The Loss

Grieving What Gets Left Behind

lisa anchin

By Judy Brown (Eishes Chayil)

Published September 20, 2012, issue of September 28, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 3 of 3)

You stumble out, climbing over high, thick walls, jumping to the other side, falling hard onto the ground below. You find yourself on strange land. You begin to walk.

The mind pushes you on. You don’t allow yourself to think or feel. You don’t dare turn around. You must not look behind. You must only dream of what’s ahead, and know that somehow it is good. You have no idea how long it takes to reach that place — days, months, years? You keep walking.

But the people from your city don’t give up. They search for you. They cannot understand why you’d ever want to leave. They stand on the ledge of the wall, reaching out. They call your name knowing you can hear them. If you are not yet too far away, they send out people to bring you back. They use persuasive words, and sometimes threats or force, but you are too far from them now; they cannot reach you. But when they call, you still turn your head.

“Come back,” you hear them plead. It scares them to see you this way, so alone.

You look at them from afar — at their certainty, their security, their warm colorblindness — and from the lonely place you stand, a lie never looked so good. You stumble away, faster, until you can’t hear them anymore. But it is too late. You’re in agony, grieving.

They say there are five stages of mourning: shock, denial, anger, depression and acceptance. For the young men and women leaving the ultra-Orthodox world behind, there is an enormous loss. It is easy for those outside to think that now you are free; your life so much better than when you were among the colorblind. But it is still an enormous loss. That loss carries everything we ever believed, and everyone who taught us to believe it: parents who loved us, teachers who educated us, siblings who played with us, cousins and classmates and former best friends. Our loss holds in it entire families. It holds our faith, innocence and belief.

And it is devastating.

Eventually, you meet others like you, emerging like shadows from the dark: a former classmate, a second cousin, the quiet girl from summer camp. You’ve seen them before, walking the streets of your city, but you could not tell back then that they were different from the others — that they pretended not to see colors, too.

Time helps. Eventually, you see life ahead. Eventually, you understand that there is no magical transformation, no black-and-white transition from yesterday to tomorrow, and that grieving the loss of an entire world is a long and torturous process. But finally, alongside the trauma, there is enormous relief. Now, standing far from the place you ran from, you begin to clearly see that the colors are not a delusion. They are, indeed, real — chaotic, vibrant beauty, a kaleidoscope of colors, colors by God, everywhere.

Months have passed since I received the email from my friend. The printed copy still lies in my drawer. Every once in a while, I take it out and read it, each time from a greater distance, as a memory from a time when I lived in terror of my eyes.

They say there are five stages of mourning: shock, denial, anger, depression and acceptance. But for us there is a sixth and a seventh: wonder, the wonder of knowing that the world truly is a miracle of colors, and relief at no longer being colorblind.

When I was a young girl, my teachers always said that God works in mysterious ways — that sometimes He withholds in order to give, that every loss is really a hidden gain. It is difficult for us to understand this, because only God, high above, can see the larger picture — that the dark path we are struggling through leads to a better place.

It’s true. Today, I can finally believe them.

Judy Brown wrote the novel “Hush” under the pseudonym Eishes Chayil. “Inside Out” is her essay series about life in the ultra-Orthodox world. It is based on true events, but her characters’ names and identities have been changed; some are composites, comprising several real-life people.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.