By Hadassah Chen for COLlive.com
It was my first time. It felt awkward. I sat quietly on the couch and observed. It was the first time I found myself in a room with a group of women all of whom had tragically lost a child.
I was nervous, kept wanting to drink, to get up, to bite something. I looked carefully at the face of each woman, trying to think what their story was. I thought quietly how they all know ‘something’ I know too. We share something deep… the deepest pain of losing a child.
I had never gone to any sort of bereaved parents meeting, sessions, talks, classes. I felt like the less I knew about other people’s pain, the less pain I would feel. I felt I had enough to deal with and did not need to hear your tragic story too.
The guest speaker of the group, a lawyer from Los Angeles, spoke to us from the heart. He lost his daughter 14 years ago to cancer when she was 17 years old. He saw her dying…
The atmosphere was intense, there’s a table with some goodies and drinks. I wanted to down a glass of wine or perhaps unwrap the pink candies and eat them all. Maybe all the biscuits too! I was suddenly so hungry, a hunger that starts from the kishkes of my soul.
The speaker had some good points. I heard them and tried to focus on the paper he gave out. It felt like he worked a lot on himself to try and fight this incredible pain that came upon him.
But his words didn’t heal or soothe me at all. That was why I never had gone to one of those meetings. Each deal with pain differently. We don’t all mourn in the same way. But I give the speaker credit for speaking to us. Women who lost a child are not an easy group to address. You have to be very prepared and very confident. Let me tell you why:
The bond between a woman and a child is stronger than anything. When that is cut, there’s a sort of self-protection the woman acquires. Some kind of “G-dliness.” It’s up to the woman herself how will she use this new power within her to define her mourning and her “after the death” life that will start after.
Women are strong and smart and have a sixth sense that men don’t have. When you face bereaved mothers you have to be a wolf, strong and careful at the same time, bold and gentle, powerful yet approachable.
My daughter Nava Ruth also died of cancer, 6 years ago. She was 2 years old when she died in my arms. But why is it that I mourned in a completely different way than the way the speaker did?
Could age be the reason? Is it different to lose a 17-year-old than to lose a 2-year-old? Who knows, the void left is still there for me and for him too.
When a tragedy, like losing a child, hits a family, it takes over. Your life from that point on restarts. Everything goes back to zero. Everything is recalculated. All the data in your brains go back to zero and starts again.
You have to make it start again. It’s not easy. There are days you just want to leave all the data on zero and sleep. But you can’t. You need to start again. And then a new ‘you’ is created, one that will never be the same as the one you knew before.
The difference that made me so uncomfortable in that room was probably the fact that most of these women and the speaker too, looked like they were still in a lot of pain. I am not.
Don’t misjudge me, I’m not being arrogant and I’m not being funny either, or dramatic. I’m finally telling the truth. Yes, my delicious precious daughter left us 6 years ago. We lived a very hard and intense year with her in the hospital and yes, she died in my arms and yes, I cried until I ached.
But now, I am fine, really, and I am almost embarrassed to admit it. I chose life after Navi.
We started a foundation in her name where we try to help families who have a sick child or parent and need monetary assistance. We moved to a different apartment and we were blessed with 2 more amazing children.
I can safely say today that my daughter Navi has made me the woman I am today. I write and I am not scared to say what I feel. I am involved in lots of projects and I am inspired every day to do, to help, to give.
We mention Navi every Friday when we light Shabbos candles. With our eyes closed, we say ‘Navi, we miss you, we love you’. We say it like a little song with the kids, and in my heart, I ask her to watch over us.
I often feel I am missing something or someone when we take pictures or when we travel. I am always calling out all my children feeling that one is missing. Of course, one is! But then I smile to myself. I like to feel that at least I feel Navi’s un-presence…
I don’t cry, I don’t have pain, I am not sad.
My husband feels exactly the same way, which is shocking since we are so different – especially during the Shiva. I was all out there, he kept all the pain inside. I worried and had thought that it will come out one day in anger or bitterness and how will I deal with it. It didn’t, Baruch Hashem.
We laughed a lot, we traveled, and most importantly we loved the children we had, and we made sure to enlarge the family right away, and we so love the ones that came right after.
So at the small group of bereaved mothers back in the dining room in a home in Jerusalem, I said what I think, stood up and left. Outside, I felt the cool Jerusalem air and felt strong. Once home, I sat down and began writing a play that will be benefiting the foundation. I wrote 15 pages still wearing my coat.
I then took put a pink candy I snagged from the bereaved women’s group and ate it. I smile to myself. It was an important night…
P.S. 12 Elul is the 9th birthday of my daughter Nava Ruth OBM. Keren Nava Ruth is a nonprofit organization that helps families with a sick child. For more info, email [email protected]