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Family First Inbox: Issue 895

“I imagine many readers were baffled by Miriam’s story, the woman who purchased an American Girl doll”

I’m the Daughter of a Rikki [Tempo / Issue 893]

Kudos to Bashie Lisker on her powerful story, “The Understudy,” about a divorced woman who feels that she cannot heal or move on after a difficult marriage, and how she feels sidelined by her ex-husband's new wife. While I know it was only fiction, mothers like Rikki exist, and it’s heartbreaking to hear how unhappy life can be in their situation.

If you’re a Rikki, thinking that life has to go on without you while your former spouse gets to go on and live the “good life,” I’m here to bring some hope! I’m the daughter of mother who was once a Rikki. She took her pain and found someone wonderful — my father! I’m very happy to say that they have been married many, many happy years.

May Hashem grant a happy ending to all who are seeking one.

D.R. Friedlander



If Only it Was That Easy [Inbox / Issue 893]

I was horrified at the callousness of the letter “Nothing is Set in Stone” by Seven Years Out of High School, which declared that even if we have high school trauma, we still have free choice as to whether or not we are triggered by it. If only it was so easy to shake away trauma.... Obviously, the letter writer had minor trauma which she can easily knock away seven years after high school.

I was bullied in high school and the aftereffects can still be felt over 15 years later. I’ve been working on rebuilding my self-image with the help of therapy plus new positive experiences, baruch Hashem.

Yes, it’s possible to remake your identity after high school, but it can take years of consistent internal work.

I’ve finally begun to see how my awful high school experience molded me into a resilient woman. I’m not so afraid of rejection in other areas of life since I learned that you don’t need to work so hard to be accepted for who you are. If I can be myself, then the right people will appreciate me for who I am.

May Hashem give all of us the strength to move past our major and minor traumas, and to see His guiding hand in the process.

Zehava B.



Complex Trauma [Not Child’s Play / Issue 893]

I read with interest Leah Wachsler’s article on how adult women found healing using their very own versions of play therapy. I love that these stories were about women who trusted their instincts and did what felt right, even if it seemed unconventional.

I imagine many readers were baffled by Miriam’s story, the woman who purchased an American Girl doll. Some might have thought, What’s the big deal? Pick up your clothes, throw them in the machine, and make yourself presentable! They may understand that someone can’t “snap out” of depression or obsessive thinking, but not why someone can’t find the motivation for such basic tasks.

Those fortunate to grow up in healthy, nurturing environments may find it difficult to understand the power of the unconscious mind and the impact of developmental trauma. Even during our preverbal stage of development, we’re already absorbing messages about our worthiness, based on how we’re responded to. For some, early neglect or disinterest of caregivers may be followed by years of constant shaming and criticism.

Even when they eventually escape this environment, they may struggle to escape those voices, which often become internalized as their own. As an adult, they may experience an incessant barrage of self-critical, self-blaming, and self-loathing messages.

For the protagonist, this inner world was reflected externally in how she dressed. Others may present themselves well but will neglect their basic self-care needs. Still others will wonder why it takes such tremendous effort to get through each day. They don’t realize that others might be functioning without the burden of toxic shame and self-hatred.

Pete Walker, M.A., MFT writes that people with complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD) often lack “self-protective and self-compassionate” instincts. The development of one or both is essential for the healing of people like Miriam.

Some on this journey find it helpful to use inner child work or to carry a picture of their younger selves. Doing so makes it easier for them to be kind to themselves as they realize that every little girl deserves to be loved and cared for, and they recognize the little girl that lives inside of them.

In a similar vein, I imagine that as the protagonist’s sense of self slowly shifted in therapy, her subconscious mind first needed to experience and practice caring for and nurturing her doll to be able to then give herself that same love and attention.

I hope mothers understand the eternal gifts they give their children simply by being what Winnicott described as a “good enough mother,” and for those who lack a compassionate, nurturing inner voice, I hope they can find healing, through play therapy or otherwise.

Shaindy Perl, LMSW

Monsey, NY


My Mini Doll Collection [Not Child’s Play / Issue 893]

I related so much to the article discussing adults connecting with dolls for their emotional health. I am so wary and shy that I use dolls as a way of healing too, but now I see that others do it as well!

I wanted to share what dolls mean for me. I like to collect mini dolls. It gives me a sense of acceptance of being the child that I wasn’t at the stage of loving dolls. I didn’t have a chance to be a child since I was dealing with adult traumas at that young age.

I love finding the cutest mini dolls with large eyes, angelic faces, and vintage outfits. I feel like I am “re-parenting” myself when I allow little kids to put the dolls in an arrangement (for me!) and they tell me how cute they are. It heals me to watch little children playing with my collection.

Thank you so much for writing this article and expressing how dolls are not only for children but can be used for adults as well!

Name Withheld


Why Finger Point? [Inbox / Issue 892]

I was very taken aback by the letter writer who responded to the story about a single mother whose son was ostracized by the neighborhood because her technology standards didn’t match theirs. The letter writer felt that the mother shared some of the blame in her son’s vilification, writing, “She is no doubt aware that her neighbors are a community that values insularity and distances itself from technology…Expecting her neighbors to make allowances for her due to her challenging circumstances seems self-centered.”

I’m not sure why it’s important to share the blame here, or to figure out exactly who is to blame for how much wrongdoing. Readers who start pointing fingers are falling into exactly the same pitfall described in the story, and losing sight of what’s most important: one little boy who was left shattered by an adult disagreement.

We’re the adults here, charged with raising the next generation of erliche ovdei Hashem. Can’t we let go of our disagreements for just a few minutes to make sure that one fatherless little boy feels supported and loved?

Name Withheld


It’s Okay, It’s Normal [Not Yet Home / Issue 892]

Dear Mothers of a Child Soon to Be Married,

First of all, mazel tov! May all your preparations go smoothly.

Secondly, do yourselves a favor and pull out “Not Yet Home” by Rivki Silver, laminate it, and put it next to your bed!!

I was so excited to see this feature article on a topic I feel isn’t talked about enough.

Shanah rishonah is fun, exciting, new, foundation- and bridge-building. It can also be frightening, weird, tiring, and uncomfortable.

No, it’s not necessarily a red flag that your daughter calls you up and cries that she misses you three days after sheva brachos. Or that she came to visit one day, went to her old bedroom, curled up with a book and seemed reluctant to leave.

It’s not necessarily a red flag that your son seems a little stressed when you try to talk to him, and wolfs down mounds of your chicken and kugel when he pops in unannounced one day.

They’re adjusting, and it can be hard. And with so many horror stories and red flags raised and waved in our faces, your mind may jump to the worst-case scenarios.

She’s miserable; he’s ignoring her. He’s not being fed; look how hungry he is.

No, she’s a little homesick for her comfortable and comforting bed, at a time that she didn’t have to think of all her household responsibilities. He’s a little worried about finances, and unused to interesting side dishes that his sweet wife keeps producing.

And it’s okay. It’s fine.

It’s normal.

I was in a silver store when a very clearly newlywed couple came in. He explained to the saleslady that his becher was defective, and not part of a set with the plate that came with it. The saleslady checked the becher, checked the plate, and told him that of course it’s a set, they were both from the same company, the same pattern.

But he insisted that there was something wrong, because the plate didn’t fit on top of the becher.

I could practically see the question marks.

On top? It should be the becher on the plate, not the other way round....

He was adamant that after using it for Kiddush, you should wash it out, dry it, and put it in the silver cupboard... with the upside-down plate covering the becher, where it stays like that all week.

I looked at all the customers who were watching the interaction with interest, puzzlement, and maybe a smirk or two. Whoever heard of putting a plate on top?

And then I looked at his squirming, red-faced wife who was whispering, “just leave it,” and had an urge to pull her aside. To tell her that it’s okay, he’s not being weird and there’s nothing wrong with him. It’s just the way he was brought up! His parents did it, probably their parents did it... and yours didn’t.

It’s okay.

So tell your daughter, your son, that it takes time. Sometimes it seems like a very long time.

But there’s nothing shameful or wrong with knowing that newlywed bliss sometimes comes accompanied by things that seem strange but aren’t abnormal.

Marriage is the biggest change that has ever happened in your child’s life up till now.

A blessed change, but a change nonetheless.

Thank you, Family First and Rivki Silver, for putting it out there.

Wishing you lots of nachas,



(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 895)

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