dear readers, what helped me the most. Focusing on the brochos that I have. Instead of catasrophizing the situation, I tried and I continue to try to thank Hashem for my brochos. Of course what happened was awful, but I am trying to focus on the positive in my life to help me cope with this awful tragedy. We cannot choose the challenges and tests that Hashem sends our way. We only have control of how we handle those challenges.

Victor Frankel, a famous psychologist who survived the Holocaust and wrote Man in Search of Meaning, talks about how people make choices by the way they react to situations. Being happy doesn’t mean you have it all. It simply means you’re thankful for all you have. We all have challenges; some are wrapped in black garbage bags, while others are wrapped in clear garbage bags. Those that are wrapped in clear garbage bags are more apparent to the world and often more humiliating to us. We all want to try to make a good impression on others, therefore it is really difficult when we are challenged with situations that are clear to the world.

Sometimes, it is easier to deal with the challenge that is hidden behind a black garbage bag. On the other hand, we often get more support for those challenges that are clear and obvious to the world. People who seem to look amazing and put together sometimes struggle with very deep issues that no one knows about and thus get very little support and empathy from other people.

When there is a challenge like my own, where everyone knows that my husband was niftar, it is very difficult. However, the amount of support and love that came my way was unbelievable. I received support from people that I knew cared about me and they really came through. Then there were those people who didn’t even know who I was, but just were giving me support because I was an almana.

I found some amazing organizations that were reaching out to all widows, who lost their husbands, to cope with their loss. It was just an amazing outpouring of love. Mi ke’amcha Yisroel! Just yesterday, I got this beautiful huge cheesecake, stunning flowers, and a book on Rebbetzen Jungreis, and I thought to myself, wow this organization knows that I’m an almana, they don’t know who I am and they sent this to every widow.

Then there was this man who has a fish and meat concession in different stores and called me, like he called all almanas, to take whatever they need for free. He was a chassidishe man from Williamsburg. What a baal chessed! He tried to reach out to all widows, to help us in this terrible time of need. I think that even though it’s been a very challenging time, there has been so much love pouring out from the frum community, from my friends, from my acquaintances and even from people I haven’t spoken to in over 40 years. These people have reached out to me and made me feel better.

My greatest comfort really came from old patients. Phone calls from Israel and all over the world from people who told me how amazing they were doing and how I helped turn their lives around. “Dr. Respler you changed my life. I’m doing amazing.” And I thought to myself why did I have to go through a personal tragedy to hear all this nachas?? But believe it or not these calls gave me the most comfort. I know that helping other people is the greatest gift in the world. Giving to others for many of us is the greatest feeling. When we give to someone and we feel we helped someone else, there is no better feeling in the world.

Suddenly I’m in a different position, I’m in taking position. It is really difficult for someone who’s used to being in the giving position to suddenly be put into the taking position. However, I think it’s also humbling. It’s important for me to learn that by taking, I’m giving other people. I am giving other people an opportunity to also feel good about giving to me. What I can show them is gratefulness. Gratefulness for being there at a time where I need them so much. So I’m telling you readers think about this. We are in the cycle of life. We give and we take. Most emotionally healthy people want to be in a strong position where we’re giving and helping other people. We all want to be in the position where we’re on the giving end. I’ve learned that those challenges that are wrapped in clear garbage bags are more apparent to the world and often more humbling to us. So dear readers, in a time where we all live with complete uncertainty be strong and have faith in our true father in heaven, Hashem. Hatzlacha!!!!

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Dr. Yael Respler is a psychotherapist in private practice who provides marital, dating and family counseling. Dr. Respler also deals with problems relating to marital intimacy. Letters may be emailed to deardryael@aol.com. To schedule an appointment, please call 917-751-4887. Dr. Orit Respler-Herman, a child psychologist, co-authors this column and is now in private practice providing complete pychological evaluations as well as child and adolescent therapy. She can be reached at 917-679-1612. Previous columns can be viewed at www.jewishpress.com and archives of Dr. Respler’s radio shows can be found at www.dryaelrespler.com.