Humans are complex beings. We know and recognize that death is a reality yet we are never fully prepared for it. Almost everyone around us has lost someone they love dearly and still sympathizing with them can never prepare us for death when it comes to our treasured ones. Even when we know that someone might go now, our initial reaction is of shock, confusion and denial.
My mother was on dialysis and suffered from two heart attacks in three months. I used to accompany her for all her checkups. However, it never crossed my mind that she “can” die. She was my immortal being, my superhero. As Micheal McDowell says: “All deaths are sudden, no matter how gradual the dying may be.” After her death, for a very long time, my grief was displaced in the form of anger. I felt that a mother was not supposed to die or abandon her child. Just to let you know, at the time of her death I was 35, married and yet an absolute child.
As time passed my denial and anger started changing into guilt. I stopped doing things that made me happy. I felt as if I was cheating on her if I enjoyed life. Anything that made me even slightly happy felt so wrong. I started regretting every minute when I had not been with her. I kept on thinking that if I had not gotten married six months before her death, she might have lived more.
At the time I was living near my parent’s house just so I could be there for her. Unfortunately, I was not with her when she moved on to the eternal adobe. I felt guilty for not being there in that moment. I was upset with everyone, including my mom. I kept on thinking ‘ab mera kya hoga?’ although I knew she was in pain and never wanted to be dependent on anyone. I know I might sound selfish but this is how it was.
After her, I left my job, stayed at home, I could not stop crying and everything reminded me of her. Sadly, I was not able to decipher my feelings and eventually started taking sleeping pills. Before I knew it, I was overly dependent on sleeping pills and relaxants. I remember there were days when I did not get out of bed. Finally, one morning I realized I was not feeling well when I lied to a friend that I had been in a severe accident and would not be able meet her. I even downloaded pictures and sent those to my friend just to make my story look more convincing. Once I did that, I realized that this was so unlike me; I loved meeting my friends and I avoided lying to the people I love.
This was the time when I decided to seek professional help and was diagnosed with severe clinical depression. I was put on anti-depressants and my therapy started as well. It took me almost a year to come out of the initial grief. The sadness and feeling of loss still lingers on but I have learned to acknowledge it.
Many people around us are dealing with loss and grief. COVID-19 is a reality and yes, a harsh one. I know families who lost more than one family member in the last year to the pandemic. My reason to write about my personal struggle is to share my metamorphosis and coping mechanism with pain in that phase. I hope it helps someone out there.
The first lesson is to acknowledge the pain. I stayed strong for so long and I had a hectic routine. I believed that health issues should be fixed. Once my mother passed away, I felt like a failure. I kept on blaming the hospital, the healthcare system and what not. Gradually, I learned it was the pain talking. Whenever I felt clueless I started writing, I started decoding the pain. I started acknowledging it but I did not let it take over my days.
I would suggest that in a situation of loss, it is best to avoid trying to be a super human. Being strong does not mean that you should never cry or feel low. Some days will be normal and some days an insignificant memory will pull you down. On a day like that all you need to do is to be compassionate to yourself.
Understanding my guilt trips helped me a lot. Gradually with therapy, I learned that being happy does not mean that I do not miss mama anymore. I started doing little things, which we both enjoyed together. I started meeting with friends I was comfortable to discuss my condition with.
While I was going through my regeneration process, some days were very tough. I could not move, I felt that this feeling was clawing on to me and I never knew that grief could manifest physically but yes it does. So on days like these, I asked for help. If I felt that staying alone could be devastating, I used to ask my friends to visit or even asked my husband to stay around.
Depression or grief hits in waves. It makes you physically tired and emotionally drained. I recognized that when a low day was approaching, the first symptom was the lack of will to change for the day. Therefore, I started using a timer when I was at my lowest, I pushed myself to take a shower, eat and go out for a while. Try to eat well and stay physically active as much as you can easily manage.
During that challenging time, I started comprehending that not everyone is comfortable with someone who is grieving. We are three siblings, raised in the same home yet our reaction to grief was completely different and our coping mechanisms were unique. There is no right or wrong way to handle this situation. People might sound mean while they try to comfort you. Many might seem clueless when choosing words to console you, especially if they have not experienced a similar loss.
Now after almost four years I have figured out that grief does not magically end one day. It is not a negative emotion. It helps you empathize with others and makes you more humane. You need to look within yourself for comfort and reassurance. Now I understand why we need friends, family and faith. The sadness and hurt is still active, however, I believe that death is a beginning to another phase of life.
I hope that we normalize the idea of support groups and let people share their experiences with each other especially for those who have suffered a loss during COVID-19. Sharing coping mechanisms can help each one of us and might save many from bearing the pain in solitude. HH
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