Tuesday, November 25, 2014

My Coping Skills

On Wednesday, November 19th, the day following the synagogue massacre in Jerusalem, there was a news headline that announced Police Make it Official: Intifada 2014. No one needed a PhD in political science or criminology to understand that here in Israel we’re in the midst of another Intifada. Just walking down the street and seeing pedestrians tense whenever there’s any suggestion of unusual noise is enough of a clue. We seem to be back in the mind set of dreading to hear the news but at the same time not being able to ignore it. We’re beginning to instruct our loved ones to call us as soon as they get there. And we’re weighing carefully whether it’s even worth it to try and get there. All signs that life is not as normal as we’d like it to be.  

Still, as I wrote in We Don’t Have Another Land (Nov.12th), we got through this before and we’ll get through it again. I remember in the beginning of the Second Intifada every time there was a terror attack all I wanted to do was sleep. Obviously, it was an escape tactic but it was one step away from depression and I knew I had to do something to fight my low. I didn’t solve my problem overnight because my fears and concerns were very legitimate. Rather I reviewed a number of coping techniques I had learned during the First Intifada.

First of all, I understood it was okay to admit I was scared and worried. That didn’t mean I was a coward, rather that I had sense. It was important to talk about those feelings with others I could trust.
I also knew that I needed to find a way to relax and escape every so often. Some of my friends were able to listen to music. Others watched movies or went to exercise classes. My relaxation was going to a neighbor for a massage. Giving myself perks was important, too. Sometimes it was a candlelight dinner with my husband. At times I bought a new book by one of my favorite authors. There was, of course, shopping and eating therapy but I tried not to overdo it. Humor and laughter were also essential. There were times it was close to impossible, but usually I could find something to make me smile, even if it was nothing more than an old Erma Bombeck column.

It was important to work on my faith. I told myself over and over again that whatever HaShem does is for the best even if I couldn’t understand why He was doing it. Books and Torah lectures on this theme helped reinforce the idea. I concentrated more and more on the words of prayers I said and I prayed more often.

It wasn’t enough to talk about my emotions. I also found it helpful to write about them. Others told me they gained encouragement from my writing and that helped me feel positive.

I couldn’t ignore all the terror, deaths, and injuries without feeling I needed to “do something”. Prayers for the wounded were definitely needed. And so I began collecting names, the first names of wounded and their mothers’ names, but no last names so I could protect their privacy. Every week I sent the names out to hundreds of email recipients all over the world. I updated those names on a regular basis making dozens and dozens of calls.  How heartbreaking it was to remove a name because someone had succumbed to his injuries. How depressing to receive the same news week after week that there was still no improvement. How wonderful to be able to take someone off the list because they’d fully recovered. As the Second Intifada slowed down my list came to a halt. One Family was doing the same work and there was no need to duplicate services.

I’ve continued to use my coping skills over and over again. When I first learned of the Fogel Massacre on that horrible Saturday night over three years ago I was devastated. The following morning I was home alone with my grief and wondering why none of my friends were calling me. They knew my son, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren were the Fogel’s neighbors. Didn’t my friends care how they were dealing with the tragedy? I got my answer when I went to the clinic for an errand. Everyone was devastated, even those without a personal connection to the Fogels. Sharing my emotions with my friends in the clinic was a step in my healing process.

That afternoon I babysat my grandchildren so my son could go to the funeral. It wasn’t easy. I felt if my almost four-year-old grandson told me one more time how sad it was that Elad, H’yd, his friend in nursery school, was killed I would scream. But I didn’t scream. I continued to hug him and love him and wish I could take all the evil out of his world. And I felt as if I was able to “do something”.

The next morning I made my way to the Kotel. I cried my heart out as if I was in my Father’s arms and turning to Him for comfort for all the pain, anger, terror, and grief. Then I was finally able to stop crying and begin praying. From there I went to Torah classes and received more emotional support.

Once home I began writing. I’ve written several articles about the Fogels. It still pains me to think of how Elad, his parents, brother, and baby sister were stabbed to death while sleeping on, what we thought, was a peaceful Shabbat night. However, I can now look at the picture of Elad from my grandson’s Chanukah party and not cry. 

Now that we’re in this new Intifada I do not intend to give into it. I plan to lead my normal life but be as alert as possible and carry my pepper spray. I know I need to talk about my fears, find ways to “do something”, write, relax, laugh, learn, and pray.

I used my skills again after the kidnapping and murder of the Naftali, Gilad, and Eyal, H’yd this summer. I used them over and over during the war. I continued to use them as Chaya Zissel Braun, Karen Yemima Mosquera, Jedan Assad, Almog, Shiloni, Rabbi Avraham Goldberg, Rabbi Moshe Twersky, Aryeh Kupinsky,  Rabbi Kalman Zeev Levine, and Zidan Sif, may HaShem avenge their blood, were murdered. I pray I will never have to use them again.


Shelly said...

Esther, as always you succeed in describing events and the emotions evoked. You put it perfectly, we need to continue our lives, and we need tools and faith to do so. It's still hard, but we continue and don't let them defeat us. I had a moment today, when I was walking in Pisgat Zeev and suddenly an Arab driver pulled on to the sidewalk right in front of me. Apparently he was just making a delivery, but as he drove onto the sidewalk, my heart nearly stopped. And then I just walked on and continued what I was doing...

Ester said...

What an experience, Shelly! Baruch HaShem it ended ok.

Batya Medad said...

I can relate, Ester, my blogging keeps me sane.