Grief is like the ocean; it comes in waves, ebbing and flowing.
Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.
My mother was worried, my sister was looking at me, my family was screaming, “why is she not crying?”. I was only looking straight at my father on his bed, peaceful, his eyes were closed.
He got up from where he was lying opened his eyes and was crying. I asked him if he was in pain, he replied he was in immense pain because of what I was doing with myself in his absence.
I woke up
I was feeling so sad in my dream that my sadness woke me up. The beginning of the dream was not unreal, it is what had happened when I lost him. I still remember the day I woke up and found out that my dad wasn’t waking up. It had been months and I hadn’t cried. It was as though I was numb, I didn’t feel anything, not even sadness, no pain nothing just a void.
I felt it isn’t true. He can’t just leave me alone and go. He’s not gone, he can’t go.
Is it? Am I really alone? The man who took care of me, even when I fought with him. The man who I knew would always stay where I left him everytime I made a mistake, everytime I came back to my roots. The man who would always be there to support me… is he really gone?
Ashamed to say it now but there were days I was angry with him… How could he do that to me? How could he leave me to deal with this god foresaken place? How could god do this to me?
And then I prayed couldn’t you take my life instead? I’d quit any bad habits I have if you could just give me my dad back. But nothing worked.
And then the realisation hit what if he did not know that I love him
Only if I could tell him one last time so that he knew
Although these feelings were what preoccupied my thoughts, but then I wanted look okay to my family.
I had to- as much as the situation would permit. My family needed someone to be strong for them so I took charge… of everything.
From funeral to taking charge of shouldering financial responsibility.
It was just my mother, me and my younger sister and she needed to finish her studies and I had my responsibilities as the eldest in the house.
I did fulfil all my responsibilities with everything I had. I gave my family financial support and stood rock solid for them, no tears, no sadness. I didn’t let the words of the people like “carry on like nothing happened”, or like “you’ve been sad for too long” register.
Not just with my family, I was the same with my friends. My colleagues, my relatives constantly reminded me of what I had lost… who I had lost, and I thought my friends would do the same so I did what I do best I turned into a rock.
Why do they want to visit me? I can sense their awkwardness. Can’t they sense mine?
Why is it obligatory for them to see me?
They ask how are you-
Sometimes I felt they just wanted to hear and not listen. Too nerved themselves to feel gullible, too shallow to even want to understand.
It was this dream that woke me up, and I got up to make 4 cups of tea.
As I handed over the cups to my mother and sister, they stared at that extra cup.
THAT extra cup.
HE IS NOT AROUND ANYMORE.
It had been 6 months. Was it too late to cry?
I mean I hadn’t cried in months. Hasn’t the time to cry for the first time already passed? Am I allowed to break down now? Am I allowed to grieve?
Apparently, the rest of the world had settled down with the loss. It seemed calm outside, but inside I was shattering bit by bit.
I still remember the rest of the day, the various emotions, the conflict-
My father would want me to be happy but can I ever be?
How can I try to be happy again, with such loss?
How can I pretend, an integral part of me is there nomore?
I opened my drawer at work and a pamphlet appeared, my friend had given it to me and asked me to connect with a lifecoach that they can help.
I realized I had stopped talking to people, pushed everyone away- my friends, family, colleagues- somehow they all reminded me of my father.
I couldn’t focus at work. I was afraid a day would come when my boss would stop understanding my situation.
My mother & my sister were particularly anxious of how I was dealing with him gone.
No matter how much I masked my grief with a brave face- those weak moments would always show up.
For how long can people around you support and try to understand?
I was failing myself at work, with family and relationships.
It was time to seek help.
My consultation with a Life Coach-
When I spoke with her it was as if she knew what I was going through.
What I learnt was:
Up until now I was wondering how I should feel and what I should do, but now I had to let myself feel the pain and all the other emotions. I would be angry at my father for leaving me or with god for taking him away. I would feel guilty sometimes or betrayed and I used to be ashamed at myself for feeling this way. It is natural to feel this way.
Everyone reacts to loss differently, except an individual reacts to different losses differently. It doesn’t mean I love my father any less. No reaction is right or wrong. I had to stop telling myself how to feel or let others tell me how I should feel.
It was my relationship with my father. I am a unique individual, my father was himself a very unique individual and therefore, my relationship with my father was unique. Although, my mother and my sister had lost someone too, their loss was different from mine. It was about time I stopped judging my own emotions or comparing myself to others. No one else can tell me how I should mourn or when to stop.
Since the beginning I was trying to run away, scared of the pain I might feel. I realized I wasn’t working because of my responsibilities, I was working so that I could keep myself busy and didn’t have to feel anything I didn’t want to. And it wasn’t helping. I needed to accept that I need to experience my pain, my emotions, and my own way of healing all in my own time.
For doing this I had to first acknowledge my feelings, even the ones I didn’t like. I had to let myself cry and let my self be vulnerable. There are no “shoulds” in grief. And yes I am allowed to cry whenever I want to, it doesn’t matter when I start. What matters is that if I feel it I should not stop myself from expressing it.
I felt a need to be strong for my mother and my sister, that I had to be a stone for them to lean on so in order to protect them I kept hiding how I felt. I didn’t share anything with anyone. Talking about my loss, my wound, my memories, and my experience of his life and death helped me.
Talking to my mother and my sister I realized that I didn’t need to be strong all the time, there were days I could be weak and there were days that they were strong for themselves.
It is important that I take care of myself- eat well and exercise. Indulging in thing that can help me relax, like hot baths, naps, and eating my favorite food.
A couple of weeks ago, one Saturday I was on my sofa in the evening, alone, staring at the switched off, television screen for hours with a half-finished bottle of vodka in front of me. I couldn’t cry and all I wanted was a drink to mask the pain. Alcohol or drugs — they make you temporarily numb to the pain you’re feeling, but spending your time masking the pain is only pushing back the healing process.
The most difficult of them all, I think, was to forgive myself for all the things I said when I was angry. And to forgive myself for all the things I didn’t say to him like goodbye or how much I loved him. There are a lot of things I did or didn’t say or do which I regretted and slowly I had to acknowledge and then let go of each of my regrets. Compassion and forgiveness for myself and others is important in healing.
Being without someone we care about, never to be able to be with them again in this life. The loss of someone we care about is like a wound, and we cannot do anything to speed up the healing process. It is important to therefore be patient with the healing process and not pressure myself with expectations. Every individual is wounded differently by a loss and they heal from the wound differently then why should there be any set time limit or any set of expectations…
A month ago I was sitting with my family and the TV was on, there was a joke in this movie and my sister laughed, immediately she stopped and looked guilty. I consoled her that it is okay to laugh, smile and be happy just because we are laughing doesn’t mean we loved him any less. I realized that I don’t need to focus on grief all the time. Isn’t the same applicable for me.
Every once in a while it gets much worse, his birthday, and anniversaries both marriage and death. I know that strong feelings may come back on these days, I used to dread them. I keep our holi traditions of spending it with family, colors etc. alive and on his death anniversary plant his favorite Christmas Tree every year in a near by park. I plan in advance how I want to spend my time on these days and with whom.
When I feel ready, I look forward to doing something creative for him like- Writing a letter to say everything I wanted to. Making a scrapbook of our memories together. Sketching, my father loved when I drew for him. By doing this I can create a memorial or tribute to him
Losing my dad was a painful reminder that life is way too short. And he would want nothing more than for me to be happy- not pasting a smile on my face, getting by content happy, but truly happy. Keeping myself busy then, by taking the time to figure out what it is that I love. Setting goals and building a plan to make my dreams become a reality.
I kept thinking about his death so much that I didn’t give myself a chance to celebrate his life. I couldn’t even think about the good times we had. I overlooked so many happy years of his life and all of those wonderful times we spent together for one horrifying day. It became important for me to celebrate his life…
I went for a holiday with my friends. I made it routine to go for movies or shopping at least once a week and going for a drive Sunday morning. I started drawing again and my first drawing was an ode to the man who made me as strong and kind, loving and caring as I am today. And I do miss him, I do cry- even today- sometimes and that’s fine.
I don’t think I’ll ever get back to “normal”- But now I don’t feel that I have to. The pain I feel when I miss him is never going to go away, but that’s okay. It just means that my love for him is never going to die, may be take a backseat but never be gone. The decision to start the healing process and its pace is entirely up to me.
The things that make us cry today will make us laugh someday and the things that make us laugh today will make us cry someday.