Friday, April 21, 2017

On Grief

Eight years ago I wrote about mourning rituals and how I found some solace in them, in their very austerity. While I know not everybody feels the same way about them, they helped me a little and I wanted to understand how it worked.

Mourning is a little part of dealing with grief, but grief seems to be so much bigger. Once in, it seems to become a part of you, a permanent sadness in some. I lost my grandfather 25 years ago and if you ask me about him, sometimes you will still hear the anger in my voice at his daring to die on me, on us, ending the best part of our childhood. For years I suppressed all my memories of him, and later, when I realised this and went hunting for them, my memories had grown dim. This loss is now a part of the loss of my grandfather, to me. As an adult, it shocked me to realise that I react to loss with anger. And guilt, because, somehow, I should have done something to have prevented the loss. So funerals often leave me angry.

Grief is a very strange part of life. No two people seem to grieve the same way, over the same person. When I was younger, I judged people for grieving 'wrongly'; age brought a little wisdom and insight that just because they grieved differently, it did not change the fact that they too were grieving. Some people prepare for or even deal with loss by becoming even more selfish, insisting on centring their own daily troubles. Some fall physically ill, even though they were perfectly healthy till then. Some, more experienced with what is ahead, turn to therapy, medication, counselling.

I remember my mother-in-law being criticised for being perfectly turned out at her husband's last rites. Now I think, if I were married to a man who adored me and took pride in my looking good, I would dress up for him too. How could I not dress up for him one last time? In any case, how is her dress anybody's business but her own?

Nor does grief come with an expiry date. A dear friend, no longer young, still mourns her parents who died many years ago. And why should she not? When my parents go, as they will, will I be automatically be able to switch gears to a life without them around? Will my thoughts stop factoring them in? In recent years very close friends have lost parents and parents-in-law. I watch them deal with their own grief, the loss faced by their children, and also their mourning spouses.

I remember being impatient with Vicky, expecting him to now pick himself up and let his father go. It's a feeling I deeply regret, though I do have some sympathy for my younger self as well. It's not easy living with somebody who is mourning. A large part of their self is no longer available to you -- and this does not come with an end date either. You don't know when you'll get them back, and in what shape. Vicky often lashed out at me, and I found it difficult to understand and accept. Looking back, I have a great deal of compassion for us both. I expected the early upsets but I never realised it would go on for so long. And he, well, he never knew his father's death would change his life as profoundly as it did. How could he? He only had the one father to lose.

Recently two very dear friends lost their fathers. They each grieve in their own ways. One of the hardest parts of this is knowing there is nothing I can do to help. I can be around but that only goes so far. For the rest, this is their path to walk alone. That I think is the hardest part of grief, how solitary it is. When my grandfather died, all his grandchildren were shaken with the loss, but each of us lost something unique and none of us grieved together because our losses were so different from each other's, so private. Do you know somebody who is grieving? Please don't judge them for whatever form their grief takes. Who are we to tell them how to handle their loss?

Friday, April 14, 2017

A Holiday

I've been boring the ears off anybody who listens about how I want a holiday. Truth is, the four of us haven't been anywhere without family since, well, ever. We haven't been on a holiday since Beni was born. We did have a trip to Nepal over winter, which my uncle and aunt made very memorable, but it wasn't us four.

And all our attempts have been so jinxed! Coming to Bangalore I was very optimistic because there are so many lovely weekend getaways nearby, but soon after our arrival Ally broke down very badly. She broke down in spectacular fashion while we were driving to a little resort for Rahul's ninth birthday. The engine froze in a tiny town and since none of us speak or understand Kannada, the situation was rather fraught. We got her back to town after a fashion and for the longest time afterwards she was only just able to survive short trips around town. Recently though we seem to have found a good mechanic, somebody who has been able to restore her to what feels like her old self. We promptly booked an Airbnb in Pondicherry for this weekend. And then first I and then the boys fell ill, and ultimately Vicky did too. So that was cancelled.

So here I am, letting this longing go. It's not that important. It'll happen when it does. We live in a lovely little place with our own gardens and access to sports and a pool, which if you think about it, is almost a resort. (All that's missing is room service lol!)

I've also been wondering why I want a holiday so badly. What do I want from it? The answers are a little unnerving. I want to stop being so tired, so burnt out. I'm burnt out all the time. I recover and promptly burn out again. I haven't read a book in weeks or touched my crochet or knitting for more than 10 minutes -- because I can't focus. I fall asleep at odd times and then stay awake at night. I want a hard re-set. To stop, sleep, wake up and start again. This time a little slower, less resentfully, more lovingly. Trying to work from home with two kids is exhausting me this summer, even as I enjoy having them around. I am exhausted juggling so many balls and constantly watching one or another fall because I'm too exhausted to keep them all up in the air. I want to do better than this. And ok, a holiday won't wave a magic wand and make that happen. I accept that.