Menu Close

Help Others, Always

By Judy Krasna, F.E.A.S.T. Executive Director

Tomorrow marks one year since my daughter Gavriella took her own life after a fierce 13-year battle with anorexia. Even after a full year, it is impossible for me to wrap my head around the harsh finality and the immense depth of our staggering loss.

For so many years, I was wrapped up in my daughter’s illness; I was constantly worried about her physical and mental health, and I was fully engaged in fighting against her anorexia. Consequently, I now realize that I lost some insight about who my daughter was. This past year has given me the ability to see Gavriella without the shadow of her eating disorder, which has been somewhat healing for me.

Gavriella is a triplet. She was always the leader. Even as a young child, Gavriella took care of her sisters. She had what seemed like endless talent, and she was brilliant.

Most of all, Gavriella was unfailingly kind. She was the type of person who was always looking out for those who were weaker than she was, for those who didn’t have friends, and for those who needed help.

Gavriella had endless potential. She could have done anything, been anything, but every option was taken away from her by her eating disorder. This made me feel like she left this world without leaving a legacy, without having made an impact, which only compounded my grief.

Until her death, I had considered the time that Gavriella spent in inpatient eating disorder treatment settings to be a waste of her life. Gavriella had so much to give this world; she had so much potential to change lives, and all of that was totally blown because she spent so much time in inpatient treatment, where her functionality and the ability to use her infinite gifts and talents were severely limited. Or so I thought.

Throughout the traditional Jewish shiva week of mourning, we received visits, calls, and messages from so many people who were with Gavriella in different eating disorder treatment settings over the years, and who described how critical she was to their recovery. They talked about how she encouraged them to embrace recovery, about how she was so supportive during their journey, and about what a wonderful friend she was to them. I realized then how much good Gavriella was able to do, how much of a positive influence she was, how many lives she potentially saved, how many people’s recovery she aided, and how strong and special she must have been to have done all of that while being so severely impaired by her own illness.

I came to the realization that Gavriella did leave a legacy. Every person with an eating disorder who she befriended, supported, helped, and guided who goes on to live a full life will carry part of Gavriella with them always. My daughter is no longer here, but her impact lives on.

So much of Gavriella’s life was spent in pain, struggling against her eating disorder and her depression. A different person would have said, “I have enough on my plate, I am having a hard enough time dealing with my own challenges, I don’t have the capacity to help others”, but that wasn’t Gavriella. She was determined to have a meaningful life, despite the hardships that she encountered. She wanted to be productive, to do something with her life. Her illness kept getting in the way, and she kept trying to overcome it, to push it to the side so that she could live a life with purpose.

During shiva, people told us that we must have set a wonderful example for Gavriella considering what an extraordinary person she was; but honestly, I think it was the other way around. Gavriella is the one who set an example for me.

After Gavriella died, I was torn about whether to continue on the path of helping and supporting other families of people with eating disorders. Doing so would inevitably stir up difficult emotions and painful memories for me. I was entitled to step away and pursue other endeavors. After all, I was deeply steeped in the pain of my grief. It was totally understandable that I wouldn’t be in the condition to help others, or that I wouldn’t want to.

After thinking it through, I realized that I too am part of Gavriella’s legacy because she taught me by example that you can be there for people who need you despite your own suffering and that you can help others even if you are experiencing your own pain.

I struggle every day. Grief can feel like trying to breathe without oxygen. Like my daughter, I do my best not to allow the hardships in my life to interfere with my sense of purpose. Like my daughter, I feel the irony of helping others achieve what you yourself cannot. My child will never recover, but I will do everything in my power to make sure that yours does.

Doing this work keeps me connected to my daughter; not because she had an eating disorder, but because it personifies the code by which she lived her life. Help others, always.

Share this post:

21 Comments

  1. Helen

    Thank you for sharing your powerful story. The support Gavriella and yourself have given is invaluable and has touched many lives. I am so sorry for your loss and pray God will comfort you. Keep up the good fight. Helen x

  2. Roslyn Cohen

    As a parent right in the maelstrom with my 19 year old daughter with anorexia, I look to your wisdom often Judy, as a mother of raw honesty. In your journey towards finding true meaning in the life of your girl. you are helping so many. Thankyou.

  3. Craig H

    Thank you for sharing. While the depth of your pain and experience is unfathomable, you and your daughter have changed lives with such a powerful light that will enlighten and lead the way for countless others like myself and my daughter. Thank you for the hope and inspiration. God bless.

  4. Stephanie H

    A heartfelt thank you for continuing to help others even though it is the harder path to take. What a meaningful and generous way to honor your daughter’s legacy.

  5. Liz M

    Inspired words. As we help our loved ones get through everyday with an ED, it’s too easy to lose sight of the whole person and all of the ways they express that *despite* their struggles and trauma. Thanks for sharing and for continuing to help others in a way that honors your extraordinary daughter.

  6. Laura cohen

    What a beautiful post. Your daughter absolutely lives on with every single thing you do and the lives you continue to impact. May her memory be a blessing. It already is

  7. Jennifer Krebsbach

    Judy,
    I just signed up for the newsletters from F.E.A.S.T as I’ve finally realized my son Wills’ disordered eating over the past 3 years. This is my first read from F.E.A.S.T. and am stunned from the bravery perspective you shared after losing your daughter only 1 year ago. I will take your experience and try to see my son more fully, not just his disordered eating.
    Thank you for sharing this about your relationship and journey with Gavriella. She will be remembered by many, and now I am one more with her spirit in my thoughts and actions.

  8. Beth Amy Mayer

    Judy, I truly appreciate you writing this. I ask all of my families to join FEAST and to be a part of this amazing community. I hope that this community helps you along the path of healing. And… I also understand that this is a forever process.

  9. Sheila Coakley

    Thank you for continuing to share your story with us. I imagine that many of us wished we had known her. And wished that our children had known her. I am grateful that you have continued with your work. Your words make a difference. May her memory be for a blessing.

  10. Claire Izcovich

    Thank you for sharing. This illness is horrible and we forget what wonderful children we have as the ED takes over them and the family.

  11. Julie

    I am so very sorry for your loss – an unimaginable pain that no parent should ever have to suffer. Thank you for sharing your story with those of us who are on this journey with our beautiful children. We can only hope and pray that we can help them.

  12. Lori Forbus

    Your ability to find the beauty in your daughter’s struggle is amazingly inspirational. Thank you for continuing your work to help us in the fight for our children’s lives.

  13. Helen

    Gavriella’s legacy does indeed live on. Your voice of reason, kindness and pursuit of recovery and good treatment is astounding. Thank you Judy for being an example to us all x

  14. Sue James

    So sorry for your loss Judy. What a beautiful legacy your daughter left and thank you for having the strength and bravery to continue it. Gavriella has given us all a gift in you

  15. Holly

    You are absolutely honoring your daughter’s life even through your own pain. I appreciate your knowledge and sharing your experience to help others. You have helped me personally thru your writings and I have never met you. Your daughter sounds like an amazing young lady.

  16. Dianne Neumark-Sztainer

    I am so sorry for your loss. I didn’t know until reading about it in Michael’s email today. May Gavriella’s memory be for a blessing. Thanks to her and you for your hard work in addressing eating disorders.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial