BY RABBI BARRY COHEN
How are you?
Usually we ask this to move a conversation forward. These days, when a family member or close friend asks me that question, I respond, “Do you really want to know?”
One of my favorite Hasidic stories describes two men at a bar who have been friends all their lives.
“Do you love me?” one asks.
“Yes,” the other responds.
“But do you really love me?” he asks again.
“Of course,” he replies.
“If you really love me, you would know how I feel,” he responds.
We need someone who actually loves us, who truly knows how we feel. During these scary and uncertain times, we depend upon a healthy relationship with someone, anyone.
I am concerned that many of us do not have such a confidant. If we lack someone who is aware of how we feel, we may keep our emotions bottled up because we don’t know what to do with them, or we may express our emotions in unhealthy ways.
At a recent virtual “Community Connections,” organized by Jewish Family and Child Service, one of the professionals shared that emotionally, we are now “in process,” and we have to determine a healthy way to move through our feelings. He added that this “shared uncertainty” can be comforting, because we are all experiencing it together in our own way.
But we have to be careful. Another point expressed at this event is that we have stresses and strains that we struggled with long before we felt the new reality of COVID-19. Now we are confronted by stress upon stress and are experiencing grief upon grief.
We need one like-minded individual who can feel what we feel.
But what about those who are isolated and unprotected during Oregon’s “stay at home” order? Particularly, I think of women and children who have been targets of domestic abuse. Right now, they have fewer ways to find safety and security.
Other parents and spouses who have created healthy and functional homes struggle to respond to and express their emotions. They are emotionally overloaded and can barely take care of themselves. This reality bubbles over and affects everyone in the household. Children are particularly susceptible to the emotions felt by the adults in their homes.
Older youth face their own stresses and strains as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. They can’t spend time with friends. They grieve the loss of end-of-year milestones. They have no idea what will happen with their summer plans.
How are we to respond? My answer is a question: “How are you?” There are people out there who genuinely want to feel what you feel and be by your side.
If you need help or know of someone who needs help, you can contact the Oregon Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence (ocadsv.org/find-help), Jewish Family and Child Service (503-226-7079) or the Portland Women’s Crisis Line (888-235-5333).
You can also contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 971-361-6124.
All we need is one person. With that one person, we can navigate our emotional journey together.
As the Community Chaplain for the Greater Portland Jewish community, Rabbi Barry Cohen serves as a resource for all Jews in our community.