What do you do, what do you say, when someone tells you that she is in pain?

I received a message the other day from a client of mine. This is a special client with a special story. For 16 years, she hadn’t menstruated naturally, although she tried using hormones and other treatments to bring on her period. When she married at the age of 32, she immediately went to fertility specialists. After two years of futile treatments, she came to me. I made some dietary recommendations and suggested some herbs. She came to me for months for massage and reflexology, and then to her surprise—and even a bit to mine!—she began to menstruate naturally.

Yesterday, I got this message from her: “I received my period this morning. I know that I should be grateful, but I can’t help feeling disappointed ... ”

Automatically, when I got the message, I thought, “Yay! Thank G‑d! That’s amazing! This is such a good sign of health and balance!” But I reread the message a few times, especially the part that said, “I can’t help feeling disappointed ... ” Here was a client who so badly wanted a child, and although the period was a healthy sign, it also meant that she wasn’t pregnant yet.

“What is the best way to answer?” I asked myself.

When G‑d came to Moses to tell him about the redemption from Egypt, G‑d broke the redemption down into four steps:

Therefore, say to the children of Israel, “I am the L‑rd, and I shall bring you out from under the burdens of Egypt; I shall rescue you from their service; I shall redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments; I shall take you to me for a people and I shall be a G‑d to you.”1

I never understood the order of the redemption until I experienced a loss. Actually, it was two losses. My dear mother in-law passed away, and then, two months later, I miscarried. The pain was unbearable, or so it felt. I remember that when we were in that pain, I felt like there was a dark cloud that hung over our home, a dark cloud that enveloped us and blocked any rays of light from entering. We lived in emotional survival mode.

For the loss of my mother in-law, the pain lingered for 12 long months as my husband said the mourner’s Kaddish. On the day he completed the year of mourning, I saw the dark cloud lift from our home. We could at last heal from the loss and see the rays of light, knowing that this remarkable woman was in a good place with our Creator.

The miscarriage was a different loss. It took physical healing before I could come out of the darkness. My body needed time, my hormones needed balancing. This loss, too, needed to be mourned. I was in disbelief at the miscarriage because I was certain that the baby’s birth would be a nechamah, great comfort, to my grieving husband—so how could this also be taken from us? I asked my husband, “Why? What did I do wrong? Why is this happening? How can I do better?”

He said the most comforting words to me: “Elana, stop. Now, when you are in such pain, now is not the time to analyze it. First heal.” He was so right, because once out of the crisis, I could see that there were things that I simply did not understand and that that was okay. I could understand that my body had been a vessel to carry a special soul, that everything in life happens for a reason, and that I had a special purpose in carrying that soul. I could understand that difficult things are not a sign that G‑d is rejecting us or doesn’t love us. In fact, if anything, it’s the opposite, because He loves us so very much. But I wasn’t ready to see this while in the midst of it.

If you notice, when G‑d mentions the redemption, He doesn’t start out by saying, “I’m redeeming you.” How does He start? “I’m bringing you out.” When a person is going through a difficult time in her life, when she is given a test, she first just needs to know that she will get through it, that G‑d will “bring her out.” When a person is in pain, you can’t tell her, “Don’t be in pain. It’s all for the best.” Of course, if she herself says that, then encourage it because it’s 100 percent true, but if she doesn’t, give her time. Help her to just make it through that moment.

First, the person just needs to get out of crisis mode. Even if the reality doesn’t change, she mentally and emotionally needs to get out of her crisis. Then with time, with healing, she sees redemption, salvation, she sees the love, the greatness, in the very test.

After all these thoughts went through my head, I answered my client. I told her that her feelings were valid, and that it’s normal to feel disappointment. She appreciated my words. And then she moved on, and she herself spoke about how grateful and excited she was that her body was functioning, and that the menstruation was a healthy sign. At that point, I mentioned that the first day of a cycle corresponds to the first day of the redemption. And I expressed my hope that, G‑d willing, her cycle would culminate nine months later in a birth.