Want To Have Truce With Grief?
Try accepting it as your incorrigible shadow
Suddenly you blink and realize that life has staggeringly changed. I have witnessed this impromptu gush quite often. Life suddenly flips, and I realize that it wasn’t quite what I wanted.
Come I’ll walk you through the journey of grief, like a travel guide manoeuvre through the archives of human life.
A young girl is prancing in happy circles around her mother. She knows nothing of an excruciating definition of death. Life is perfect. A 9-year-old living a very normal day with her young mother. The mother is somewhat unwell, but not to the extent that she could cease living, altogether. Life is fun in its small ways. And suddenly someone wails the ominous cry in the house. The young mother dies, immediately after having a customary dinner with her daughter.
For a nine-year, the idea of death is unintelligible. To add infection to injury, she deals with the profound pain of loss besides grasping the notion of death. Because this is the first time ever she has confronted death so closely. Given her father’s death, the family has cropped a narrative of he’ll-come-back-from-heaven. Which again twists her understanding of death. It’s said that thresholds to pain for everyone are different. Hence when pain isn’t processed it transforms into complex grief. For a 9-year-old, resultant grief is crushing. It is the first time ever life screeches to a dead end, or she thinks so. Unaware of the rude truth that dead-end only shows when you are dead until then those are just backbreaking halts.
She imprisons herself in a room until dusk. It is a laughably cruel joke. She curses. Cries. Sleeps. Anticipating the nightmare to end once she wakes up. Decidedly, the nightmarish glory becomes an integral part of her life, like a menacing ghost, hell-bent on de-veining the body it has possessed.
To recapitulate, I was possessed by my grief!
Eventually, I adapted it as a way of life. It came with me everywhere. To the school, with friends, at restaurants. One like my cell phone charger. I took it as inevitable. Sometimes when I forgot it back home, I’d feel uneasy. Rush home, pick it hungrily, and start the day. Because my grief was growing with me. We were one. The growth was disastrous. Unwilling as the grief was, it stuck to my brain and heart. I mimicked ‘her’. Because I was her, maybe like co-joined twins.
The change was unaddressed!
Notice the foolhardy victimization?
So, steadily after a couple of catastrophic uprooting celebrations, I took her as ‘me’ in totality. Also, I connected dots from the past patterns. For example, I would draw connections between the pains of my mother, her mother, and her great mother. This gave a certain kind of melancholic comfort. To be the part of a matriarchal lineage who had triumphantly witnessed bereaving losses. My granny has her share of losses and so did my young mum, until she died. But my granny has a beautifully wicked way of singing her pains, literally and metaphorically. The idea of being singular to heartaches was so stringent that I romanticized it thoroughly.
In my household, the woebegone stories were the anchor of human relations. The women folks would sit on a huge, plum mahogany plank-swing hitched to the brown manganese terracotta-clay-tiled roof. When the women sat on that swing talking about family politics, movies, and past stories, they’d kickstart the glide setting the stage for myriads of stories, especially heroic tales of loss.
I listened to their stories intently. The matriarchs emphasized no-pain-no-glory narratives. The narration was often vivid that it felt, all-inclusive. While I demean their real pain, I don’t intentionally say that they partied pity. But certainly, there was a chain that they felt crucial to be connected, to keep the generational saga of loss alive. And I hitched myself to that chain, tightly. On the flip side, this affected me as an intelligent human. Because my thought process was always clouded. I made decisions after consulting my grief. The decisions, I never realized, were making me more comfortable with grief.
Growing up in the matriarchal setup instilled a sense of strong individuality alongside a sense of woeful connection. However, grief too grew with me. It still lives with me but visits mostly when I hit the sack. Initially, it was pungently pushy, charged in, at her free will. Roughly, in the fourth decade of my life, I realize that grief can’t be your inevitable part always. Not at least like narcissist parenting. I reckon that once it shows up, it is hard to bid adieu. But I also reckon that it shouldn’t be of her free will, nor I should allow her to be an ocean where I merge myself without a trace.
There are no manuals or product descriptions for dealing with the pains and pleasures of life. Often, they come disguised. It becomes hard to tell them out, but now when I have recognized that fellow travelers on this journey of life don’t have to hop everywhere with you. All you need to take is yourself to the ride, minus grief. Minus prejudices. Minus big arrogance. I have discovered a tinge of bright-colored me, one like we see after polishing copper with acidic lemon. The process of polishing might be an unending process, but the idea that I can be bright and sharp is exhilarating.
Now I realize that grief isn’t stuck with your DNA!
Nor it willingly hops on a life ride with you. The decision-making still remains in your hand.