How Do I Get Through The Grief and Shock of Israel?

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Dear Miriam,

Since the news of the attacks and war in Israel broke out this weekend, I haven’t been able to concentrate on anything. I’m highly distracted, struggling to work, and generally don’t feel like myself. Any tips to get through the next stage of the shock?


Devastated and Distracted


Dear Devastated,

This is a terrible time. I think that most American Jews are experiencing a level of horror and fear that hasn’t previously existed in our lifetime. I truly don’t have the words to address or process what is happening. But I do have these words for you: you need to take care of yourself. 

Given your description of how you’ve been feeling, you can’t continue on like this, and you need to make some decisions to intentionally disrupt your current mental state. No, it won’t make the horrors go away, and I’m not suggesting that you ignore the news entirely, but without a break and some steps towards a mental reset, you’re going to struggle to regain your focus and functionality. As hard as this is, you are not influencing events in Israel by worrying, and it’s not selfish or inappropriate to take a break.

Here’s a laundry list of suggestions, all of which may require you to set timers, create calendar events, or bring in an accountability buddy:

  • Take conscious and intentional breaks from the news and social media. Even if it is not your regular practice, consider turning your phone off for Shabbat this week. 
  • Get outside/take a walk.
  • Schedule time to see or talk to friends and family.
  • Watch a movie/TV/video that has nothing to do with current events.
  • Serve yourself a favorite beverage and drink it slowly while doing any of the above.
  • Tell your friends and coworkers how you’re feeling so that you can be on the receiving end of their empathy. (If they are not empathetic, keep trying until you find someone who is. But don’t expend your limited emotional energy on convincing anyone how they should feel.)

After you’ve scheduled some of these calming, resetting experiences, you will hopefully be in a better place to take action, which can also help you regain some feelings of control. Attend a prayer service or vigil, check in with Israelis you know (either in the US or in Israel), give tzedakah, or reach out to local Jewish organizations to ask if they have other ways to help. Be gentle with yourself and those around you. If you find yourself still in a state of dysfunctional brain fog a few days from now, consider seeking out a clergy, therapist, or other professional supports to help you get through this difficult time. 

Be well, and hoping for better days ahead,