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I ain't afraid to die anymore. I'd done it already. - Hugh Glass, The Revenant
Grief is a multifaceted response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone or something that has died, to which a bond or affection was formed. Although conventionally focused on the emotional response to loss, it also has physical, cognitive, behavioural, social, and philosophical dimensions.
A year ago, a day after today-my birthday, I lost a parent to death. Subsequently, I lost myself too in strange ways. I lost faith, hope, and people to life soon after. Or let’s just say that this one event made me evaluate more intently about loss and acknowledge and introspect the dark corners of my being.
Maybe it was an on-going process which was triggered by that immediate tragedy , but I do not recognise the face I see in the mirror any more, I don’t recognise my words, my voice and my soul. I have become someone else, as much as notional this may seem I am not me anymore.
I know there is nothing that makes my experience exceptional than any other person who has lost a loved one to life or to death, but still such is the nature of grief and loss, it dents each soul similarly and yet differently.
Being a parent myself to an emotionally and physically dependent young child still, I did not have the luxury to pause on that loss for long or to even grieve as it came naturally to me.
Weeks after the last rites and legal formalities were over, in the middle of Maths homework, or cooking dinner, or just having a cup of tea a sea swelled inside me. I wanted to howl, tear my hair out, shout at the world and at the sky to reduce the gigantic unseen burden on my chest, but I couldn't because it would have scared my little one.
Instead I chose to write, read, internalise a lot of grief as a soundless, tearless sobbing or when the deluge just wouldn't stop retire to the washroom to silently let it out for five minutes and come out with a washed and wiped face, and if she asked lie, “I am looking like this because I am not too well today.”
There were friend lists and phone books but vast unending loneliness that resounded, I craved for human voices, I wish someone would make me a cup of tea and comb my hair for me, I wished I could sleep and some magic could finish all the household work. In those moments I felt all my physical energy had been drained out by something inside me.
Grief I have learned the hard way is alike an invisible tether, it won't show its face for hours or days together, you would start feeling it is no longer holding you back and it is gone and then all of a sudden when you least expect it, it will tug at your heart and soul - at a hospital entrance looking at an elderly gentleman, at a park, in the middle of a haircut and then there is no warning, nothing you can do to prevent it. The wave overwhelms and drowns you often also leading to a lot of public embarrassment. Trust me it is not attention seeking, because all you want in that moment is to be invisible to the world, because who likes pity anyway!
Grief is also a slippery path which leads you down and down into the dark well of depression, you struggle with every day things, you lose your ability to emote, to decide, to respond. All this is deadly as a parent and as someone who doesn't have many friends with whom you have daily conversations, someone who doesn't socialise much, its hold on you grows stronger and more stifling by the day.
The challenges from other areas of life only add up to this huge hollow that grows like a malign tumour inside you.
The commonest advice comes from all sides - just snap out of it, look at the positive in life, be practical, all these “demons” you talk about are not real, do it for your child's sake, but you know while you try to hang on to every bit of miraculous remedy suggested there are moments when you keep falling faster than ever into the darkness, trying to grope for words, hands, hope, anything that will hold you together.
I have always believed that when Shakespeare wrote “The lunatic, the lover and the poet…..One sees more devils than vast hell can hold….” he was so right, but being at the brink of losing your sanity is not so romantic after all. So you start strengthening the facade of strength around you, you maintain a strong exterior throughout as you crumble bit by bit inside. Hypocrisy, yes that’s right.
Being strong emotionally for long periods of time even outwardly or superficially or in the insensitive face of the world also hollows you from inside, the human need to be understood and loved is universal, especially when you are going down a mental health spiral.
Unfortunately a lot of people close to me also went through a similar loss around the same time, but eventually I saw them overcome their grief and smile back at life faster and sooner. Strangely their stories did not inspire instead I started feeling even more overwhelmed and inadequate to face what they had overcome successfully, right before me.
What is worse this disease of the mind and the soul doesn't show, there is no excruciating physical pain that twists and turns your body, no visible wounds or scars, no blood tests that can testify that there is a monster living inside you and that the torture is real.
A silent clawing inside you that you hope doesn't get denied as a mood swing or a tantrum or worse still a sympathy-gainer. This apathy that you witness around you even from people you thought you were the closest too, just fastens the process, it intensifies the alienation and losing hope becomes reality.
Then comes the worst low, you think the only way out is death because you cannot continue like this. You start looking at every fan as a possibility to hang from, at every terrace as a possibility to jump off.
Here is that thin line that holds you back, for me it was my child.
I lost a parent a year ago to death, a sort of milestone that flung me off the road completely. I lie battered, bruised, and down and out to say the least but as long as a little hand is in my palm, I know I will keep up the fight.
I am so grateful for whoever stood by me and sent me strength, and I more grateful to those who didn’t, because they granted this insight.