| Family Reflections |

Rebuilding Ourselves

Through processing our destruction, we can rise to great heights


Nothing but the bare walls are left, and even those have been altered beyond recognition. The furniture and fixtures are gone, empty rooms with missing beams leave a bare and fragile looking skeleton of a building. The damage isn’t the result of a hurricane or some other natural disaster; rather, it’s all done intentionally — at great expense and inconvenience — because yes, Phase 1 of home renovation requires destruction.

Phase 2 involves reconstruction. Now everything is possible. We can start from scratch, redesigning and rebuilding. Everything can be brand new, ushering in a new phase of life, a starting point for novel adventures.

We embrace destruction when we are in control of it, seizing the potential for vibrant growth and opportunity. But when it’s foisted upon us, we often resist. “Give me back my old life!” we cry. We want what we had.

Recognizing the Master Plan

Hashem has a plan, and the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash is all part of it. While we mourn its loss, we must keep in mind that it was purposely removed to make way for something even greater — a final Holy Temple that will usher in our Redemption. We will greatly appreciate and love our “renovation” when it is completed!

So too, the periods of personal destruction that each of us encounter along life’s journey, are designed to make way for our own renovations — our own growth and development. When everything is stripped from us, leaving behind only the bare walls of our being, there is space in which to rebuild. Now we can become something new and improved.

The phenomenon known as “post-traumatic growth” charts the common course of evolution that routinely follows periods of intense suffering. Scientific research testifies to the spiritual and mental transformation that occurs through the resolution of traumatic experience.

Processing the Trauma

The key to accessing this tremendous potential for growth, the opportunity to reach unprecedented levels of well-being and accomplishment, is through the processing of traumatic experience. A person who has suffered greatly without working through her trauma may simply end up a bitter, broken human being.

Post-traumatic growth refers to the development of insight, an unburdening through emotional release, the development of self-compassion and empathy for others, a growth in understanding and acceptance, an increase in feelings of security, trust, and faith, and the acquisition of a broader perspective on life, and of one’s own purpose and potential. These cognitive, emotional, and spiritual changes occur through a conscious healing journey.

“My mother never recovered from the divorce. She hated my father and what he’d done, and she complained about it for the rest of her life. Her misery made our own lives more miserable than the divorce itself. When I was young, I joined my mom in hating my father. She made it clear to us that his bad choices were responsible for our deprivation. And we could see for ourselves just how awful he had been — he had just disappeared one day and we never saw him again. We were all scarred — by the abandonment, Mom’s suffering, and our own suffering. My oldest brother couldn’t cope with it, and he eventually dropped out of school.

“My older sister was hospitalized due to depression and a suicide attempt. But even though our family had been destroyed, and we were but shadows of our former selves, I decided that I didn’t want to become my mother or my brother or my sister. I wanted to rebuild myself — become something better than I would have been had our lives continued in the regular fashion. I found a way to get therapy and work with mentors. I went on an intense journey of self-discovery — to read and learn everything I could that might help me.

“As a result of this work, I’ve become a resource for others. Today I run healing groups for troubled teens, the kind of group that I needed back then but which unfortunately didn’t exist at the time. I know that my healing abilities come from my experiences and my journey far more than from the academic training I undertook. I know that Hashem put me through everything for a reason, and although I would never have chosen to be thrown into the flames, I am now grateful for everything I went through. I am proud to be who I am, and I feel privileged to have been so carefully guided toward my life’s mission.”


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 804)

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