Following the death of former Miss USA and television personality, Cheslie Kryst, our dear congregant, Shari Wallack z”l, posted on Facebook:
I know what you are thinking – “she had everything” – but so did Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain right? Depression is tough. Feeling inadequate especially when one is highly capable and blessed is confusing. You never know what someone is struggling with. It’s really hard and I totally get it. Sometimes it feels like it is easier to disappear than dig into past trauma, crippling depression, sadness, feelings of inadequacy, loneliness, emotional and physical pain. Sometimes the people who seem to have everything believe they have nothing.
Shari was not shy about her own mental health challenges. Last year, she published a memoir entitled from Hell to Challah: Rising from Fragile to Fearless, One Grain at a Time. This incredibly personal memoir helped to lift many people out of very dark places. I have been Shari’s rabbi and friend for 20 years. Her journey has been an incredible one. She has touched countless lives, not just with her memoir. She was filled with energy, compassion and love – going above and beyond to support people when they were down. She was boisterous, had no filter and was, for some, was a tad bit intense. But, when you knew her and her heart, you knew that everything she did came from a place of pure love and a genuine desire to make this world a better place. After thousands of trips across this planet, Shari’s physical journey came to an end earlier this week. We deeply mourn her loss as we work to comfort her family. At the same time, we who are used to an all-consuming Shari hug need comforting ourselves. We are feeling very broken.
For every suicide, approximately 135 people are directly affected with 30% finding it to be a life changing event. Many of us are living this stark reality right now.
If Shari knew you were down, she’d be in your face about it, calling you, texting you, showing up at your front door, sending food – doing whatever she could to lift you a little bit higher. Given this, I know she would not want me to be silent about our communal grief right now. I have spoken with many of you, including those of you who didn’t know Shari, who have been deeply shaken by her death. In her memoir, Shari writes that “we need to hear and help each other as we continue to work through these challenging times.” I implore each of us to live by Shari’s words. If you are hurting, let your voice be heard. If someone you love is struggling emotionally, let your voice be heard as well. Reach out to me, Rabbi Cheryl, Cantor Debbie, Beth, Lindsay, family, friends, your own doctor. Don’t hesitate to call the Lifeline Hotline at 800-273-8255. You are not alone on this journey.
As Shari posted in response to Kryst’s passing back in January, mental illness is confusing. Right now, many of us are asking “why?” and “what more could I have done?” Shari would not want us wrestling with these questions. Instead, she would want us to use this moment to commit to lifting someone else up, finding the strength to ask for help, doing a random act of kindness, sharing your battle scars openly and proudly, and really listening to each other.

May Shari’s memory be an incredible blessing for us all.

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