Everyday Inspirations: Sally Hirsch Zalben

June 8, 2010
I recently met with Sally Hirsch Zalben in her home.  She graciously shared her story about living life after losing both of her adult siblings and her parents.  After her sister passed away in 2006, she became the sole caretaker of her then 19 year-old niece, and is learning to embrace the fact that she is now the matriarch of her immediate family.
It was a beautiful, spring evening in May when I sat down to chat with Sally.  I was greeted at the door by her two cheerful Schnoodle dogs, Roxie and Nikki.  Sally explained that her niece and husband were both at work as I settled in to her comfy couch and she relaxed in a chair.  I thanked Sally for meeting with me and promised that my questions would be as painless as possible.  She smiled graciously and told me to ask away.
Please share your recent experience with loss in your life.
I experienced extensive loss in a short period of time.  Beginning in August 1999 through January 2006, both of my adult siblings and my parents passed away.  Three of my family members passed away in January of three different years!  I was a caretaker at home for both my father and sister and really couldn't catch up.  The constant caretaking of family members really prevented me from taking care of myself.  The caretaking itself was huge toll on top of losing my family.  By the time my sister passed in January 2006, I was exhausted, overweight and wondering what just happened to the last six years of my life.
How did you find inspiration to keep on going?
After my sister passed away in 2006, I was now the guardian for my 19 year-old niece Whitney.  She and I both needed each other.  I also felt like having lost everybody, I owed it to them to live.  I did find myself telling people for a long time that I had lost four family members within a six-year time period.  Almost like I wanted sympathy or recognition for this experience.  I soon realized that I didn't need to personally identify with all the losses and began to focus on myself and my health.  It happened.  There's more to me than that.  I survived!

Would you say this experience with loss has changed you and/or your life?  How and in what ways?
I learned through this experience that life is so precious and you don't know when you will go.  When I was caretaking for three of my family members, my brother passed away suddenly in his 50's from a heart condition.  Every moment does count!  Looking at my niece for inspiration, I realized that she has lots of life to live and that I was not done yet!  This kind of positive thinking led me to have bariatric surgery.  Since then I have lost 80 pounds and have learned how important it is to celebrate life.  To support myself during all of this, I got my dog Nikki after my brother died because I needed something "alive."  I got my dog Roxie after all four family members died and my first dog Sadie died.  Both of my dogs represent life to me and keep me going. 
What advice would you share with someone who just has lost a loved one?
Honor and allow yourself to have their memory and keep it alive.  Accept the messages they send you.  Know that they are always with you in your heart, your soul and your being.  It is very comforting to honor these messages.  Let yourself grieve and take care of yourself.  Know that there is still life to live after your loss, even though sometimes it doesn't feel like it! 
Everyday Inspirations interview conducted with Sally Hirsch Zalben by Michele McBride on May 26, 2010.  All rights reserved.



posted June 22, 2010 by Jo Pelletier
It is so important to allow yourself time to grieve our losses whether it is a family member or friend; even the loss of a pet is felt. Recently I lost a friend to cancer, and had a difficult time accepting that she was terminal and felt so much anger that I kept hidden. Then I got a chest cold which I felt was my expression of emotions unexpressed. She passed away last week and I feel that her spirit has been set free. Love your symbol and will probably buy one soon to honor her. ~ Peace, Jo

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