Wednesday, January 11, 2017

More on mourning: not for the faint of heart

The thing about doing the split-personality charade is that there comes a time that you just can't do it anymore.

There is just Too Much Heaviness in my life to "put on a happy face". I can't. I'm mourning. It's so heavy, I can hardly bear it. But yet, I am bearing it. My friend and spiritual healer Miriam Maslin says that I have gone through worse. I can remember being in worse situations, but the edge wears off. Hashem protects us from recalling that edge as time wears on.

I am on the edge of crying, or am deeply crying every day. I didn't know how hard this was going to land. I'm of course talking abut my friend Sabrina's passing. I think, also, because my father was here when she passed away, I had to stash my feelings away for the time he was here so I could be with him. Oh, and he was sick with pneumonia. Then, the day after he left, we went away for a Shabbat for a batMitzvah of the daughter of close friends... and I locked up my mourning box for that, too, of course. I can't charade anymore, though. I'm not really making it by faking it. Not for this.

This is paraphrased from a letter I wrote to my friend/spiritual healer:
I miss Sabrina so much. We were very connected, and she was in my thoughts all the time. All the time. I visited with Tessa the other day, that was great. I saw Sabrina's necklace on her, and I could barely keep myself together for her. I took that necklace (along with her other jewelry as well) off of Sabrina after she died. I told Tessa I took the necklace off her mommy. She was excited about that, but then asked me why I didn't let her do it. Ummm, ya. 
Sabrina was such a complicated person, and could be thorny sometimes. I stayed with her because of my own commitment to myself that I won't leave her alone no matter what, but she sometimes seemed to push people away. Still, she was so funny, and so real. I was intertwined with her, enmeshed with all she went through. And I understood all her intricate medical problems, and saw them all-- infinitely worse than mine. There is a huge hole in my life. It hurts so much. Even though we both knew she was dying, knowledge doesn't soothe emotions. I didn't expect to crash so hard. I'm sure it doesn't help that I am also mourning my mom who passed away six months ago, as well. Actually, there are some connections there........
I need to live, though. I need to get out of bed, I need to get back to the gym, I need to live. I don't feel that life force running through my veins these days. I feel either hurting, or numb. I just don't want to do anything. Yes, that explains how I feel- the life force is quieted. I hesitate to say any stronger word than quieted.
I plan on having a few sessions with my former therapist again. Although not much can be done about mourning except to go through it. You just have to do it. Like most things in my life, though, when it hits, it hits HARD. I feel crushed under the weight.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

All day today I spent preparing my son Ya'akov (16) for his hernia surgery tomorrow. We had the appointment at the hospital for the pre-surgery check-up, and all day he was asking me questions about what to expect. I have to balance my answers with equal measures of "don't worry, it really is small, and very different than my hernia surgery", and "yes, it will hurt when you wake up, you may be nauseous or throw up, I understand you are scared...." I can explain all aspects of going under anesthesia, what it looks like, feels like, everything. Rationally, with extensive knowledge, I hope my preparations ease his mind and not the opposite.

Under the layer of the words I am telling him, I wonder if he knows I am Very Scared about this. He's joking that he will die tomorrow (you have to know Ya'akov to understand his joking). He saw me go through the Flesh Eating Bacteria after my hernia surgery, he saw the countless complications and surgeries thereafter... the lawsuit... my health decline. I am trying to be strong for him, but I crumpled in Robert's arms the other day because I am so scared about putting him through this.

Tomorrow (Thursday the 12th) at 4pm Israel time. 
Ya'akov Ariel ben Sarah Rachel. 

Oh, and did I mention I am barely sleeping? Seems the sleeping pills no longer work on me. It's a whole other post actually. Pretty awful. Makes pain much harder to tolerate.

Yeah, things kinda suck.
But only with the existence of dark can light be known... I'm trying to be patient.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017


The opening paragraph of my book is planned to look something like this:

I really wanted that baby. I wanted to get pregnant and give birth again. I felt that there was a soul flying around in my universe, needing to land in my family. Being a doula, I needed another chance at getting birth right, after having had a c-section with my last baby. I was looking forward to a positive birth experience that would repair the last one.
In time, the very essence of the words “repair” and “birth” would take on entirely new interpretations. I planned, I prayed for what I wanted. What I now realize is that I did receive repair, and I did receive birth, but only my Creator could teach me those concepts in the way they were tailor made, and intended for me.
I had a plan. As far as I was concerned, it was 100% foolproof. I had no reason, in my small scope of living, to think that things would turn out differently..... 

That's the opening concept... that I wanted another baby. That was the reason I had the hernia surgery.
Along with mourning all I lost to NF after the hernia surgery, I had to mourn not having that other baby. There was no way in the world I could physically or emotionally bring another baby into my family at that point. I know, I have four *amazing* children, and they are true blessings and each one an incredible soul. But mourning what you didn't have doesn't cancel out what you *do* have. Kind of like having a healthy baby after a cesarean section when you had planned a home birth. Yes, I was *of course* happy to have Azriel, and that he was healthy after the crazy birth we had to go through, but I had to mourn the home birth I hoped for. So, too, I talked in therapy about that baby I had prayed for, what it meant to me, how I can move on anyway, and I learned to put those feelings safely away.

What I didn't know is that there was another level of mourning waiting for me regarding that fifth child. It seems I am doing that now. I was ready and willing to adopt Tessa. I loved her mother, who just passed away. I was taking care of Tessa a lot the weeks before Sabrina passed away. It was hard for me, I was giving my all, and exhausting every emotional and physical resource to do it. I was also trying to take care of Sabrina, driving her to Tel Aviv for her appointments, visiting, errands. But I had it in my mind that I was ready to adopt Tessa if things turned out that way. Sabrina had chosen someone else to adopt Tessa, and that me and my family would be "back-ups" if something with the first choice arrangement didn't work out. During those last few weeks of Sabrina's life, I really got to know (and deeply admire) the person who Sabrina chose. We had some very deep heart-to-heart talks near the end, of course. I had to know where she stands, and she had to know where I stand.

It's just that I thought I stood in a different place. I assumed my kids did, too.
Turns out I really couldn't give Tessa everything she needed, while giving my own children what they need as well.

Turns out that what we learn from our kids is *always* our tikun. Once again, they taught me what it means to mother them.

And thank Gd Tessa's soon-to-be adoptive mother is able to make the difficult changes her life will need to take Tessa into her home, and they have a very wonderful relationship. I will still be in Tessa's life, of course. She'll always know where I am and that my door is always open to her. I'll be a loving auntie.

But right now my heart hurts. I am again mourning. Honestly, it's been so tough. Mourning Mom has been more real-time with my father here. And of course Sabrina's passing is so fresh. Then there is also this other little person who, for a few weeks, I thought I'd be bringing up... well I'm mourning the plan of that. It's so interesting how children show us exactly what they need. All we have to do is listen. They are a little piece of Gd that way, you know?

"Mother these souls. The ones I've already given you. 
I heard your prayers, I saved your life. 
I've cradled you in my palm."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

Thank Gd my father is indeed recovering from the pneumonia. He is starting to get a little stronger as you can see in this picture from our walk outside today.

Tomorrow is his last full day in Israel... Thursday is their flight home. I'll miss him, and I'll also look forward to quiet. I really, really need quiet more than anything these days. Quiet to rest, to write my book, to mourn, to heal (will I ever heal?).
One important concept I am learning to incorporate is that mourning is not depression, that there is a very clear distinction. That is somehow comforting, right?

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Not seeing the light on Chankah

My dad caught pneumonia. Although the weather is warmer here than in New York, there isn't a concept of central heating in Israel, and the houses are not built with insulation. The cold here is bone-chilling cold because of that. We have heaters in every room, but the house itself is not heated centrally. When he arrived, we all had a flu. He got that bug, and it went into his lungs. I took him to the doctor yesterday. They took blood tests and an x-ray to confirm. He's on antibiotics and is doing inhalations. He's very, very weak. Please Gd he'll get stronger when the antibiotics kick-in.

I'm watching other functions of his also deteriorate as a result of being ill. A little more dementia, a little less aware of the here and now. The appearance of his first bed sore.

A few days ago I brought him to visit some childhood friends on a kibbutz about an hour away. These are friends from his Zionist youth movement (Hashomer hatza'ir) in Brooklyn. Both friends were thrilled to see him, you can imagine- all in their mid-late 80's like my father. But, one recently had a stroke and couldn't communicate and kept falling asleep. The other is recovering from an aneurysm, and although he can communicate, he wasn't "all there". He's in a wheelchair and has catheters...
In that circle, my dad seemed spry.

Why do people have to deteriorate so much before they die? It's awful, and it scares me. Not the dying, the deteriorating.

I watched Sabrina pass away over a week's time. It was a tremendous fight for her, nothing about it was peaceful. Those vivid memories will fade with time, I hope, and only leave me with the good ones.

Death has been accompanying me, yet I am quite alive.

A great toll has been taken on me emotionally, though. I feel on the precipice of a huge depression.
I am doing my best to push it away, though. I need the light of the Chanukah menorah to give me hope in this darkness.

fifth candle of Chanuah tonight
Please Gd strengthen my father.
I couldn't bear to lose him any time soon.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Profoundly Sad

She's gone.
My friend of fifteen years passed away this morning.
Sabrina Karen
Shoshana Chaya
We buried her at 4:30 PM.

after chemo about a year ago

She's gone.
she was 45 years old.
The last time I lost someone my general age was in college; my friend who was hit by a drunk driver.
I've been in the cemetery so many times,
walking those pathways. Following Sabrina's body being wheeled to the grave site;
it just wasn't a right scenario.

Remember, there are no caskets at Israeli burials. You see the body in front of you wrapped in shrouds, draped with a velvet cloth and a star of David. That's all.

Just six months ago I buried my mother. I'm mourning her still, many times a day.

Sabrina fought the ravishes of aggressive cancer. She fought and fought and fought and fought.
"Tessa is in good hands.
We got her.
You can let go."

At 12:15 this afternoon, I took my right hand and closed her eyes for her.
Eternal rest. You deserve it, Sabrina. You rest now.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Psalm 23

Monday, December 12, 2016

Too Much.

I haven't been able to write because of life getting really heavy and scary of late. Not with my health, but that of my friend Sabrina, who's daughter I often help to take care of. Sabrina is very, very sick, and her daughter (6 years old) needs taking care-of, full-time by someone else. We pray it's a temporary decline in Sabrina's health, but there is no way to know until you know. That "someone else" to take care of Tessa has been me. I have also been trying to take care of Sabrina and get her what she needs, she is living alone, and I am very worried about her. This all weighs very, very heavily on my heart, as well as  the hearts of my kids. It's been a helluva week.

My kids are going through a very hard time about it, too. Thank Gd they are very expressive and verbal, and I have raised them to speak whatever they need to say to me, no matter how they perceive it may make me feel.

They feel that because I have been sick so much in the past 9 years (practically speaking all of Azriel's memory, and most of Shifra's life), they don't get me for themselves as much as *they* need; taking on another child isn't OK with them. They told me (separately, in different words) that they never know when I will be sick or unable to take care of them, and they feel insecure in my consistency. Guess what? They are right. I know you are all nodding your heads.

In the meantime, neither Sabrina or Tessa has other family. We are their people. (not only my family, there is another very loving family also helping take care of Tessa). Sabrina needs help and she is presently living alone in her apartment. I will do what I can to help her get the help she needs.

But I am fraying at the edges emotionally. 

It's all been way too heavy for me, and I've been paying that price. There is a reason I am not working as a doula anymore. I don't have consistency and strength to give. I wish, more than anything in the entire world, that I DID.

In the meantime, my father and his aide are coming HERE on Wednesday from New York!!!!!!!!!!
They are staying for three weeks. It's very exciting!!!! I pray that his health and strength will hold up, and we can have some quality family time. I'm nervous about how he'll do on the flight, but thankfully his lovely aide, Nina, will be by his side the whole time. She was my mother's aide, and after mom passed away in late June, Nina decided to stay on and help my father. We are so grateful for her. So now I have to clean the two rooms downstairs that they will be sleeping in...

My CT scan was inconclusive for major problems in my hurting thigh joint. It pointed out a few lesser problems (liver cyst, ovarian cyst, structural deterioration in my hips and back bones at the bottom), but we didn't get a definitive answer about the thigh joint pain and occasional fever.

My doctor agreed with me that we should be looking at the diagnosis of endometriosis.

Endometriosis is very painful.

Although my symptoms point to it, is is clinically undiagnosable without laproscopic surgery, (which I plan to avoid). My doctor told me about a new endometriosis clinic in a hospital in Tel Aviv where I have an appointment to go to in January. They opened a whole wing of a hospital for it. Thankfully my health plan already OK'd payment for it, which was not a given, because I don't have a solid diagnosis in this case. My doctor (I'm talking about my GP here) told me they have ways of lasering the wayward endometrium, as well as other new techniques to help with the disease without operating. In my case there is a lot of scar tissue adhesions in the same area, so it may be complicated. As long as I am having this level of pain, and the fevers half the month. I need to try to get help. It seems like I always need to try to get help.

BTW, the endometriosis is connected to the NF like almost every health problem I have now. How? Well, the scar adhesions in there are mainly from NF, and endometriosis (uterine tissue growing abnormally outside the uterus) is attracted to scar adhesions. It hides under them. Also the appendicitis (may or may not be related to my immune system problems after NF), and another procedure I had to have years back because of the effects from the NF damage in my life. That procedure, in a very small percentage of women, can lead to endometriosis (we just found that out while searching the two words together... these are the things nobody tells you beforehand.) I would have never needed that particular surgery if the NF hadn't changed my life so drastically.

I keep hoping that I will be able to move on.

My health has been marked for a lifetime of problems. I now have fairly frequent chest pains, but my doctor says it doesn't seem cardiac. It doesn't make it hard for me to breathe, just, uncomfortable chest pain, like something heavy is on me. I, personally, think it's stress. I think I am so, so stressed out with what is going on with Sabrina and Tessa, and so worried, that I am taking it all inward. I have duly notified my doctor about it, and if it's still there in a few weeks (the chest pain) we'll do an x-ray.

I am definitely overwhelmed with life.
I'm not sleeping well. 
I am working to find balance.

On the bright side, my migraines are TONS better. I am on a new migraine medicine now for about six weeks, and haven't had a bad headache in about a month. I am supposed to take a bit higher dosage of the migraine medicine, but I am keeping it at a lower level for the time being, if it works, it's better for my liver and kidneys to keep to a lower dosage.

OK, I have to go. I have a deadline to meet in writing a story for a brand new magazine! It's a magazine for Jewish women who are dealing with chronic illness. Hmmmmm, we know anyone like that?

With my father coming on Wednesday, no telling when you'll hear from me again. But I'd love to hear from you! Leave me a message on the blog. Thank you! XOXOXO

taken last week at Dov's yeshiva in BatYam (near Tel Aviv)
Ya'akov couldn't join us, unfortunately.