Wednesday, April 30, 2014

How Do I Survive Without My Family?

Part Six of "Ten Things I Needed To Learn In Order To Heal."

It's hard living without my family.  Without roots.  Especially when holidays roll around.  
It's so hard to come to terms with the truth of what my family wants.  It is unspoken, yet the deadly message is communicated so clearly. They don't allow me into their lives. My reality is not real to them. My history is not shared by them. I do not exist to them, as I know myself to exist. My pain is not real to them. Neither are my memories.

If I were dead, they would have the last word in this world. Obviously, I was disturbed. Unstable. An anomaly. Not like the rest of the family.

They ask me questions that they don't want to know the answers to. Why are you the only one who remembers this? Why didn't we see anything? Why didn't you tell anyone? Why did your story change? It is unlikely that they ever will be able to consider all of the possible answers to their rhetorical questions.  What I must do in order to survive and live my life, is precisely what they must avoid in order survive and live theirs.

I believed that I had to kill myself to protect my family. A part of me believed that If I was a good loyal daughter, granddaughter, and sister, I would sacrifice my life for the family. For the kavod of my grandfather.  For Hashem and the Torah.  I prefer to live, but there was, and still is, no way for me to live without letting light shine on this dark dank moldy secret. The more that they try to keep the incest in the dark unremembered parts of our collective past, the more light I need to shine in order to see the truth of what is really there. 

I realize that I had no choice but to choose between myself and my family. Every day that I live, I choose again. Every day that I choose to live and to exist without my family is painful. At times the grief can feel as raw as twenty years ago. Every day that I choose life I lose them again and I cry. I always want them back. I miss my older sisters the most. At the same time, I understand so well their need to deny. I am one of them. I grew up thinking just as they do. Like we were all taught to think. At times, I join them in the familiar comfort of denial to calm the painful empty longing, and feel a part of them again. "Nothing happened to me. Incest could not have possibly happened in our family. In other families, yes, of course, but not ours.  I am bad, insane, or at best mistaken. My family is right to excommunicate me. I am the family shame.  If they get rid of me the family will be fine.  They must love me from a distance lest I destroy them."

I hope that someday they will be able to accept my need for truth. I hope some day they will accept my choice to live and to heal. As painful as it is to them. As hurtful as it is to our family history and kavod.  I live.  I speak.  I shine a brilliant light.  It glitters and hurts the eyes and the heart.  It cries for what I needed to be and never was. I needed a family that could hear my pain.

 But the truth is, it was harder living with their constant denial and rejection than managing on my own.   I am fortunate to have a loving husband, children, in laws, and some amazing close friends.  My family by choice replaces my family of origin.  One (among many) good things about making Aliyah, is that lots of others are here without close family. I don't get alot of questions about my family like I would in the States.


  1. Hi Genendy,
    I really connected to your latest post. I’m sorry it’s so awful…I think that I get how cut off you must feel- I’m in a similar boat. What struck me was your ending. I’m so glad that you too have a wonderful family now , I guess I just feel greedy- rightfully, in a normal scenario both would be there- the relationships –both old and new…and the fact that there is a real functional life now can’t make up for the other part that has to be cut off… Near where I live there is a park with a huge oak tree inside it. The tree had been hit by a storm many years ago and there is only half a trunk still left, the tree still flowers and lives on every year, I get such inspiration seeing it, it’s always symbolised to me that no matter that a very significant part of my life has been denied, decimated, amputated, it is still possible to flourish…
    All the best

  2. Genendy, after my marriage I essentially cut ties with my family. Why? Not physical abuse but because truth was not concrete. It could change based on the day, the mood, the situation. Torah is supposed to be solid and absolute. I couldn't, as a child, teen and young adult, discern truth from lies. So I left and have not been back. When my children ask about my family, I prefer not to answer. It is not easy. My children happily have never met any of my family members. The community at large sided with my family in the breach.

    When we were in school, I always knew you were sad and had something eating at you but could not have imagined the truth. I looked at you as strong and talented (who else could juggle as well?) and you clearly still are.

    With love,

    An old friend