A Vessel of Wisdom and Inspiration
I met Aliza online. I founded a group for women who pray weekly for people who are sick, and Aliza was added to the group. Somehow, I stumbled on her site, read her story, and started listening to her pearls of wisdom.
Aliza and I may not see or talk to each other often, but we know that we care for each other deeply. Since I was so inspired by her, I decided to bring her to Florida and open my home. I also organized outside opportunities for Aliza to speak within the community. Aliza spoke in eight places in a span of three days. Each speech was different, geared toward different age groups and different backgrounds. Aliza connected with each and every one of the attendees. I know that her sincerity and her “realness” is the secret for this ability to connect with so many different people from different walks of life.
Aliza’s life is filled with challenges, but if you met her you would not encounter someone bitter, sad, or depressed. It is quite the contrary. You will see a leader, a strong and wise woman who uses her life experiences to inspire and empower others instead of hiding in shame. She shares her experiences in a very open way so others will learn from her and grow along with her.
I knew I could count on Aliza as one of my Kintsugi voices. When we connected for the interview Aliza asked me, "What part of my life do you want to talk about? Take your pick." She meant, which of my personal tragedies do you want to focus on? The knot in my throat grew tighter. Why did someone so wonderful have to go through so many tragedies?
I wanted to speak about Doni and mental illness, because I know this is a topic with stigma. It is a topic that people feel shame about and withdraw, instead of sharing the knowledge and the experiences to help others. I knew that Aliza would share her story and give us a glimpse into what it is like to live with the loss of a child to mental illness. I knew Aliza would share the years of fear, hard work, the endless doctors, the hopes, the disappointments, and ultimately the loss.
Our conversation was long. Unfortunately, I can only share part due to us all being a bit ADD and not being able to read long blog posts. I hope you read and if you don't, please click here. Here are some key lessons I learned from Aliza. These are the ones I cannot take away from my mind since interviewing Aliza. These lessons give me much strength, and I hope it does the same for you.
- The idea that God (or whatever higher power you believe in) only gives us what we can handle is a myth. He definitely gives us experiences outside what we can already handle so we will expand and in the future handle more, be stronger and wiser. This is a painful process. Growth is hard but necessary. Because if we are not growing, we are going backwards and that is not the natural process of life.
- Raising a child with mental illness can be much harder than burying a child who died by suicide from mental illness. The trajectory of life prepares you for that possible outcome when medications don’t work well. But that tragic end is preceded by years and years of pain, confusion, shame, vulnerability, a feeling of inability to help the child. It is a lonely path that only those who go through it can really understand.
I have to confess that I did not think about this when I went into the call. I thought that the suicide would be the peak of the pain when it came to raising Doni, only to discover that by this point Aliza had learned many lessons which prepared her for that fateful day (It goes without saying that it was absolutely excruciating and that every prayer and concrete effort was done to avoid it). The trajectory that led her to that moment is not less hard or painful--it is lonelier. We must be more conscientious about our friends who are raising children with mental illness. The stigma must stop. As we support moms who are raising kids with diabetes or food allergies, we must be just as sympathetic and helpful to mothers who are raising kids with a brain illness, mental illness.
- Faith might be the only thing that will set you free. Aliza has no doubt that this life is temporary, and there is so much more that we don’t fully know or understand yet. We are souls in a body. We are matched, each soul to a specific body, and we are part of particular families for very precise reasons. We have a job to do. When we are done, we move on to what is next--something that we don’t yet fully know or understand. Aliza’s faith is unwavering. The fact that she is the one in her family with the strongest faith meant she was the one that was best able to handle the life and loss of her son.
I have already interviewed about 20 women. I can tell you that all strong women who overcame their hardships with joy have faith in something bigger than themselves. Some may call it God, some a power. The point is that every one of these remarkable women believe in something bigger. Some view God as a king, some as a father, some as a friend, some as a light. Whichever way you see it, living a spiritual life will certainly help you when you need it most.
I did not want our conversation to end. Aliza is a bright light. When you talk to her, she shares her light, like the brightest candle. She gives from herself because she knows that just like a candle, sharing her fire won’t diminish her light. On the contrary, you will be making the world a brighter place.
I pray that Doni’s soul will soar in the heavens where he is free of pain and able to continue watching lovingly over his mom, dad and family as he has done while in this world.
Doni Bulow February 16, 1994 - May 19, 2013
May Doni rest in peace
You can read more about Doni here: https://www.abiteoftorah.com/doni-bulow
You can learn more about Aliza here: https://www.abiteoftorah.com/meet-aliza.html
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