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Love and Loss

By Judy Krasna

We lost our daughter last week. I find that term to be somewhat strange. It sounds to me like we took her to a crowded place, like an arcade or a mall, and then we couldn’t find her.

In reality, the term “lost” is pretty apt. I don’t know where my child is. I would like to think that she is in a better place, with her grandparents who love her, free of the torture and pain that her eating disorder foisted upon her. But truth be told, I don’t know any of that for sure. I lost her, in the truest possible sense, and it is ripping me apart.

As a mother, I do not only bear my own grief. Seeing my children totally shattered, sobbing in misery and sorrow, has taken my pain to a whole different level. Seeing my husband reeling with anguish is horrific. Their pain is incorporated into mine. If I could wholly absorb it, and spare them the agony, I would do that in a heartbeat. But that’s not how this works. Everyone has to deal with their own grief, in their own way.

My daughter took her own life. Technically, her eating disorder took her life, but she gave it a little push. We are all experiencing many mixed emotions. We can understand why she did what she did and yet still carry anger. We can be relieved that she is no longer suffering and simultaneously wish that she was still here with us. It’s all unbelievably complicated. But what we feel the strongest is love and loss.

Our daughter was deeply loved. Her eating disorder and co-morbid depression took a toll on our family, that is undeniable. But at the same time, that burden was offset by the amazing person who she was. We loved her with all of our hearts.

My daughter was a person who was always searching for ways to help others. She was kind, wise, giving, and always present for others, even while in the depths of her own illness. She was beautiful, inside and out. She was extraordinary in every way. I can understand why G-d would want her back, but I wasn’t ready to give her up. Twenty-seven years of having Gavriella as my child on this earth was a gift, but it wasn’t nearly long enough.

In Judaism, the first week after the burial of a loved one is called “shiva”, which means 7 in Hebrew. For 7 days, the immediate family observes mourning rituals and is surrounded and comforted by family and friends. During the shiva period, our greatest comfort came from the people who knew Gavriella and who shared their insights and stories about her with us. We heard different versions of the same story over and over again about how much Gavriella gave to those around her, about the impact that she had on them, and the legacy that she left behind.

I didn’t learn much about Gavriella during shiva that I didn’t already know. I was her mother for 27 years (and I will remain her mother forever), and I knew who she was. What I did learn is how amazing my other 3 children are. They were fantastic siblings, offering their sister support and acceptance when she needed it the most. They continue to protect their sister, even after her death, by making sure that her privacy is respected to the fullest possible extent. They have been there for each other, constantly consoling each other and offering each other support and companionship during the hardest times. And even in the depths of their own grief, they have been caring for my husband and me.

Actually, I have 5 living children, and not only those who I gave birth to. My two sons-in-law have been exceptional supports not only for their spouses, but for the rest of the family as well. They have been mourning Gavriella as if they lost a sister; and in effect, they have.

I hesitated about whether or not to write about Gavriella’s death, because I don’t want to scare any other parents out there. Our story is not your story. Your story can have a happy ending, you have to believe that. Eating disorders are treatable, and recovery is possible. Please, please hold onto your hope. I don’t want to project negativity. You all have enough of that to contend with. It’s just that I don’t want to hide my story either. We have always been open and honest about Gavriella’s eating disorder; and to me, this is a continuation of that honesty and openness.  For us, there was no shame or stigma. Our daughter had an illness that took her life. Others recover, but she didn’t. It’s tragic, and it’s devastating, and it ripped our world apart, and there is no blame.

I do not know exactly how we are supposed to pick up the pieces and put our family back together again. There is going to be a huge, gaping hole that can never be filled. It helps that we have grandchildren who bring tremendous happiness into our lives. They gave Gavriella immeasurable joy when she was alive. During the past few months, when she wasn’t working, Gavriella said that her job was “full time aunt.” Her two little nieces were her whole world. They are asking for her, and we are struggling to find ways to make sure that she remains in their lives even though she is gone.

There is so much that I don’t know, but here is what I do know. I can either focus on what I lost, or I can focus on what I still have. It’s a choice.

I choose to focus on what I still have. There is so much blessing that offsets the pain and grief. There is so much life left in our family. There is so much love. And that is where I am going to invest myself in the months to come; in them, and in healing. That is what Gavriella would have wanted.

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56 Comments

  1. Dee

    Dearest Judy. I have been thinking of you and your family a lot since we heard the news. I know you have many people around you giving hugs and support but please know that there are many more around the world sending our hugs and support virtually. I am so glad that you continue to write and share your story of love for your daughter. By doing so, you are also showing love for our children and our families. Your heart is so big. Wishing you strength, courage and much love through this devastating time.

    • Lisa Epstein

      Judy, i don’t know which words to chose to let you know i feel you. But i do. Deeply. I’m glad you are surrounded by the love of your children and grandchildren. I know you will all collectively carry the grief and beautiful memories you all share. Wrapping you in my virtual arms

      • Chris

        Judy. What a beautiful photo. They say a picture paints a thousand words. The love and thanks Gavriella has for you shines out in buckets and you are the proudest of mums. Such a lovely photo that tells so much. So so sorry and thankyou for sharing such privacy at such a painful beyond words time.

    • Aliza

      I do not know you. Yet I feel for you and your loved ones. You wrote a beautiful article. May Hashem
      Comfort you and your children in the gates of Zion and Jerusalem.

  2. Daryl

    Judy, your words move me to tears. I’m so deeply sorry for your loss, and your family’s loss, of your precious Gavriella. I admire your courage in speaking out about your experience, and for offering hope and support for other families, in the midst of your own grief. You honor Gavriella immeasurably in this way. I’m so very proud to know you and to work alongside you at F.E.A.S.T.

  3. Mary

    Judy, if I can carry some of your pain and grief, I will. I was moved to tears of grief, anger and frustration about EDs. As you said though, negativity won’t help. Instead, I will take action as Gavriella did – with kindness, sincerity and love. Remember that self-care comes in little packages everyday. Love you.

  4. Jennifer Aviles

    Oh, Judy. I am so very saddened to learn of the unexpected death of your beloved daughter. Sending you and your family love and profound condolences.

    • Jennifer Whisman

      I’m so sorry to hear of the loss of your beloved daughter, Gavriella. I have faithfully read your articles over the years and found your strength and wisdom so helpful to me as a parent. You and your family are in my thoughts.

  5. Claire izcovich

    Thank you very much for sharing. I cannot imagen the pain and sadness that you are going through. I send you my deepest condolences to you and your family

  6. Millie Plotkin

    I’m not a parent and can’t imagine what you are and your family are going through. But as a survivor of both an eating disorder and a suicide attempt, I grieve with you and appreciate the support you always gave to your beautiful daughter. May her memory be a blessing.

  7. Andrea LaMarre

    Dear Judy — thank you so much for sharing this. I cannot even fathom the depth of pain you and your family are enduring. You are such a gift of a human and I am sending you love and light through this incredibly challenging experience.

  8. Nadina Szew

    Heartbroken to hear this sad news. May Gavriella’s memory be for blessings and may you and your family find comfort in the loving family and community that sorrounds you. Sending much love.

  9. Judith Banker

    You, Gavriella, and your wonderful family have been on my mind through this time. It takes great personal courage and deep caring for our community to write so truthfully about the loss of your beloved daughter while encouraging others to remain hopeful. Your words provide strength. It is a privilege to know you. Wishing peace and comfort for you and your family, and all who knew and loved Gavriella.

  10. Elissa Myers

    Extraordinarily lovely tribute to your precious daughter, and to the family that you and your husband have created. Judy you are so strong — I’ve always known that, but never fully appreciated how strong you are. Thank you for transforming the painful experience that you have been and continue to live with into a powerful story to inform, transform, and comfort and bring hope for others. Please take time to find comfort for yourself.

    • Chasida

      Dear Judy,
      I don’t know you but over time I’ve read your articles/postings about your daughter’s struggle with an eating disorder. I am so sorry to read about Gavriella’s death. My almost 14 year old daughter died 17 years ago. I tell you this not to say I understand how you feel, because how could I? Only you were Gavriella’s mother so only you can feel what you do. I do understand how it feels to live a beloved child, way too soon. I wish you and your family strength to carry on and be happy. May you be comforted in the memories you have of Gavriella

  11. Cipatli

    Thank you so much Judy for sharing with us, you are an amazing women and Gavriella will always live in your beloveds hearts.

  12. Joan Riederer

    Dear Judy.I have been thinking of you daily and remembering the devastation of the loss of a child. Please know that the world is wrapping it’s arms around you and your family. With much love.

  13. Steven Dunn

    Blessings to you dear Lady. Only a parent who has lived through this incredible anguish, this nightmare that has been thrust upon you, can understand the whirlwind of emotions which must surely be gripping your heart. The manner in which we grieve is as unique as our fingerprints. It is different for us all. One day, friends may come to you with well intentioned advice on “the grieving process.” They will be trying to help as much as they can. But, they cannot possibly understand. They will be acting out of love though. Your courageous words remind me of a card given to me by a dear friend after my daughter was taken by this disease in October 2016. The message was: “When faced with an unspeakable tragedy, one of three things tends to happen: (1). It destroys us; (2). It defines us in a negative way for the rest of our life, or (3). It fills us with incredible strength, resolve and purpose.” I also believe we do not get to choose which path we will walk. But, from your incredible, inspirational words, your strength and vulnerability shown in each word, the world will long remember you and your beloved daughter. All blessings to you.

  14. Rachel Millner

    I am so sorry for your loss. Your daughter sounds like a wonderful person who impacted everyone who knew her. Thank you for sharing your story with us. I am holding all of you in my thoughts and prayers. May her memory be a blessing.

    • Maria Nichols

      Hugs and strength. I am so sorry for your loss. This disease is horrific and I still pray for healing for our daughter. Gavriella will remain in my prayers and I will light a candle at the cathedral for her. Thank you for sharing, hugs and healing.

  15. Anthea Fursland

    Judy – I don’t know you but I have read much of what you have written and I know of you. I am sending you my profound sympathy for the loss of your beloved daughter, Gavriella. Wishing you comfort in your grief and strength from your memories.

  16. Amy E Cunningham.

    Dearest Judy,

    You are bearing more than any parent should ever bear and it is heartbreaking. I wish I could bear some of this grief for you, and am grieving with you. This is such a lovely tribute to beautiful and kind Gavriella and so wonderful that your family is there to knit you all together tightly. Sending you strength and love from across the water. Xoxoxo

  17. Leah Dean

    Dear Judy, Thank you for sharing these beautiful words about your daughter Gavriella, and your loving family. Even in grief, you give strength and hope to others. Sending my love and condolences to you and your family.

  18. Deborah Isaac

    Judy- you may not remember but I met you and your three beautiful girls as you were about to make aliya. At the time I was pregnant with triplets and always had a special place on my heart for your girls. I had read your articles about your family’s struggle with this terrible disease but still was greatly taken aback to hear that it has taken Gavriella from this world. I cannot imagine that sorrow but know that there are many out there sending you strength.

  19. Mia Weiss

    Dear Judy and family
    Thank you for sharing your story and being so open about your process
    May Hashem bring you comfort and give you all strength
    All the best

  20. Sarah Rowland

    My thoughts and condolences to you and your family. I have followed your wise words and thoughts for a long time and feel your pain of your loss close to my own heart. Unimaginable 💙

  21. Rosemary

    Dear Judy, I am so sorry. I lost my daughter to this illness too.. the way you have described loss is pretty accurate.
    My thoughts and love are with you and your family

    • Randi Halperin

      Wishing you much love and light during this incredibly dark and difficult time.

      You and your family have endured so much and I hope, in time, you all will be able to find some peace now that Gavriella has found it.

      Sending hugs to you and Kraz.

  22. Bracha

    I did Sherut Leumi with Gavriella at Beit Hayeled Amit in 2013. As a new olah I had a really hard time with the language and adjusting to life as a bat sherut. I was elated to find out that there was another bat sherut who spoke English. And not only that, but someone who was SO nice and friendly. Gavriella was so incredibly kind to me and made me feel like I had a place among the bnot sherut, at a time when I felt very self-conscious socially. She always checked in with me to make sure I was okay, and probably saved me from crying multiple times. She was a true friend to me that year, and I have her to thank for having a successful sherut leumi experience. I also remember that she cared for her children in the bet yeled in a very unique way. It was clear that her children were her #1 priority and she went above and beyond for their needs. She stayed late for them multiple times and genuinely cared about their needs, without focusing on the less important things about the very challenging job. I just remember feeling like she really understood what we were doing there, and never lost sight of the core of our work (and never gave in to the tendency that some people had to complain about everything). I am sure she left an indelible mark on many children’s lives. I know she did on mine.

    I am so sorry for your loss and will remember Gavriella so fondly.

  23. Chevese Turner

    Dearest Judy—I was privileged to work with you for 6 years and I value so much how we learned from one another and grew. This news took my breath away and strengthened my resolve—I could only think of all you’ve done on your daughter’s behalf with a mother’s heart.

    I hope you are comforted by the memories of your daughter and the love of your family and friends.

    Thank you for the gift of sharing. Many hugs.

  24. Helise Pollack

    Beautifully written, Judy.
    Sharing your story raises awareness and lets others who are dealing with this issue know that they are not alone.
    My thoughts and prayers are with you..

  25. Susan Ringwood

    Dear Judy, words feel inadequate in the face of your families’ loss of your precious daughter Gavriella, but they are all I have. Your grace, your openess and your strenght of mind will be an inspiration to all who read your story. You have been a fearless and tireless campaigner and advocate for families affected by this most cruel of conditions- an eating disorder. Your loss is dreadful, and I can only share with so many others my hopes that Gavriella has found peace, and that you and your family can eventually do so too.

  26. Roni Sharet

    Dear Judy, You wrote with your all of your heart, with honest and with pain. You describe perfectly the hard emotions that coming with losing Gavi.
    I feel so broken and don’t know how to pick myself up.
    I love Gavi with all of my heart and I always will. She is a big part of my heart and she is in my thoughts all the time. Really.

    I’m sending warm hugs to you and to your dear family.

    Thank you , Roni, Gavriella’s friend.

  27. Marcie

    To my dear sister Judy; I am in constant awe of who you are, what you have accomplished in raising a beautiful, loving family and sharing that love and now your anguish with the world. I hope you found some healing while you wrote your profound words. Gavi is at peace and hope all of your memories bring some sense of peace, even if it is gradual, to you, Allen & the entire family.

  28. Shari Brodsky

    Judy, what a beautiful tribute to your darling Gavriella. My heart aches for you, Allen and your dear children. You were an extraordinary advocate for your daughter and always fought for her with all you had. Your love knew no bounds. I pray that in time you will all start to heal and know that your precious angel will always be with you.
    All my love.

  29. Elaine

    Judy,reading your sharing of your family’s heartbreak moved me greatly.The optimism you share at the end is a tribute to you and your family.💌💌💌

  30. KAZ

    Sending my very deepest sympathy and thoughts and love to you, your family, friends and all loved ones
    I can’t even imagine the pain you are all going through
    I just can’t understand why???
    Why does this happen? When they know how to treat this illness but for some reason patients are still dying
    I’m so so sad and heartbroken for you
    Hold on to your precious memories of your beautiful daughter
    A beautiful gorgeous angel who will forever be in your hearts
    rest peacefully
    💔

  31. Doreen

    I was very moved by your brave account of Gavi . You will always remember the beautiful soul that she was. May your remaining children & grandchildren bring you & Allen comfort in the future.

  32. Heidrun

    Judy, I do not know you, but have read many of your posts and articles over the years and always admired your willingness to share and be open about your daughter’s illness as well as what you were going through. I cannot imagine what it took to write this. I am so incredibly sorry for your loss, my heartfelt condolences to you and your family.

  33. Kristin

    With tears and deepest sympathy my whole heart goes out to yours in your sadness. Over the years your words and writings and honesty into this insidious illness and rollercoaster have resonated and helped me as a mom and caregiver, certainly countless other families. At particularly scary or dark moments of supporting my daughter or visiting her in yet another level of care, your writings would find their way through FEAST, like a gift from your knowing heart, at just a moment needed. May you and your family find grace and love and peace one moment at a time. Thank you for your advocacy and voice, a lasting loving tribute to your beautiful daughter.

  34. Sarah Ravin

    What a beautiful tribute to Gavriella’s legacy. I greatly admire your strength and courage in sharing your family’s story and speaking openly about Gavriella’s struggles. I have no doubt that your advocacy has informed and inspired countless other patients, families, and clinicians in their fight against eating disorders. My thoughts are with you and your family as you move through this heartbreaking loss.

  35. Ann

    Dear Judy
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts during this extremely difficult time. My 28 year old daughter has been struggling with an eating disorder and depression for the past nine years. She is currently exhausted by the struggle and does see any light. I am so sorry that you lost your precious daughter. Your willingness to share your grief openly has given me hope in this darkness. Shedding light on pain is so courageous. Thank you

  36. David Dempsey

    Thank you for sharing, my heart sank and my eyes watered as I read your story . . . .. I pray that God is close to Gavriella and that he stays close to you and your family and with his presence bless you all with a peace that only he can give. As complicated as it is for us to understand this disease, It’s even harder for us to understand the depth of his ways. Stay close and thank you again for the courage to share your story.

  37. Sarah Hyams

    Dear Judy
    I have been thinking about your terrible news since you posted it. You don’t know me but I would always avidly read your posts since my d became ill. They seem to resonate more as we are the same religion, and I could relate to your posts about the food preparation for the holidays. I am so sorry for your loss and wish you and the rest of your family a long life.

  38. Shelly

    Dear Judy: I am deeply sorry for the loss of your beloved daughter. I am also grateful that you shared the story of loss with FEAST. Prayers for strength and peace in the months to come.

  39. Pat Barnett

    Dear Judy, my heart is with you in this devastating loss. My daughter took her life at the age of 18 after 3 years of severe bulimia. The advice and support of FEAST during her illness was a godsend. Gavriella sounds like such a lovely young woman in every way. What a tragic loss for this world. ED is pure evil.

  40. AB

    Thank you for being so open and sharing. Despite your pain, you are making a tragedy into a learning experience. And your daughter has made this a learning experience, for all of us, even as she is no longer physically here. This is your perpetual monument to the world. Tenuchamu mehashamayim.

  41. pauline

    Dear Judy my heart is breaking for you and your family. I am so very very sorry for your loss.
    I wish you love and peace and I hope you take comfort in each other.Gavriella will always be with you,

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