real life

'Daddy isn't there. He's nothing now': The conversation Simi Polonsky will never forget.

One night last month, Simi Polonsky let her seven-year-old daughter stay up late. As the young girl’s bedtime passed, she began to tire. The tears started, then the tantrum. In gasps, she sobbed, exposing what lay beneath it all.

“I miss Daddy.”

Her father, Yeshua Polonsky – Shua, to those close to him – died on November 9, 2017, when a rare virus attacked his heart.

Speaking to Mamamia‘s No Filter podcast, Brooklyn-based fashion designer Simi said her husband had been an incredibly fit and healthy man, the kind who ran marathons. But in October that year he was admitted to a New York hospital with flu-like symptoms. For the following three weeks the mother of two, who was three months pregnant at the time, leaned on her Orthodox Jewish faith; “We became so obsessed with prayer and spirituality and connecting and hope and faith, that we clung to it like little children holding on to their mums,” she said.

But Shua never came home.

Listen to Simi Polonsky’s interview with Mia Freedman on No Filter. Post continues after audio.

“I felt like I was talking to an adult in an child’s body, because she cried so hard for like an hour on me and she said to me a few hours later, ‘Mummy, I love HaShem [God], but I hate him for taking Daddy.'”

That night was the first of many conversations Simi has had with her girls about faith and death and grief; she decided there should be nothing off-limits.

“We talk about it a lot,” Simi said. “And she has all these existential thoughts and questions.” Like the night of the recent tantrum…

“I said, ‘You know what? I also wish Daddy was here. Sometimes when I really am sad for Daddy, I just try to close my eyes and imagine that Daddy is right here.’ She’s like, ‘You always get to do that, you always get to just imagine that Daddy’s there and you feel that he’s there. But he’s not there. I can’t just feel that he’s there,’ and she said, ‘because he’s nothing now. Mummy, what is nothing? What is Daddy now?’

“So I said, ‘You’re right. That’s a really good question.’ I said, ‘I choose to feel that Daddy’s here. I’m choosing to feel that he’s here, and maybe it’ll take you more time, and you don’t have to feel that.’ It’s really hard, but we’re doing the best we can.”

The Frock NYC co-founder said she’ll never forget having to tell her eldest what had happened.


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Today marks 1 year. The ‘magic’ of last year has seemed to have worn off. It’s like a melancholy of surrendering to a situation I can’t control yet am so affected by, all the way down to my soul. My body is tired and worn out from sadness, pain and grief, tired of keeping up the fight of protesting against a reality I thought I could will away. A year has gone by. There is too much “truth” to this reality that makes it so hard to avoid. The magic I yearned and hoped for through my suffering doesn’t seem to leave the same glimmer of hope for change that it used to. I feel as though I’m unwillingly raising a white flag. That I’m on a forced march. But now, my cries are stifled from time’s terror. My cries aren’t as loud because I think I’ve gotten the hint: they’re not even heard. Who is listening to them, aside for Shua? If it was up to him, we would be with him. But he doesn’t get to do that with his family, doesn’t get to live in this world where all humans deserve to live till a beautiful, wrinkly, old-age. Instead, my insides feel wrinkly and old, for they have carried too much pain for a young life to hold. Instead, the days are spent without him. The melancholy of such deep agony and sadness doesn’t even feel dramatic anymore. More like a constant lull and hum at the core of my engine inside. Expected. Often it turns into anger as the futility of the situation slaps me hard across the face. Every. Single. Time. Reality check. It feels like I have been decreed a life without him, forever to mourn the love of my life, soul mate, lover and best friend. The one who I will always be yearning to tell even one thing our kids did that day. Yet beneath a reality that has ripped everything away, even the innocence of hope, there somehow is still, the faintest glimmer of hope… somewhere. That makes a hint of a bopping appearance every now and then. In some ways it feels like an inner resistance. A torch who’s wick has been drowned out by the onslaught of buckets of water, yet still believes it can be lit again. This is Shua. It is from him. He wants us to survive this sh*t, as best as we can. And sends me tears, love and support, as best as he can.

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Simi made that choice at the birth of her son, almost six months after Shua’s death.

“I knew that I had to keep it together until that baby was out, because I knew my body just had to do it,” she said. “I said a few times, ‘Shua is going to walk in.’ I said, ‘I know Shua is going to walk in when I have that baby.’ And I really thought he would.”

When that doorway remained empty, Simi broke all over again. But as she held her little boy in her arms, as the nurses and doctors joined in her tears, there was a light, a love, she hadn’t felt in months.

“[Shua] was so there. I felt it,” she said. “It’s so weird. I said to my therapist, ‘When I feel that he’s there, am I just imagining it…?’ And she said, ‘Whatever you feel, it’s real. It’s real for you; it’s real.’ And he was definitely there.”

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