Don’t ignore Grief.
Bottle up your emotions, they say. Repress them. No need to talk about it. Hush it up.
A tragedy is a tragedy. A loss of life cannot be a replacement or forgotten. There is no evading it or escaping it. It crops up as if it was always meant to be. And it is. It will. But we aren’t taught to see tragedy in a transparent light. We like to cover it up, afraid of the judgment that comes along with it. Folks will think we are cuckoo.
It will ruin our reputation. They’d say we have gone soft in the head. Our emotions will affect our decisions and so we can’t be trusted. Blah. Blah. Blah.
So we put a lid on it. Brush it under the carpet. Pretend to move on swiftly, trying to make sense of the awkward void of pain, distress, and restlessness. It should not be addressed. Swallow the pain like a pill. Ignore the panic.
If you don’t stop talking about it, how will you move on? But the bigger and relevant question is, the one going through it, are they willing to move on already. Sadly, the sufferer ceases to be relevant.
“Khush Raho. Haso, khelo, logon se milo.’
‘Busy ho jao. Kahi ghoom aao.’
‘Jyaada baat karne se, beeteen baatein yaad ayengi…’
The above-mentioned are basic and typically the advise one receives. Pathetic. I have always questioned this take on grief. Why can’t we talk about it? Because it is depressing; it is too much work to condole someone, to let him or her speak their heart out or be a part of their grief. Not thinking about it or being ‘busy’ doesn’t solve the problem. Loss of a person, however little time you may have spent with me, cannot be forgotten.
It is always going to be there. Anybody who has suffered, even something as small as having a bad day at work, knows that sharing about it will ebb the pain of grief. Sure, eventually, maybe a decade later, you will be able to view the loss from a distance but not right now.
Grief arrives in many ways — Death, Loss, Abandonment. The list is long. But there is no measure for grief. You cannot fathom who is hurting more and who is barely affected. Whatever it is, at any level, discussing grief helps. Most importantly, you cannot tell someone grieving to get over it!
I lost my unborn baby last year at 29 weeks. It was a shock, to say the least. The hospitalization and the procedure of normal induced labor last for 72 hours. My grief oscillated between the reality of losing my baby who I was getting to know and between the specimen I had become to the array of doctors who each had a different idea of going about it.
Homecoming was worse. The immediate family was clueless as to how to deal with me. Suddenly all the long-lost relatives wanted to see me and decide for themselves if I qualified for their sympathy. ‘Don’t think about the baby.’ ‘Why don’t you play with our grandchild? You will feel happier!’, ‘Your baby’s karma did not have a long life…’ and other random statements were thrown at me.
Apart from advice, we got awkward smiles. Even when around us, no one really asked us how we felt. They would cover it up with other incidents or how another baby would fill the gap ASAP. So we should get back to planning another one right about now.
What no one asked was that how were we coping? Did we have nightmares or palpitations? Nor why were be being so sullen about it. Throwing responsibilities at acting or us as if nothing happened was a typical way of addressing our grief. My own father refused to acknowledge the tragic incident, as he couldn’t deal with it. Unfortunately, all of this stemmed from sympathy, not empathy.
People had different views. Having a baby was a definite solution like I said before. But mention adoption and people start plying you with fertility clinic addresses.
Among friends, the situation was no better. They skirted around the issue as well.
It has been a year since then. I am still grieving but I am not crying heap of a mess I was back then.
I recently happened to mention to a close friend that the baby was a girl. We instantly fell silent. She simply could not talk about it or let me talk about it. I don’t blame her.
Unfortunately, what we don’t realize is that we pay a very heavy price emotionally. When left on our own to deal with grief, can unhinge one, and be their undoing.
The best way to deal with grief is to seek help. Professionally or through friends and family. Even as peers, we need to make a little time to hear people out. If the person is important to someone, they should not be shut out or left alone to deal with their grief. Isolation is not the answer.
We need to address it head-on. The source of grief needs to be analyzed, discussed, yelled at, cried for and so much more. Yes, it does mean talking about the same thing over and over again until one can speak about it without crumpling into a heap. Talking about it can help strengthen our resolve to deal with it.
Time does heal but other things can go wrong in between. Grief doesn’t go away like flu but is more like a deep wound that needs years to heal and scars to be dealt with. And in retrospect, you’d be thankful for the lessons learned.
Grief is real. It is important and it cannot be shielded behind a curtain. Don’t shy away from it or ignore it. It is not a taboo. All you need is a little empathy.