🚧 Website Maintenance in Progress: Thank you for visiting! We are currently in the process of enhancing our website to serve you better. Please check back soon for our new and improved website.

paola-chaaya-eAkjzXCU0p0-unsplash.jpgNothing in my life prepared me to this moment that I had no words.
Not the fact that I am the only child of Holocaust survivors that lost their entire families, a grandchild to a woman that walked in the Death March, was attacked by murderous dogs and that I am the daughter of parents that were coping emotionally throughout their life
Not the fact that I celebrated my first birthday in a shelter during the Yom Kippur war
Not the fact that I grew up in Israel, a country that soldiers, weapons, bombs, explosions and rockets are part of our everyday life.
Nor serving in the IDF along with my husband, children, family members, friends, nor losing one of our closest friends at the first Lebanon war when I was only 19.
Nor writing my Masters and Doctorate thesis about the first and second Intifada, listening to and taking in many personal stories of combat soldiers and their partners.
Nor working as a clinical psychologist almost 30 years including in a psychiatric close ward.
Nor being a graduate student in the Derner Institute, living in New York and showing up to an interview at the Columbia University for my externship on SEPTEMBER 11, 2001.
Nor going through a malignant disease and other life’s hardships and loss. 
None of all of these life experiences have prepared me for OCTOBER 7, 2023 when I lost my words.
Being a therapist since I was born, being able to perceive others’ feelings, return them back in words has defined who I am. The words defined my “life story”. We all live in our “life story” that we call reality.
But when the story collapses and we are exposed to raw horror, like bare flesh under the skin, a trauma evolves. Our own “life story” cannot hold the reality and the reality collapses.

The brutal attack on my country and people, the discrepancy between what I always believed in and being raised upon and the current reality has left me with no words.
Words and words that are transferred to actions hold my “life story”. The belief that words have the power to heal even in very difficult times has been a part of who I am, of my self-definition. Words helped me and others to create who we are and to define the relationships with others.
But on October 7, words have lost their meaning. For me, the words turned into empty patterns. I know that nowadays, especially in social media, words have lost their meaning. But at these instances, I can point and say to myself - this is a reality show, not real life.

But nothing prepared me for that day in my real life that I cannot use words that I have known forever because I do not feel that they are enough. How can I use words and phrases like broken hearts, horror, devastation and so on when I do not feel that they can reflect what and how I feel.
On October 7, my thinking process was attacked and yet, from Sunday, October 8 onward, I’ve kept working as a therapist.
I know that at traumatized times, one can be dissociated from their own feelings and keep being active. My mission was to be focused on my surroundings that were hurt, which means everybody. Patients, parents of soldiers, survivors, relatives, friends that suffer from losses including my husband who lost his cousin. All this, under constant rockets, sirens and real fear of death. I needed the dissociation. I knew that it had its cost, but I had no other choice, reality was too bad. The interaction and being so close to evil that hurt others with intention creates a block between my inside and the outside. It was difficult to think about questions such as, aren’t we all human beings? How can a human being be so cruel, sadistic and merciless? And how can our humanity prevail in these times?
For me, it is too difficult now to touch my “life story” that collapsed. My country is at war. I found that what I can do, in addition to living, is to remember that there is good in this world and that I have to try and preserve my humanity even during these dark times.
My 22 year old son studies to become a Canine therapist. We adopted Arthur a couple of months ago. Arthur is a happy, very friendly, sometimes silly puppy. A week ago my son took him for a walk. While they were walking, a big dog got released from his leash and brutally attacked Arthur. My son holding Arthur in his hands, came back home. I took Arthur and realized that my white shirt got stained with his blood. I furiously said to my son - I am going to kill this dog and its owners. My son looked at me and said, come down Ima, I saw the owner, she was afraid and got scared too.
It is difficult to maintain our humanity during these times. We all wait for a “safe zone” to arrive so we can try to find the words again and use them to rebuild our “life story."
In loving memory of Dr. Eitan Neeman, 1978-2023

About the author

Keren Neeman, PhD is a practicing clinical psychologist in Israel with substantial experience in the psychiatric hospital environment and private clinic. Dr. Neeman is a graduate of the Derner Institute at Adelphi University. She wrote her Master and Doctorate theses about the influence of long-term war conditions on women and their partners. Dr. Neeman can be contacted at Keren@neeman.biz.