Meir Charash
Meir Charash

The heavy lifting of mourning my son

After calling myself stupid three times in the span of five minutes; the grief therapist stopped me in my tracks and said enough- You are smart and responsible; so are you now ready to get to work and explore what really happened to you?

The room suddenly got small and the noisy brain of mine (a term I have previously used – with the help of my son Ariel (Z”L) – to describe the intense and never-ending thought processes that he encountered coping with OCD (Obsessive Compulsion Disorder) before he decided to quiet that voice by committing suicide two months ago – began to get even noisier.

The painful exploration began. How could I, supposedly “smart and responsible,” a certified fitness trainer who studied at Wingate and Tel University and who had worked out hard for the past 10 years in a sensible, reliable and professional way; suddenly start lifting heavy weights with a teenager reaching for maximum one-time lifts; something I hadn’t done since I wrestled in high school? Instead of interval circuit training (a series of consecutive exercises that works all parts of the body doing 8 to 12 repetitions of any given exercise with free weights and my own body weight; followed by a one minute rest period (an interval) before you begin the next circuit); I started using a machine enabling myself to artificially lift weights that my body couldn’t possibly sustain. Why; the grief therapist asked; and why now?

The painful exploration began.

I stopped the name calling and began to work (dig deeper, the grief therapist implored) and understand what this teenager represented for me (a dose of counter-transference if you will – but instead of in a therapy session – in the gym) and why this drastic change in exercise program happened in close proximity to Ariel’s (Z”L) suicide?

The noise grew quieter as the realization of what had unfolded became clearer. The past few years this client and I connected emotionally and got stronger physically while my dear son began his slow; but steady; disconnection from family, friends, work, hobbies and, ultimately, from life itself.

So; I lifted heavy and heavier trying to feel strong as I felt increasingly weak and inadequate as a father in my desperate and futile attempt to help my son. I connected with a teenager because I so very much wanted to connect with my son.

I lifted heavy; maybe trying to connect to Ariel’s (Z”L) sense of heaviness that he always said he felt; but that I could never, ever really comprehend.

I write this in a hospital bed hours before a procedure to reduce a blood clot in my shoulder.

I lifted too heavy….trying so hard to fix something that can’t be fixed.

That’s the most painful thing of all. The clot will be reduced as will the swelling from the shoulder down to my fingers.

But I won’t be lifting weights with Ariel (Z”L). And, that hurts much more than my shoulder.

Ariel (Z”L) stopped lifting — May his memory be a blessing and may he rest peacefully.

About the Author
Meir Charash, originally from Fair Lawn New Jersey, made Aliyah to Israel 40 years ago. In 1979, Meir acquired a B.S. in Business Management, majoring in organizational management, from Boston University and a MSW in 1984 in Group and Community Work from the Wurzweiler School of Social Work (WSSW) at Yeshiva University. Meir worked as a community worker in Beit Shemesh and in Jerusalem, was the Director of the Israel Office of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia for 19 years providing fiduciary oversight to donor funds and facilitating Israel – Diaspora relations. Meir’s expertise is in the area of community building, fundraising and organizational behavior. In addition to supervising Wurzweiler social students, Meir worked as Faculty Advisor and Coordinator of the Israel Block Program from 2010 to 2017. Meir is married with three children and resides in Armon HaNatziv, Jerusalem. He is a certified fitness trainer, Thai massage therapist and an avid mountain bike rider having participated for nine years in the Alyn Charity Bike Ride for the Children of the Alyn Rehabilitation Hospital and in two races, the “Epic,” and “Sovev Arava”. Meir served in the armored forces for a year and a half and 15 years in reserve duty.
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