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?


rrmom said...

Very poignant post. Each person mourn their own way and it is better not to judge anyone who has lost a loved one.

Anonymous said...

What a lovely post sue. So true for me. Lost my mom fairly young 6 months ago and I'm truly experiencing grief only now. At the time be on she was ailing and I'd worn myself out looking after her 24/7 for several years I told myself it was for the best but now I can hardly bear the fact she no more. That well never have our chai and music sessions, that I'll never listen again to her morning classical riyaaaz.... That she never will not be present for my sisters wedding and so much more. I'm cheerful on the face of it coz that's my style and be coz I have a very sensitive 13 year old to raise but inside I'm wrecked.

I hope you begin to feel less fatigued soon. If Bangalore offers a 24 hour saliva cortisol test at any of their medical centers please get it done. Because I suffered from the exact same symptoms as you I suspect(pardon my audacity here for suggesting this) you might be experiencing adrenal fatigue which is almost always missed on blood tests unless it is in the last stages. For a start stop expecting too much from yourself and take frequent breaks and naps during the day and try and cut out sugar, too many carbs esp. Simple carbs and processed foods. Eat more whole cooked veggies and eat more small but frequent meals during the day. Finally, if you cannot do the saliva test go to an Ayurvedic Doctor. There are good ones where you live so ask around. The best to you.


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