Aliyah and Dealing with Separation from Family

leavingAliyah and Dealing with Separation from Family

Practical tools to keep the relationships flourishing

By Ariella Bracha Waldinger

Aliyah is one of the most exciting and courageous choices a Jew can make today. Choosing to live in the Holy Land comes with countless blessings and great spiritual benefits. However, along with the many positive benefits comes the ever present reality of dealing with separation from family. Due to the significance of family to most people, especially Jews, this separation can create painful feelings of loneliness and sadness, in spite of the great joy upon returning to live in the Jewish homeland. This blog post will give some practical tools to keep the relationship flourishing.  A future post will deal with the emotional aspect.

I personally believe each Jew who is considering making Aliyah must spend time weighing all the factors involved with moving far away from family, and honestly evaluate their emotional ability to deal with it. If we do not take the time think it though and evaluate, we could end up in an untenable situation.

No one ever said long-distance relationships are easy but they don’t have to devastate you. In fact simple adjustments to being far away can preserve the relationship in a positive way.  I personally believe the end result of separation does one of three things to the relationship: enhances it, diminishes it or maintains it on an even keel. The end result will depend on the parties involved and the choices they make. The truth is, it has never been easier to maintain long distance relationships due to our advanced technological society, thank G-d.

Many say that absence makes the heart grow fonder but I believe keeping connections strong makes the heart grow fonder.

The following are some suggestions gleaned from online sources as well as my own input.

  1. Stay in Contact.
  • Communication is the number one area of importance. Since you will not be seeing each other in person, it is extremely vital to establish and maintain good communication. Communication shows we care enough to put time and effort into the relationship, even if it is just a brief email. Sending a handwritten note or card from time to time is a special treat. This makes us feel loved. Keep your family updated on how life is progressing in the new environment. Stay honest with each other. Talk about your feelings, fears and insecurities. Don’t try to hide your true feelings yet at the same time don’t be overly negative. Negativity can add additional stress to an already stressful situation or undue worry which is an added burden. Communicate clearly to avoid misunderstandings.
  • Ask family members for their preferred method of communication and let them know yours i.e., cell phone, home phone, texting, emailing, skypeing, Facebook, tweets or snail mail, etc.
  • Work around each other’s schedules to honor the needs of each person. Don’t make your emotional needs override their schedules or commitments as it could create resentment. Don’t make the calls too long or burdensome. Respect time constraints.
  • Don’t allow a lengthy time period to go by without communication, as it can create a feeling of insecurity in either party. Without continuous communication those far away from family can easily feel they no longer matter. If you know you will be unavailable for an extended period of time, let your family know in advance.
  1. Relationship Expectations.
  • Have reasonable expectations. Be mindful there will always be bumps in the road. When you learn to navigate them successfully and respectfully, it will contribute to a better relationship. Remember, your family is human and they are not mind readers. Do not dump all your expectations on your family because you are feeling vulnerable.
  1. Share yourself.
  • Send each other photos or short videos of fun or interesting things you are doing, so they can get a taste of your life experiences. If you are involved in social media, “like” each other’s photos and posts. Place photos of family members throughout the house, so there is a visible connection.
  1. Pursue common interests.
  • Do the same thing at the same time. Watch a meaningful movie that interests you and the family and discuss it together over SKYPE. Read the same book and talk about it. You can even take turns reading it aloud. Take an online course together. Share online articles that relate to your interests or an inspirational quote that touches your heart. This will make the distance seem smaller, create bonding and give you plenty to talk about.
  1. Create fun experiences or projects.
  • Go online shopping together and buy each other a gift or mail each other a surprise gift. This lets the other person know you care. GROUP-ON has an assortment of great online bargains in the city where your family is located. Let your children or grandchildren pick out something special. There is great power in gift giving and it doesn’t have to be costly. Come up with your own ideas and be sure to get the kids involved. Create an art project and mail it long distance for the family to finish. Write a story or poem for your grandchildren or kids. Send an email with a story you start and have your family add to it, email it back to you and you finish it. Send a “Remember When” of fun memories you shared together over the years. Let your family know what they can do to meet your relationship needs. If time zones permit, you can read a bedtime story to your grandchildren or greet them first thing in the morning and wish them a good morning. You can call to wish them a good Shabbat and give them Blessings. The truth is there is no limit to the endless ways relationships can be maintained and enhanced. It just takes desire and commitment without allowing excuses to get in the way.
  1. Support each other even over the distance.
  • Be there for your family if they are in trouble or hurting or for whatever reason. Let them know you care and you are willing to be there for them no matter what the hour. Support keeps interdependence alive which is vital to a good relationship.

As I have previously written, the separation from my children and grandchildren was especially painful because we are very close. I miss interacting with them and seeing them in person and watching their lives unfold and especially watching them blossom and grow. I miss playing with them and touching them and participating in their life events. The aspect of growing old without them is a bit scary too. However, having expressed these feelings, I will tell you, our relationship is solid, fulfilling and meaningful, in spite of the long distance challenge. I will also tell you that my husband and I are happier than we have ever been in our life, in spite of the empty space in our hearts for our precious family. We know, beyond a shadow of doubt, we are fulfilling our mission and purpose in life and fulfilling the will of G-d. These undeniable truths enable us to rise above the feelings of pain and loneliness and ultimately transcend them to live a joyous life.

In summary: Aliyah is an enormous decision which can be fraught with a mine field of emotional challenges relating to family relationships. It is vital to carefully think through your choice while at the same time holding onto the understanding there are countless ways to handle the long distance relationship effectively in this day of modern technology.

The Torah teaches us the more we serve our families through love and connection, the happier and more secure we will feel, and thus the dearer we are to G-d.

May the wisdom and guidance of Torah enable us to work through the gamut of challenges that come to us through Aliyah. May we strive to manage our emotions in a healthy balanced way to avoid excessive sadness and drama.

With Blessings for a sweet, healthy, prosperous and joyous New Year, Shanah Tova, Ariella Bracha

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