On October 7, I didn’t spiral. Like all Jews, the last seven weeks have been torturous to live through. But had October 7 happened a few years ago, I would have now been in the mud, clawing my way through a deep depression, trying to find a reason to live. Years ago, the slightest hiccup in life would send me spiraling into an abyss of darkness, unable to function in my day to day life. Now, amidst the worst atrocities in modern Jewish history, I stand loud and proud with my people, soldiering on. Despite the pain, uncertainty and heart wrenching moments in my life, I stand tall, feet firmly grounded, with God by my side cheering me on.
Over a decade ago, I thought my life was over. I had given up on myself, God, Judaism and the world. The life I was living had no meaning to me and I no longer wanted any part in it. Growing up was tough for me. I now understand that I was raised with childhood emotional neglect, which I interpreted as how Hasidic Judaism was for everyone. I was raised with strict religious standards I didn’t want, value or care for. I was taught to fear God, stay on the straight and narrow or wind up in hell. Being Jewish felt like a curse, an unwanted burden that I was forced to carry. I despised my people, my land, my religion and even God. I dumped it all and ran with the wind. Life was smooth sailing until a wave would hit, leaving me gasping for air, trying to regain my footing. The smallest things would send me spiraling out of control, back to rock bottom, starting the journey over again. I suppose you can say I am a fighter since I always climbed back to the peak. (Funny enough, I love hiking to peaks in real life!) At the summit, I would enjoy the breathtaking views, until another wind that knocked me out.
And so it went, up and down, again and again. Every time I fell, I would try some new therapy, treatment or return to what helped me in the past. But, the spiral was always looming ahead. I joined Makom, a branch of Jew in the City for former and questioning Hasidic Jews looking for a positive connection to Judaism. I did discover so many new and positive parts of my heritage and my community through Makom. But the spiraling always came back. That is, until I was introduced to the idea of inner child work, a concept of parenting the hurting child parts of yourself to achieve wholeness. As a Makom member, I developed a close relationship with Allison Josephs from Jew in the City. She’s the one who first mentioned this concept to me. I was surprised to never have heard about it. After almost a decade of psychiatric/psychological treatment and therapy, this was completely new to me.
So I dug in, head first! And boy did I need to dig deep! Through this work, I have uncovered excruciating hidden pain that has been buried for years. Memories I didn’t know existed emerged, its ugly claws scraping my insides. I had to confront the devil face to face. But this time it was different. With inner child work, comes “Good Mother Messages” — the messages every child needs to hear or feel from their attachment figure. The messages Allison discovered are spread throughout Jewish sources, when God speaks to us. They are, “I see you, you can rest in me, you can turn to me for help, I delight in you,” and more.
I learned how to parent and nurture myself through my pain and devastation. I learned how to say “I love you” and “I’m always here for you” — words I never heard growing up — and sit with my hurt. Then, I hit gold! One evening, while sobbing through a particularly rough memory, I had a moment where I felt God embracing me and telling me those “Good Mother” messages Himself.
As clear as day, I could feel His love, support and unconditional care. I reached out and held on tight. I leaned in, relishing in the comfort of His arms, internalizing His words. “I’m glad you’re here”, “I love you”, “Your needs are important to me” and “You can rest in me.” Over and over I heard these words. My heart felt complete, a balm to my soul. These are the words I’ve never heard and so badly needed to hear. Hearing it from God healed a part of me I didn’t realize was so broken. It helped me tap into my deepest hurt and heal from the inside out.
This groundbreaking inner child work coupled with my newfound connection with God has given me a new lease on life. I can now access God and His love and comfort whenever I need it. When my life gets tough and I feel like I’m breaking, I now have the ability to sit with the pain, comfort myself or turn to God for help. I am my own anchor, bringing myself to shore when the tide comes in. God and those nurturing messages are the pillars that keep me strong amidst the roughness.
To be a Jew in a post October 7 world is excruciatingly painful. But thanks to Jew in the City’s Makom branch, I can now sit with my pain as my God holds me. And that has made all the difference. Jew in the City is having its Annual Campaign now. Please support their lifesaving work.