It is with deep sadness and shock that I learned of the dreadful fate of our brothers, Gilad Shaar, Naftali Frenkel and Eyal Yifrach. I do not feel it is appropriate to give advice as I normally do in lieu of this heavy news. Instead, I am devoting my column to helping us all make sense of what this news will do to us.
The first thing that it is likely to do is to numb and shock us. After all of the unity, the coming together, the extra tefillos and the constant hope for their safe return we have now shifted our gears, quite suddenly, to learn that there is no more hope for them.
This brings up many emotions, the first of which for many is shock or numbness. And this numbness may take a long time to pass. So if you find yourself feeling removed from it while your friends and family are actively moved, that is ok and even expected. It does not mean that you are a cold person. It is just too emotional and your system got a bit flooded and overloaded so it kind of shut down temporarily.
Over time, you may shift into other emotions. Sadness is a big one here because the loss is so powerful—these three boys had their lives cut off way before their time. There are so many who are mourning—their parents and siblings, their young classmates. The sadness is overwhelming. We often feel it in our body. It feels like it’s heavy and slowing us down, or it feels like a pain in the heart. It may be pure enough to bring us to tears.
The next big one that is mixed in here is anger. Anger is felt when something doesn’t seem right or just. It most certainly was not right or just for another human being to kidnap and murder three individuals just for being Jewish. The anger that we will feel may be enormous. This was so heinous and cold-blooded that it’s likely our anger will feel more like rage. Our body will show it by tensing up, or boiling over. We may feel like there is extra energy in us and start fidgeting or pacing around when we are this angry.
Our anger may even point toward anyone associated with the boys. Instead of, or in addition to blaming the kidnappers, we may blame the school, the boys’ parents, or the victims themselves. While these thoughts are not something that most people admit to, it is common to feel it. I see these types of thoughts as an extension of one’s care for the boys. What happened was so terrible, if only there was something that would have been different then these boys would still be here on earth with their families, living their normal life. So of course we may drift into the territory of “What piece could have been changed so that this never would have happened.”
While it makes sense to me that the blaming anger could come up, it is a very uncomfortable feeling to have and may make you feel guilty for thinking such thoughts. And that is normal as well. The next big one is fear. When I heard the news, all of a sudden I insisted that my kids come inside from playing in the yard. I somehow felt safer, even though it is not logical. The chances of them G-d forbid being abducted in my town did not increase just because I heard that the boys in Israel were murdered. But I had fear, and I leaned into it in that moment and locked the door as my protesting kids shuffled in. I can let them outside tomorrow, but not today. That is what I needed to soothe part of my grief, and I find it is important to listen to our own needs and lean into them and indulge them for now.
If you find that you are leaning into your grief but it is not soothed, do your best to talk to a loved one about how all of this is landing on you. If you have sustained trauma in your life, this incident may kick some of the old wounds open. If it persists for more than two weeks, it may help to seek professional help from someone who is experienced in trauma.
As we were united in hope for these boys, let us remain united in our grief. It is difficult to unite over something that evokes so many different feelings. So how is it possible to band together if I am angry while my friend is sad and my neighbor is numb? Remember that everyone is feeling the complex feelings at their own pace. Just by listening and making room for whatever the other is going through will heal us.
May the families and the entire nation be comforted among the mourners of Zion, and may we be zocheh to see the rebuilding of Zion in peace.