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Monday, January 15, 2018

Here's What to Do When Someone Insults You as You Cry about Difficult News


28 Tevet, 5778

I'm feeling wistful for the Jewish month about to end. I spent much of it recovering from the astonishing pain of shingles and the weakness it had caused, missing out on some people plus activities I'd longed to join.

But it was important not to over-exert myself and to prevent the shingles from reappearing!

Longing for the usual aerobic, distance walking plus other strenuous physical activities that I usually pursue, I kept reminding myself that "recovering" is an activity, so that I would not feel despair. I focused on the progressing recovery, some of it ahead of medical expectations.

I also reviewed a life lesson worth remembering. You might find it valuable, too. Here is an excerpt from the preface to

Here it is:

Human beings mint coins and they're all alike. But when the Creator mints people, each of us is unique even though we come from the same mold. Our different personalities, skills and longings necessitate different paths to achieving a state of calm after we've been startled or terrified. There are no "One size fits all" methods of calming down or gaining perspective. Yet we need to reach the state of composed thought and behavior in order to live as productively and as happily as possible under challenging circumstances. Sound reasoning enables us to choose the coping mechanisms that work for us.

Challenging? Oh yes. But the alternative to coping is worse. Life's not democratic or fair. It's a workout. Make your choice: Coping aka self-restraint or the continuing, possibly worsening problem before you.

After I revealed my diagnosis to friends and family, we cried together. Then we progressed to choosing coping skills and keeping me strong so I could have a chance to continue living. My choice to focus on sound psychological principles complemented my Orthodox Jewish religious convictions. Many of those sound psychological principles, as well as classical Jewish philosophy and laws are presented in this text. A blend of both appears in the next paragraph.

One of the worst reactions people had to my news was saying with a sense of fatalism and religious superiority over me, "You shouldn't cry. GOD only gives people the challenges they can face."  I disagree. Many a good person has experienced a psychological or medical problem, and suffered terribly or not survived it. Some medical and emotional challenges destroy no matter how valiantly we fight to survive them. Other crises can be survived. It isn't fair to lump them all in one "You can do it!" category. It blames the patient, who is suffering already. No one on this planet is authorized to pass judgment on another person's trials and tribulations. That's GOD's job.

Are you afraid that religious people or even not so religious people will blame you for your very legitimate tears and fears, because GOD knows what He's doing? Are they doing it already? These types of pithy remarks get high scores for being truthful and meaningful. But they get big fat ZEROES for actually helping someone to conquer their misery. It's as useless as telling someone dripping blood or holding onto broken limbs in an emergency room that "I FEEL YOUR PAIN." It's no help at all.

A medical diagnosis that presents a crisis is something to legitimately cry about. It is a lack of stability and a lack of reliable givens that we need so much. One of the Gates of Prayer that remains open despite the lack of a Beit HaMikdash (ancient Jewish Temple) is the Gate of Tears. Crying is a form of prayer. It says, "I'm scared, I'm sad, I'm angry, I don't know what to do about my problem. I need your help HaShem (GOD)," and more.

We learn from the Talmud in Bava Metzia 59a "Even though the Gates of Prayer are closed (after the destruction of the grand Jewish Temple called Bait HaMikdash), the Gates of Tears are never closed."

GOD keeps the Gate of Tears open so we will cry to Him. Crying is part of our relationship with Him.

Consider the reason that you're crying. Do you feel shocked, lost, confused or angry with someone, as I did? Is your teenager isolating her/himself somehow? Does she/he seem withdrawn, forgetful or angry? Those are rather normal teen-aged responses to stress.

Anger at any age can also express itself as outrage, frustration, jealousy, resentment, fury, and hatred. It can masquerade as judgment, criticism, and even (surprise!) boredom. Like all emotions, it is a complex, ever-shifting state involving thoughts, feelings, and bodily changes. So, not only do you have a medical diagnosis of concern, you also might be developing the stress of tummy upsets, unpredictable menstrual cycles, weight problems, romantic and other complications. It's a roller coaster with thrills, spills, and corkscrew turns, none of it predictable or controllable at any age.

A friend shared a relevant poem with me. I do not know the identity of the original author. I recommend that you share this deep message with loved ones so that they can learn how better to express their love from it:

Don't tell me that you understand,
Don't tell me that you know,
Don't tell me that I will survive, How I will surely grow.

Don't tell me this is just a test,
That I am truly blessed,
That I am chosen for this task,
Apart from all the rest.

Don't come at me with answers,
That can only come from me,
Don't tell me how my grief will pass,
That I will soon be free.

Don't stand in pious judgment,
Of the bounds I must untie,
Don't tell me how to suffer,
And don't tell me how to cry.

My life is filled with selfishness,
My pain is all I see,
But I need you, I need your love,

Accept me in my ups and downs,
I need someone to share,
Just hold my hand and let me cry,
And say, "My friend, I care".

All of us are holding your hand, and say... (your name)... "We care"

A medical crisis - you'd cry too, if it happened to you. Use your tissues and handkerchiefs with my blessings borne of experience. GOD gives you Permission to Weep. And you can say that to any critics after explaining that "It's MY Crisis! And I'll Cry if I Need To."

Want to learn more about how to heal from, and to cope with medical or mental health issues? 

Buy the E-book or print edition of doctor-recommended EMPOWER Yourself to Cope with a Medical Challenge

Face Your Medical Problems with Dignity. Face Your Future with Optimism.

Fill your mind and heart with growing strengths (PLURAL!).

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