TELL TODAY THAT YOU LOVE THEM, BEFORE THEY ARE GONE

We were all set to celebrate the 50th marriage anniversary of my Buaji and Fufaji (paternal aunt and uncle). It was going to be a great event with most of the family members getting together for the big celebration. Dresses and gifts were decided and I was making a photo album for the “Golden Couple”. Creating a customised gift takes time and when the network or website issues come, then the effort grows manifold. It was late night when I was having trouble in putting up a picture on a page. I gave up finally and went to bed, thinking to start afresh the next day.

It was in the morning when my mom called me up. I thought the call must be regarding the golden celebrations only, because that’s what we have been doing lately, planning what to wear and what to gift. When I answered the call, my mom was freakishly crying and told me Fufaji is no more.  I couldn’t believe my ears and asked her twice. My Fufaji, who was a retired Major General passed away the night before, just around the time I was preparing the​ photo album. As everyone else, I was shocked. I just couldn’t believe that it was possible. I thought instead of making the photo album, I could have called him up a day before to tell that  he was special and I loved him. But, it was too late.

Death is the bitter truth of life. I wanted to talk to Buaji. I usually feel shy in calling up the relatives of the deceased, don’t know how to console. But I don’t know where the courage came and I called up my Buaji instantly, as I wanted to tell her that we all love her and are there with her.

We didn’t want to leave Buaji alone on the day of her 50th marriage anniversary, so it was decided that we all will get together on that day and have an evening of singing prayers, remembering the departed soul.

It was a gloomy day. We all shared our feelings and recalled our memories with Fufaji. The lady who was called for the bhajans asked us to feel the changes that are there in the house and in our lives within him. Almost everyone was shedding tears on remembering this. And we all stopped crying the moment she said this- “How will the departed soul feel if you cry for him? He is not here with us physically, but feel his presence. He wants you to stay happy.”

My grandparents passed away when I was young, not able to understand deeply the pain that comes when anyone leaves you.  

The first death that I saw was after my marriage. My husband’s Naniji (grandmother) was not keeping well and had become too fragile. We knew she would go soon, but I wasn’t prepared that she will go like this. I was sitting beside her, when all of a sudden I heard her sound that as weird. I was alone with my younger sister- in-laws at home that time.

“Naniji, are you ok?”

No answer.

“Naniji, you want water?”

No answer.

I took her head in my lap, kept rubbing her head, chest and hands.

“Naniji, say something​!” I was shouting and crying simultaneously.

I could sense something was wrong, but I didn’t want to accept that easily. I kept her head in my lap till my in-laws came and told that she has gone. I felt helpless. I only thought if I could have spent more time with her.

“Death is not the opposite of life, it is a part of it”, everyone has to face this harsh reality.

Life is short and uncertain. Don’t wait for big moments or occasions. Tell your beloved ones, your near and dear ones, that you care for them, you need them and love them.

“Cherish those in your life because you don’t know when they won’t be there anymore.”

CAN WORDS SOOTHE PAIN?

Hope everyone is fine and hope it’s a beautiful day for everyone.

Just the way no life can survive without air and water, no soul is untouched by Pain. Death, heartbreak, rejection – only the situation in life changes but not the result. It’s same every time – PAIN. And I know there would be no disagreement on this statement.

And when pain is inevitable there are ways to deal with it.

So my question is “How do you deal with pain?”  Rather I would like to ask “what do you do to soothe pain of others?”  There’s a reason supporting my question – a person in pain needs a pull from an external factor in the form of friend or family.  So in that capacity of a friend or family what’s your tool to soothe pain of your loved ones?

If you ask me, it’s plainly plain Words for me, spoken with warmth.

Having said that I would like to share with you all an incident that took place more than a decade ago.

She was my friend (it’s been more than a decade  since I last spoke to her and no more in touch even on social media, tried to trace her but all futile 😔).  She used to live just opposite to our apartment in Delhi.  Her name is Hema, the only girl in the family of five –  a father, mother and two brothers.  Her mother was confined to bed for years even before I knew her.  Her day used to begin with taking care of her mother and ended up doing so apart from handling all the household chores with close to no support from her brothers while her father was busy with earning for the family.

I had an immense respect for her for the young girl she was and shouldering the responsibilities of home is something I could have never mustered courage for.  And similarly she found solace in my company.  Her mother was also fond of me as I used to spend some time with her too.

Days were passing happily and one day I heard something unusual from Hema’s place. First I thought relatives might have visited them and everyone is having a good time, sharing good laughter.  A glance and a better observation revealed that those were not gags but painful sobs.  Aunty was no more!  I was shocked as I met her after two days.

I immediately hurried up to their place.  I saw Hema there, devastated, clinging to her mother crying inconsolably.  That nearly broke my heart too to see her in such a pitiable state. But I have to console her, it’s my responsibility.

I hugged her and said “I won’t ask you to stop crying or wipe your tears for your pain is beyond imagination for me. I am not sure if I should say this or not, this is in a way a freedom to your mother; freedom from all the pain and agony she has been silently suffering for so many years. She might not have said this but she was equally worried for you as you were for her. And if you believe that your mother is with you eternally then you should show her your brave face because all her life she wanted to see you happy. Let the tears flow to ease out the burden but promise me you would live the way  your mother wanted you to because she is from somewhere watching you”

My words are no doubt clichéd but they did have an impact on her. The turbulence on her face seemed to fade out and a calmness took over. Her loss is is beyond what words can explain but this is the truth of life. And her mother did want her to be happy and her agony made her curse herself for her daughter’s plight. In a way it was a liberation to the poor soul.

I firmly believe that words have power to soothe. There are many instances and losses in life which are beyond one’s control hence any apparent help is impossible. Then how would you convey that you are with your loved one’s in their times of distress.  A warm hug, tears and your soothing words will convey your concern.

HOW TO CONSOLE A BEREAVED?

Couple of years back I had to face one of the most difficult situations of my life twice. It was, talking to the wives of their deceased husbands. My voice was shaking and I was stammering. I was unable to choose my words while speaking to them. Somehow I managed to talk to them in two different days.

Afterwards, I was pondering on this matter deeply.  I recalled  the time when my brother died in an road accident in January 2011; I was in the same condition as they were now. I just tried to recall the messages and the calls and the consoling words of people for me at that time of bereavement. Some were irritating, overdone and some were quite comforting.

Finally, I came out with a list of Dos’ and Don’ts’, which will give us an idea about this matter. 

Listening Patiently: When we face a bereaved family, the first thing we have to do is just listen to them/him/her patiently. She/he will cry, sob, speak deliriously and we will have to be just quiet and listen carefully. That was one thing really helped us when people came and listened to us at that particular time of grief.

Give a hug: “Jaddu ki Jhappi” (Hindi), ‘a hug’, really comforts. If it’s possible on our part to give a hug then we should not hesitate to give it as soon as we face them. But be careful of the situation and when we are comforting a person of opposite sex. We need to be sensitive and responsible enough of our each actions. 

Don’t stop them from weeping: Some people try to stop the bereaved persons from crying by saying, “Please don’t cry… the person won’t come back… .” I will slap a person if I face that kind of comfort from him/her. We should never stop the bereaved from weeping in fact we should allow and encourage them to weep and wail more. That will help them to unburden themselves. They will feel lighter if they do so.

Cry with them: If possible when they cry or weep, we should cry with them. It will give them a sense that we are also sorrowful as them. It doesn’t mean that if we don’t feel like crying we will pretend to cry. It should be natural. We may not weep if we don’t feel like.

Don’t describe about the deceased: We should not describe about the deceased in front of the family members again and again with others. That doesn’t give them opportunity to divert themselves from the situation. Even sometimes that irritates them.

Don’t force them to eat more, if they don’t feel like: We should never force them to eat more or do something which they don’t want to do. We should give them enough space to gather their own strength and come back to their old state of mind. But we should always be careful about their food and physical health. Grief is highly draining. It sucks all the juices and energy of person’s body. 

It is really difficult to specify which are the correct ways of consoling a particular family or person. But the above points really gave me comfort and I think those will be helpful for all of us when we face this kind of situations in our lives.

Be blessed!

THE WHYS AND THE WHEREFORES

“Why did this happen to me?” he shot back. His eyes were almost bloodshot. His whole body was shaking, gesturing the disbelief in his soul. I could hear the clock ticking by as a cloud of silence encompassed us. He continued, “Never in my life have I touched liquor nor do I have any bad habits, then why?” From the corner of his right eye, I did see a tear drop fall. “They said, you are on the best around here, can you not do something? Are you really telling the correct thing?” he questioningly smiled at me while tears flowed down like a leaking drain pipe. I nodded in unison only to find him suddenly slouching on his chair, to collapse.

Scenes like this happen at my Surgical out Patient Clinic on a daily basis. He had come with complaints of acidity, heartburn, vomiting and significant weight loss. Investigations revealed that he had Cancer of the Stomach and as a Surgeon I had to tell him this. The myriad of emotions that he displayed came very suddenly, just when I explained him his condition. Youngish man of 38 years, his whole world came crashing down. As a doctor I knew his pain and thought process. His myriad of emotions that flowed through him, asking the “The Whys and Wherefores” is how we define Grief.  Every time grief makes its presence felt in my office, lines written by the Poet Delmira Agustini come alive:

“Suddenly I laugh and at the same time cry

And in pleasure many a grief endure

My happiness wanes and yet it lasts unchanged

All at once I dry up and grow green”

(Excerpted from the Poem, I Live I Die I Burn I drown by Delimira Agustini)

 

Grief is a natural response to loss. It’s the questionable emotional suffering you feel when something or someone you love is taken away. The more significant the loss, the more intense the grief will be. However, even subtle losses can lead to grief. For example, you might experience grief after moving away from home, graduating from college, changing jobs, selling your family home, or retiring from a career you loved. Grieving is a personal and highly individual experience. How you grieve depends on many factors, including your personality and coping style, your life experience, your faith, and the nature of the loss. The grieving process takes time. Healing happens gradually; it can’t be forced or hurried—and there is no “normal” timetable for grieving. Some people start to feel better in weeks or months. For others, the grieving process is measured in years. Whatever your grief experience, it’s important to be patient with yourself and allow the process to naturally unfold.

In her groundbreaking book, On Death and Dying noted Swiss-American Psychiatrist and pioneer of Near Death Studies, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, says that there are 5 stages of the grieving process.

  • Denial:“This can’t be happening to me.”
  • Anger:Why is this happening? Who is to blame?”
  • Bargaining:“Make this not happen, and in return I will ____.”
  • Depression:“I’m too sad to do anything.”
  • Acceptance:“I’m at peace with what happened.”

If you are experiencing any of these emotions following a loss, it may help to know that your reaction is natural and that you’ll heal in time. However, not everyone who grieves goes through all of these stages—and that’s okay. Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to go through each stage in order to heal. In fact, some people resolve their grief without going through any of these stages. And if you do go through these stages of grief, you probably won’t experience them in a neat, sequential order, so don’t worry about what you “should” be feeling or which stage you’re supposed to be in.

Grief is not a medical condition until depression sets in and adds injury to insult and yet Psychiatrists have gone ahead to define a Symtomatology for it. While loss affects people in different ways, many experience the following symptoms when they’re grieving. Just remember that almost anything that you experience in the early stages of grief is normal—including feeling like you’re going crazy, feeling like you’re in a bad dream, or questioning your religious beliefs.

  • Shock and disbelief– Right after a loss, it can be hard to accept what happened. You may feel numb, have trouble believing that the loss really happened, or even deny the truth. If someone you love has died, you may keep expecting him or her to show up, even though you know he or she is gone.
  • Sadness– Profound sadness is probably the most universally experienced symptom of grief. You may have feelings of emptiness, despair, yearning, or deep loneliness. You may also cry a lot or feel emotionally unstable.
  • Guilt– You may regret or feel guilty about things you did or didn’t say or do. You may also feel guilty about certain feelings (e.g. feeling relieved when the person died after a long, difficult illness). After a death, you may even feel guilty for not doing something to prevent the death, even if there was nothing more you could have done.
  • Anger– Even if the loss was nobody’s fault, you may feel angry and resentful. If you lost a loved one, you may be angry with yourself, God, the doctors, or even the person who died for abandoning you. You may feel the need to blame someone for the injustice that was done to you.
  • Fear– A significant loss can trigger a host of worries and fears. You may feel anxious, helpless, or insecure. You may even have panic attacks. The death of a loved one can trigger fears about your own mortality, of facing life without that person, or the responsibilities you now face alone.
  • Physical symptoms– We often think of grief as a strictly emotional process, but grief often involves physical problems, including fatigue, nausea, lowered immunity, weight loss or weight gain, aches and pains, and insomnia.

Grief though is just a passing phase. It fades away with time but is the first step towards depression. If handled correctly it is a roller – coaster that ends quickly. As a doctor I often have to deal with this and this had lead to a care plan that starts immediately I encounter grief in action.

  • Turn to friends and family members– Family members and friends are superb in doing this. I might be technically better at handling grief but strong family bonding wins over all technicalities. It then boils down to one fact, “Better Relationships lead to better grief handling”. A grieving person should have good inter-personal relationships to handle grief better.
  • Draw comfort from your faith– If you follow a religious tradition, embrace the comfort its mourning rituals can provide. Spiritual activities that are meaningful to you—such as praying, meditating, or going to church—can offer solace. If you’re questioning your faith in the wake of the loss, talk to a clergy member or Elder in your religious community.
  • Join a support group– Grief can feel very lonely, even when you have loved ones around. Sharing your sorrow with others who have experienced similar losses can help. To find a bereavement support group in your area, contact local hospitals, hospices, funeral homes, and counseling centers. Look to open up on social media if you can’t open up to anyone. Social Media nowadays has various openings for grieving people.
  • Talk to a therapist or grief counselor– If your grief feels like too much to bear, call a mental health professional with experience in grief counseling. An experienced therapist can help you work through intense emotions and overcome obstacles to your grieving.
  • Take care of yourself and your family. Eating well, exercising and getting plenty of rest help us get through each day and move forward. 
  • Remember and celebrate the lives of your loved ones. Possibilities include donating to a favorite charity of the deceased, framing photos of fun times, passing on a family name to a baby or planting a garden in memory. What you choose is up to you, as long as it allows you honor that unique relationship in a way that feels right to you. If you feel stuck or overwhelmed by your emotions, it may be helpful to talk with a licensed psychologist or other mental health professional who can help you cope with your feelings and find ways to get back on track.

It is no secret that we live in a throwaway society and that goes for bereavement too. People don’t want to hear too much about your grief when they are too busy living. It forces them to look in the mirror and confront their own mortality. Thinking too much about grief is maudlin and thinking too much about death seems macabre and wasteful. Let’s choose to examine the open wound of our grief and almost befriend it. It has visited and cast its shadow over our life. We can only live with it. We should be open to what it has to teach us, that when those we love die, they leave holes in our lives that can never be filled. Grief is the fate of us all. Maybe it’s about time we all had an honest conversation about it.

If I should go before the rest of you 
Break not a flower nor inscribe a stone, 
Nor when I’m gone speak in a Sunday voice 
But be the usual selves that I have known. 
Weep if you must, Parting is hell, 
But Life goes on, So sing as well.

Joyce Grenfell