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Tiki Yeres

Making Space for the Strong Ones Too

Here I am. Eight years since Batsheva left this world. I am now the same age she was when she passed away. I recently celebrated the same birthday as her last one. Her youngest sister. Let that sink in. It’s heavy. It overwhelms me in ways I didn’t expect. I had such anxious anticipation for finally being the same age as her, the age she will forever be. What was she going through at this stage? What was hurting her? I so wish I could still have her here and tell her how I relate to her now in ways I never could have previously. 

However, I will soon surpass her in age. My older sister. The one I always looked up to, turned to for guidance and answers.

I have no new memories with her. No new stories of her latest pranks or adventures. No recent long chats on the phone complaining about the challenges of life.

I cling to those images I have of her for I fear they will fade as time goes on. I retell the same stories year after year, smiling as I reminisce about her kindness and mischievous side, while worrying on the inside that maybe these same stories are starting to get ‘old’.  

But somehow, over the last eight years, I feel as if I have continued to learn from her in ways I would have never foreseen. I feel as if I have such a deeper appreciation for the challenges she went through and the hardships that life and society presented her. 

I feel as if maybe, just maybe, losing my incredible Batsheva to suicide, has slowly transitioned from this shameful and embarrassing dark cloud to a mission and sense of responsibility to share with the world that mental illness can impact anyone, even my strong, independent, fun sister; my favorite Batsheva. 

There are so many amazing stories about Batsheva’s strength and kindness – from her friends, family, coworkers, neighbors – and all of those stories are accurate. Her giving, fun and independent self was sincere. The happy and caring Batsheva was real.

But she was also suffering. Maybe she didn’t want to make it about herself. Maybe she didn’t know how to ask for help. Maybe the world didn’t make space for someone like her, someone so capable and strong, to also fall and struggle, to also suffer from a mental illness. 

To me, this is the never-ending lesson and mission Batsheva left us with: we need to make space for others’ pain, even for those who appear strong and happy. Anyone can be suffering. Anyone at all. While it may be obvious & easier to reach out to the new person in town or push yourself to check in with someone who is noticeably struggling, what about the ones who don’t ask for help? The ones who take care of themselves and always think of others. The ones who seem happy and have it together; out & about and social. The ones who don’t ask for anything in return. 

Batsheva had this amazing way of going out of her way to help others. I never forget the way she would make notes in her calendar so as not to forget when my exam dates were or jot down an upcoming milestone a loved one would mention so that she could remember to send an encouraging message on that specific day. I’ll never forget seeing her cook meal after meal each time a friend had a baby. I’ll never forget her little Post-it notes with cute messages she would sneak into someone’s room or bag. I’ll never forget her easy-going personality, willing to make anything work, putting the other person’s comfort ahead of her own discomfort. 

Yet I wonder if that same space was made for her. If these acts were reciprocated. If she was ever gifted a meal just because life can be hard. If others inserted themselves into her life with a fraction of the depth of kindness she practiced. If they looked beyond her smile and strength and thought: have I really checked in on her too? If society is not dictating me to look out for her right now because her suffering is not obvious, will I make the effort to? 

I have found myself, not only at the same age as Batsheva but like her, single. While I find this fact irrelevant and the least important fact about myself, and frankly about Batsheva, I have experienced first-hand the way our communities lack space for singles, often either excluding them from social gatherings or causing them to feel like a problem to resolve. Yet, even as Batsheva was facing this challenge, as her younger sister, all I saw was someone living her best life. In her determination to be supportive and giving to me, she never let these struggles show. I do not believe that Batsheva’s singleness was the trigger for the immense pain she was dealing with, yet, I can only imagine the societal stigma and pressure could have exacerbated her suffering. This, for me, is yet another example highlighting the importance of checking in on those experiencing life’s obstacles even if they seem to be managing just fine.   

So, think of the people like Batsheva too. Don’t just check on those who complain or look like they need it. Also check on the one who is smiling because it’s possible their pain on the inside is too big and too scary to share. 

We owe it to her, to ourselves, and to the people around us to internalize it.

While my memories with Batsheva might not be growing, I am trying to create moments that would make her proud. Moments that show her that her caring and thoughtful nature can live on. That her mental illness does not take away from the light she brought to this world but rather teaches me to keep that light glowing. The world has ways to go when it comes to mental health awareness and I hope that we each can do our part to internalize the importance of creating space for those around us, especially the strong ones. 

Though I may soon be older than her, I will never stop looking towards Batsheva for guidance and to continue teaching me ways to navigate life. No matter what, she will be my older sister.

About the Author
Tiki Yeres, a native Torontonian now living by the beach in Tel Aviv, is navigating the complexities of grief and dreaming of eradicating the stigmas around mental health. She juggles her time between working at a startup, arranging fresh flowers and her newfound lockdown passion for homemade cold brew. She would love to connect with others about mental health awareness and how to further spread this message around Israel.
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