In the last two years, I have seen my maternal grandfather being bed-ridden. I have seen my mother struggling with bouts of anxiety and panic after receiving a call from my grandmother or after coming back home from a visit.
I’d lie if I say that I didn’t feel the aftershocks of that anxiety whenever I’d enquire about my nana’s health. I’d also be lying if I say that the last week of her unusually-frequent visits to him didn’t make me take her calls with a “premonition” of some bad news.
But, when the day finally arrived, I didn’t even have to wait for my mother to utter those painful words, “he’s no more”. Just the sound of her breath on that particular morning told me what had happened. Nonetheless, the news rendered me absolutely powerless, sucked the energy right out of my limbs, made my heart drop into my stomach, and almost made me collapse with numbness.
After zillion attempts to return to my senses, another call from my mother asking me not to come for his cremation threw me right back into the same numbness. With no courage to question or reason out with a terribly-grieving mother, I decided to comply. But, never did I imagine this compliance to stem into indomitable guilt and remorse that would simply refuse to leave my head and heart.
“He deserved a better goodbye, not a virtual one on Zoom”; “I wish I could be there to just stand with my mother”; “I wish I could see him with my own eyes one last time”. The echoes in my head were real and so was the guilt of giving his funeral and prayer meetings a miss, as well as the fact that I had no option but to deal with it.
So here’s how I am gradually trying to come to terms with it and trying to heal:
Giving myself constant reminders of the purpose of my absence at the funeral
“In times of the covid-19 pandemic, we’d request friends and well-wishers to pay their respects as per the rules and regulations set by the government,” read the last few lines of the message informing every one of my nanaji’s sad demise.
Not exceeding the 20-people limit at a funeral set by the Indian government due to the coronavirus pandemic meant that I had to pay my respects from afar because with five daughters and their husbands plus three brothers and their wives flocking in to bid adieu, my place at the funeral was definitely out of question.
Additionally, my recent visit to a grocery store, where four employees were found corona positive, made me a potential carrier. And I definitely had no intention of taking the risk of spreading it on to my ailing, old, and grieving grandmother as well as the others present at the do.
Not to mention, the fear of getting infected from someone else at the gathering and then infecting my elderly parents-in-laws (both 60-plus and diabetic) discouraged me to worm my way into the cremation ground to see nana ji one last time even further.
So, it was only responsible behaviour, not driven by a sudden, overwhelming emotion. And probably I ended up saving myself and 20-odd people from getting infected.
Recognising that the loss of a loved one is grief upon grief in these times From social isolation and a 360-degree change of routine to financial insecurity and to the sheer uncertainty about when the covid-19 pandemic will finally leave us for good–the disease has managed to infect more than just our bodies. It has hit our mental health too.
Now imagine, if you also have to deal with the profound loss of a loved one while you’re already dealing with the many consequences of the terrible outbreak of covid-19.
If you happen to be sailing in the same boat as I am, then you must understand that this ‘grief upon grief’ scenario will only make you stronger in the long run and that you should be proud of yourself for holding your ground despite the adversity that life has put you through.
Just trying to be grateful for what comes my way
I have lost count of the number of cases where people have not been able to even find a suitable resting place for their loved ones post their death due to covid-19.
I’ve also lost track of the number of times I’ve heard people cry over not being able to even see their loved one after their death, I have heard of people dying with no one to take care of them, and I’ve heard of people struggling hard to not succumb to this disease. Thankfully, none of it happened in our case and right now, I choose to be eternally grateful for his peaceful passing.
Taking the scientific approach to heal
There is no denying the fact that loss of a loved one can completely throw you off balance and make you lose your sense of judgement. But, there is also no denying the fact that you and only you—can take charge of your situation. After a loss of appetite and restlessness for a few days, I knew I had to start eating well to avoid falling sick or simply feeling worse.
I also was reminded how some physical activity and adequate sleep was needed to suppress the elevated cortisol (stress hormone) in my body and get my endorphins (happy hormones) rising.
Not bottling-up my emotions was probably another wise decision I made here
In a situation as intense as this one, it is very easy to crawl into a shell and seek comfort in your misery all alone. But, however uncomfortable it feels to reach out to a trusted friend or partner to express your emotions at the time, pushing yourself a little hard to do so can leave you feeling light.
No, this isn’t advice. I am only sharing my own experiences of standing back up after a recent knockout by life. If you’d like, you can try to follow it and see if it betters your situation. But, if it doesn’t do not keep suffering in silence. Do reach out to a professional counsellor for help. After all, the loved one you’ve just lost would never have liked to see you in this pain.