Mourning Our Old Lives

Making aliyah is a huge decision, one not taken or done lightly. There is much planning a person does to uproot their lives from the US to a new life in Israel. Israel is a tough place to live. The language is different. The culture is different. Even the foods are different. It can be both a beautiful and overwhelming process, adjusting to your new life.

For many of us we come as adults. Many of us with our US degrees and years of experience making a certain amount of money. We come from  place a privilege, no matter how small it is. This is something that you don’t really notice until you’ve spent significant time here. When I was on my pilot trip I loved getting around by bus, it was so easy and efficient. Now living here for almost a year I miss having a car. Having two hour commute daily is no longer exciting. Having to carry groceries on the bus is also not fun. She days its eat only at work because I don’t have the energy to stop off at the market, wait fr the bus and then go home and cook.  These are the things you don’t really think about in the early stages or even the planning stages of making aliyah. We are told to learn Hebrew (yes this is important), to save money (also important) but the day to day struggles when working full time and being exhausted and sometimes lonely are the parts that are not covered so well. Feeling lonely, even if you have friends, can occur because your new friends are just that new friends. They haven’t known you for years so when your struggling you don’t feel like you can turn to them or if you do they don’t really know how to help/support you, so you wind up feeling even more alone than you did in the beginning.

When in the planning stages for aliyah you are told to save a lot of money. “Save” they tell you because things are more expensive and finding a job can be tough (which is true if you compare pay to how much things cost). So you plan for this. In my case my goal was always to have my own business, a therapist with her own private practice. Anyone in the private practice world knows that this takes a lot of time and effort. So my plan was to work at a gan (nursery school) until my practice was self sufficient. This all went as planned except for 1) underestimated the time it would take for my practice to be self sufficient and 2) the emotional energy of working full time with 1 year olds 8 and half hours a day would actually be. Check this the emotional and physical impact working as a teacher would take. Any one who knows me I have been sick more often than not since I’ve made aliyah and I did not plan for this.

So this leaves me to the topic of mourning your life in the US. If you are on fb you will hear many American olim “complaining” about their lives here. It upsets others for a variety of reasons but I think we really do have a different kind of struggle. Just because an Americans struggle is different than someone from South Africa’s struggle, doesn’t make their struggle any less real or important. In fact I want to take the shame away from Americans who struggle when they make aliyah by normalizing their pain, because we honestly give up a lot to make aliyah. We do it for a variety of reasons, religious/spiritual, love of country, larger community, a calling, a sense of adventure, love of partner etc. We give up our careers, our homes, our cars (cars=freedom said my good friend Pauline and she was so right), paid sick leave, paid vacation, language, culture, good customer service, and hell just knowing how the hell everything works and how to google something if we don’t know the answer. This is a lot. Let me reiterate WE GIVE UP A LOT! So yes our STRUGGLE IS REAL!

So we mourn our lives in the US and contemplate moving back. Some of us do and thats ok too. No one should feel shamed for making the choice of returning back to their lives in the US, which are easier. Why struggle unnecessarily if you don’t have too? But for those of us still struggling and wanting to push through for whatever reason here are just a couple of tips to help you get through.

  1. Stay connected. It’s so easy to get caught up in the day to day life of Israel. Long ass days and a whole lot of stress makes a person want to go home and hide (in youtube or tv). Don’t! Send a message or call your friends and/or family back and talk with them. Tell them how hard it is and let them support you. Connect with your friends here and just be in the presence of others can help you get out of your funk, even if its temporary. We all need relationships and connectivity and you will find that the more you reach out the less lonely you will feel.
  2. Don’t struggle alone. The hardest thing is reaching out when you’re struggling financially. Unfortunately or fortunately its very easy to get into debt here and then not have a way out. Creating a financial plan we all know is essential but sometimes we need a little help from friends and family. So reach out before it gets out of control. It will feel shitty, I won’t lie to you but so will being stuck in a whole lot of debt with no way out. The biggest fear is rejection and there is just no way around that until you ask. So ask and sit with being uncomfortable, as hard as that will be
  3. Reflect. Really figure out what you want out of life and go after it. You’re feeling like you want to return to the US explore why and talk it out. If it feels right fr you do it, don’t let others shame you for your choice. If you want to stay figure out how you can make it work for you. IT’s all about what we want in this life and going after it. It can be really hard to decide what to do but thats were I recommend taking a long walk with soothing music or being in silence to just listen to your own thoughts. Right them down and bounce them off of others.
  4. Mourn. I think it’s ok for you to mourn your old life back in the US because you gave you gave up a lot to create a new life here in Israel. It’s ok that as you’re adjusting you’re comparing and contrasting, because your just trying to make sense of it all. You’re going to question your choice and thats ok too. You’re going to want to leave and thats normal as well.

Making aliyah really is hard and no one really prepares you for the grieving that you will inevitably go through. Its normal to miss the US and want to go back. It’s normal to wish you could have things you gave up here. None of these thoughts and feelings make you a failure.