The second stage of the grieving process is the Anger stage. Once Denial/Disbelief dissipated and reality sank in, I was filled with a combination of Anger, Depression, and Guilt. I find that the Five Stages of Grief don't always go in 'order'; Sure, first is the denial and disbelief. But you don't necessarily have anger next, then depression, then bargaining. I had a mixture of all three at once. But in my case there was no bargaining. I had done enough of that the first 9 years of my marriage. And I wasn't filled with vitriolic anger; as Jews we know that everything is ordained straight from HaShem. Yet, it's hard to swallow and it hurts. Badly.
My version of Anger was a simple, anguished sentence: WHY ME????
Those of you know me and my background story know what I went through those first 9 years. Those of you who don't, well, I'll clue you in. I didn't have children for 9 long years. I struggled with infertility, and it wasn't pretty. I had my share of ups and downs, grieving and loss and anger and all that. Then, finally, when Chaim was born, I still didn't feel whole. He was a preemie and I had to struggle through the whole preemie and therapy business. He was born by emergency c-section and never learned how to nurse. When he was 2 years old, we embarked on the infertility roller coaster once again, expecting it to take many years, and were shocked when our first round of treatment we got a positive result. Dovi was born the summer right before Chaim turned 3, and I viewed this as my chance to really experience motherhood the way it should be. He was full term, nursed like a champ, and I had a normal, non c-section delivery. Life was finally "normal" and good!
But when Dovi was 2 weeks old I became very sick. I ended up hospitalized with a very bad pelvic abscess, a story unto itself which caused me untold anguish, physical and emotional pain, and left me with lasting repercussions. I lost 40 pounds in a month, had a drainage bag attached to me for five weeks, needed round-the-clock help to manage my kids for those five weeks, and didn't feel whole and normal for a long time.
When things had FINALLY settled back down, I had the most blissful 12 months of my life. Dovi was absolutely CHARMING, CHARMING, the cutest kid you have ever seen. He blabbered, he made eye contact, he was the perfect, blue eyed child, my hope and dreams for the future. Never in my wildest dreams did I picture that my life would come to a screeching halt and I would be tossed from the tranquilly sailing ship into the turbulent, stormy sea.
I did not appreciate my good fortune. Life was so normal, so boring, so unexciting, and I was feeling 'bored'. I had no idea just how much I should have appreciated that normalcy - the normalcy I had been craving since I got married.
And then the world crashed down on me and left me shell shocked.
And I just could not understand. WHY?????
Hadn't I suffered enough already?
Why did I have to go from infertility to struggling with a preemie to having a horrible postpartum experience to a small blissful period to becoming a special needs parent - a whole new chapter in itself???
And my biggest existential question of all was: What was the whole point of Dovi's existence? He was a miracle child, a baby I never thought I would have. What was the whole point of being so sick after his birth? What was the whole point of Chaim having a sibling when the sibling wasn't someone he could interact and play with, and would only become the sibling that was disturbing his own growth and equilibrium? WHAT WAS THE POINT OF ALL THIS???
I was stumped. And angry. And confused.
And then came all the chapters you've read until now. All the running, planning, coordinating, researching, networking, being busy 24 hours a day with Dovi's needs. All that wearing myself to the bone and wondering why I was even born and why Dovi was ever born and wouldn't my life have been better of without all of this.
...until January 27, 2011, when the third blizzard of the winter hit. Dovi was in crankytown, Chaim was off for 2 days in a row, and I had just about had it. I was sitting in my kitchen on a Thursday afternoon, trying to cook for Shabbos between tears, breaking down and feeling like I was falling apart.
I headed over to my CD shelf to select something to listen to while cooking for Shabbos. In my heyday before I was a mother I was a huge Jewish Music aficionado and even started the first real Jewish Music message board (remember those days???), so I had a taste for good music. But my selection of CDs was dismally lacking; since the introduction of the Nachum Segal 24 hour music stream I had all but stopped buying CDs and nothing interested me.
HaShem directed my hands to a CD that was over a decade old: Kinesher by Camp Shalva. The boy soloist on the CD, Yoely Teichman, never failed to uplift my mood no matter how down I felt - as he had for ten years. (At that point, he was already, of course, a father of kids... but I'm talking about his boyhood voice.) As the cd sang its merry way, it reached Track 7, the song "Neshama." And I froze, paralyzed. I had to sit down and listen to the song in its entirety. I was absolutely dumbstruck, nonplussed, speechless. I could almost hear the cracking thunder and see the lightning. This was a watershed moment in my journey in the Stormy Sea; I would never be the same again.
Let me tell you the story about this song, and what it meant for me.
Many, many years earlier, when I was drowning in the deep pit of infertility, this song had come out - and I was livid, up in arms, furious at the content of the song. The story is about the soul of a righteous man who arrived to Heaven after his 120 years, confident at his day of reckoning that he would be sent straight to the Garden of Eden. To his shock, however, because he had once hit another person without remorse, his soul was considered blemished and he had to be punished. He was given a choice: a year in Gehenom or come back into this world again. Of course, the soul chose a year in Gehenom rather than go through an entire grueling lifetime. But as he began walking to the fiery gates of Hell, he couldn't handle the intense heat and changed his mind; he wanted to come back down to earth. He had one stipulation, however: he wished to be born without any hands - or was it arms? - so that he wouldn't even have the chance to repeat his mistake. His wish was granted, and now the Heavenly Court looked around which family to send this special neshama to. The dice fell a childless couple, who was probably not meant to have children, but instead were given this special soul to raise. Naturally, when this poor childless couple gave birth to this deformed child, they were terribly distressed and could not understand why. Similarly, the child himself was anguished and distressed why he had to suffer the fate of having no arms. And of course, no one down on this earth knew the story behind this lifetime of suffering: The soul of this child had specifically asked to be created this way.
Boy was I furious at this story. Why on earth, I wondered, did the special child have to be born specifically to a childless couple? Couldn't this poor couple finally enjoy a life of normalcy and have a regular child? The story angered me horribly. But I loved the chorus of the song, as it resonated deeply with me. The chorus was basically saying, we all have questions, we don't know the answers, and theyre not ours to ask. The day will come, when we'll all understand why we're going through what we're going through. And with Yoely Teichman's exquisite voice, the final few stanzas which melted me every single time were all about hope, how the sun will start shining once again and it won't always be night and winter.
Can you imagine the scene? Here I was, sitting in my kitchen, sobbing my eyes out about the misfortune of my life, that I was punished after years of infertility with a child with special needs. And here I am listening to the exact story of my life! A neshama was sent down into this world to me and my family because that is exactly what was meant to be! Yes, I was meant to raise this child - this was no fluke, no accident, no punishment and not a reason to be angry. It is a trial and a tribulation, but there are big, unknown, celestial reasons behind this - and it was not in my right to question why!
The fact that I had stumbled across this particular CD on such a trying day was one huge loving hug from G-d. I had been so upset with Him I hadn't spoken to Him in months. I was having such a hard time reconciling this seeming 'punishment' that I just could not face Him. But G-d had not given up on me. When once is faced with a huge test (nisayon), he is also given the tools to deal with them. Since I obviously wasn't coping, G-d was sending the tools straight into my kitchen, straight into my heart. I was absolutely paralyzed with the realization.
While I didn't completely reach acceptance yet from that one song, it was the beginning of my journey to acceptance. It would take another full year for me to shut down the pity party permanently and never again ask "Why Me" - I would have a second pivotal moment of realization that THIS WAS HOW IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE - but this was the start. From that day onward, I opened myself up to HaShem's intervention in my life, and I began to see incredible vignettes of Divine Providence and loving pats and hugs from Him. It was as if the storm clouds were finally beginning to part and the sun began peeking through.
It also changed how I viewed Dovi. Suddenly, he was no longer the burden that was keeping me so busy with him and away from everything else I needed to do. I was no longer frustrated and confused on how to reach him. For that day forward, I began viewing him as a neshama, a soul, that was entrusted to my care to be raised in this world. His neshama had nothing to accomplish in this world, nothing to repair, he just had to be. That very afternoon he came back from playing in the snow with one of the sweet volunteers, in the midst of a total sensory meltdown. I had no idea what was bothering him. Normally, my ire would start rising up and I would feel helpless and miserable not knowing how to help him. Now with my newfound spiritual awakening I began to stroke his back and talk to his neshama instead of to his body. I was talking to him Soul to Soul, in a completely different manner and with a completely different mindset.
It was a massive shift in my way of thinking and in my way of accepting my lot in life.
Again - I wasn't yet at the point of acceptance. I still had a lot to work through, spiritually and emotionally. It would still take a year of hard work to reach that precious point. But my anger dissipated. Dovi became my innocent, precious little baby once again. And I was slowly opening myself back up to G-d's presence and His love.
I spent hours last week translating and transcribing the song for you, dear readers. Whether you are going through a crisis in your life or you just like a beautiful, soul-stirring song, take 10 minutes to listen to this - and tell me if your life has been changed just one iota because of this song.