Nefarious Deliberations


It begins with denial, usually accompanied by a deluge of trivial questions towards the unknown or the “supreme power”, asked while facing a framed photograph of your favorite deity, or kneeling in front of a benevolent Mother Mary, or during the sacred prayers in the direction of Mecca.  The “Why?”, the “How?” and the “What?”. You look for explanations for this acute agony, because that’s what our minds are trained to do. You stub your toe, you look up in the general direction of the sky and ask God Almighty, “WHY???”, don’t you?! So what about when we lose someone we love? The pain is not just skin-deep or bone-deep… It is excruciating and overwhelming. The deep chasm left behind by them in our life feels like the physical pain of our heart being hollowed out from that special spot they held in there. So we desperately seek answers to such inconsequential absurd questions while we already know that the answers are irrelevant. You see, grief is this one emotion that cannot be assuaged, buried or resolved easily. Long after you’ve lost your loved one, it lingers on. Like that faint ghost of a pain underneath the skin of a stubbed toe which spikes when you run your fingers, mistakenly, by that spot and reminds you that “you were hurt, right here.” The same way, a memory, a song, a certain smell would trigger a profound longing in you; to see them, to hear them, for their presence and proximity. The only difference is that the toe will be okay in a couple of days but even a lifetime might not be enough to completely heal the void left behind by your lost beloved.

After some time, it will become this heavy wet blanket that you’d cover yourselves with. It is uncomfortable… Of course it is, it is wet isn’t it? It is cold and cumbersome. With time your shoulders droop, your eyes become weary, people start avoiding you because they can feel the absolute absence of happiness within you. “Nothing to see here. Please move along and leave me be. I am just trudging on. I have nothing to offer.”, you tell them with your sorrowful eyes and melancholic demeanour. They stay for sometime, and some of them genuinely try to help you. They tell you, “You need to move on! There is so much to live for…” Yet you feel like you are stuck in soggy sticky sludge. You try to move your feet and walk with them. “To move on…” But you end up watching everyone else living their lives. There is so much life happening around you, births and weddings, celebrations and festivals. You watch all of it with a detached curiosity, and cannot muster up enough joy for them. You end up sounding insincere when you wish them happiness. That’s when the conversations come to an end. When people decide for you that you should just stop holding on to your very cold and wet “security” blanket. And move on already. OR they will move on from you.

Then it becomes this place that you visit, a refuge of sorts. A dank dark cave. The walls of which are covered with moss and are slippery with icy water. After a socially permissible amount of time has passed, and you feel the pressure to mingle, you force yourself to be civil. You go out, you smile at the right cues, you make jokes and laugh awkwardly, you try your best to show the world that you are okay. So okay! A thumbs up here and a wide smile there. “See? I am doing great!” But then it becomes too much to take, the palpitations start, and your ears ring, your vision becomes blurry. So, you find a dark corner of the room and visit your cave. Where everything is cold and dreary but, it is your safe place now. And you breathe a sigh of relief. “There… This is home now. This is where I live.”

No one knows how much time will go by before it becomes a habit. For everyone else you start wearing this mask of affability. And it works! They all seem to be so proud of you. It looks to them like you have weathered the storm. They commend you on your strength. “You are so strong!”, “You are so brave!”, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!”, everyone around you seems to be hinting at your magical ability of making progress and moving forward. They point you towards that sliver of silver lining, “At least you have the rest of your family”, “At least you have your job.”, “ At least they left you the house” OR “At least you met her, so many others in similar situations couldn’t even meet their loved ones”. So you put your happy mask on for their sake and plaster a smile on your face while feeling deeply disappointed in yourself for not counting your blessings. You try to push yourself out of the perpetual rut and at times you are successful. Yet you know deep inside that you are just going through the motions of life, doing what is expected from you, that it still aches when you breathe, that you are only pretending to be strong. That you are still unable to sleep because when you close your eyes, you are taken back to that very moment when you lost everything, like a film reel stuck on the same scene, playing it on repeat. And that’s how things will be for a very long time. So, you make peace with it.

And then grief will live inside you. Living and breathing like a silent dormant beast, within the very void your loved one left behind. It will balloon in there and take its very own shape and form. And you would finally learn how to live with it, exist with it. You would realize maybe “moving on” is not in the cards, maybe just surviving is enough for now. And you would try to hide it from everyone around you. Afraid that if your well-meaning friends and family see that you are still holding onto it, they would want to take it away from you. As, you feel that it is the only thing left of your loved one, if you lose it, it will be like losing them all over again. 

Oh sure there will come a time when it will become easier; to think of them, to close your eyes and see their face, to hear their favorite song, to eat your favorite food that only they knew how to make or to see their picture in the passing, to sleep and dream and to live. But now is not that time, today is not that day. It might not be tomorrow either. Or the day after that. Or even the week, the month, the year after that. It doesn’t have to. Because it is okay to dwell on your grief.

Take as much time as it takes. Live in your cave, or under a wet blanket or let it breathe inside of you. Ask questions from whatever God you believe in. Grief is personal. No one can grieve on your behalf. It is impossible for them to feel the same sense of loss that you do. Moreover, they’ve got their own shit to wade through. Only you can work through yours. Become well versed with the talk, “I appreciate your support. Thank you for your kindness.” Smile occasionally when it is not too hard. Go for a walk when you can finally drag yourself out of the bed. Talk to people when you can, share memories and swap stories with those who know what you’ve lost. Read good books and listen to music… Imagine when it won’t ache anymore. Distract yourself as much as you need (if that works for you). But do not forget to feel as much as you can. Let the pain rip you to pieces, but then always… always put yourself back up together. You won’t ever be the same, that’s a given, but you might end up becoming a better version of yourself than before. It will surely remind you that you are here, in the now. So for the time being let it linger, let it burn. Let yourself grieve.

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