Dear Tzippora,

My house was recently broken into one night. The thief took very little – just my purse and my husband's laptop bag. However, he also stopped in the kitchen and helped himself to a drink; I know this because he left his cup on the table. Even though it was a very minor break-in, I can't stop thinking about what would have happened had somebody in the family woken up just then, and encountered the thief. This reoccurring thought fills me with terror, and though a month has passed, I still can't sleep at night. I am terrified of every small noise after dark. I check on my kids all night long; if I had my way, they would all be sleeping in our bedroom. My husband thinks I am crazy, that I have been acting weird since the robbery. Why can't I get over it? Why do I keep replaying it over and over in my mind?


Dear Sleepless,

It is important to recognize that you lost much more than your purse during the robbery. Your sense of safety and security has been compromised by an intruder in your home. Even though the intruder is no longer present, you are still grappling with the sense of extreme vulnerability his uninvited presence created.

Being robbed is very traumatic. People respond to trauma in different ways. Explain to your husband that what he sees as weird behavior is actually an example of a post-traumatic stress reaction. It will take time to heal from the feeling of acute vulnerability which you are experiencing. A month is not that long when you consider the impact this robbery has had on your inner world.

It would be a good idea to take active steps to reestablish your sense of safety. Perhaps you may wish to change the locks or install a new burglar alarm if you haven't done so already. You may even wish to consult with a home security expert. Explain to your husband that this money is an investment in your mental health as well as your physical safety. It is necessary to restore your sense of wellbeing. These tangible steps will help you regain a sense of control over your world.

A very important practical step is to have your mezuzot checked by a scribe to make sure that they are properly written and that none of the letters have faded. If you do not have mezuzot on all your doorposts, now would be a good time to invest in them. The placing of a mezuzah on the doors of a home or office protects the inhabitants — whether they are inside or outside.

Yet real control is the control within. Tell yourself that the time for being scared has passed. You went through a very frightening experience, and your family emerged unharmed. Now you must make a conscious decision to move on. When you find yourself playing the what-if game, imagine a CD player in your mind. Visualize removing the disc of "what if," and replacing it with a new disc, the disc of "we are fine; it's over now." Listen to this new disc, and its soothing message. Use it to help you fall asleep.

Remind yourself, as well, that G‑d watches over each of us and loves us, like a parent loves his only child. Strengthening your bitachon, optimistic faith in G‑d's watchfulness and protectiveness over you, should make you feel calmer.

In another month's time, if you are still as anxious as you are now, or if you find yourself growing more anxious rather than less, it is important to seek the help of a professional who will work with you one-on-one to help you regain your sense of safety.

Thanks for writing,

Tzippora Price, M.Sc.