Good grief! by Aradhna Sethi
Isn’t it strange… most of us never want to feel the sorrow of bereavement, and yet at some stage we have to. For no one we meet, know and love is immortal. Yet the mind – it has this uncanny quality of justifying to the heart that all is well. But this justification comes only after you’ve come to terms with your grief.
It’s hard to forget the hollowness, the empty sadness that I had felt on losing my mother to cancer. I was 29, she just 54. At first, I registered her loss as an event in my life that time will heal. An event that would not stare me in my face once I left my country.
Yes, I was living abroad – and that was one fact that kept me from feeling the intensity of the loss. I thought to myself, once I’m back home, I’ll simply feel being away from mum because she is in another country anyway. And when I want to talk to her, I’ll simply call her on her mobile phone and let it ring and believe she’s out somewhere doing her crazy mediation courses, or merrily chatting away with her friends at some get-together or the other. Once a year, when I do visit India, I’d think she’s on a world trip elsewhere. Simple – as easy as that – and yes, I thought I would be totally comfortable in my make-belief world. And for a while, it was!
But then, months after the incident, once, just once, a friend of mine tapped me on my shoulder and called me “beti “(daughter) for she mistook me to be her daughter who’s about my height. That one word and a motherly touch flooded my eyes with unabated tears that streamed down my cheeks. I cried – I cried for the first time in 9 months.
I cried like a helpless baby who didn’t know what to do. Questions buzzed in my mind. May be I should’ve been there with my mum instead of enjoying my new status as “Mrs new-bride”. After all, I’d been with her for 27 years and with the husband for only 2. How could I do nothing for my mum – my best friend, my guide, my role model, my crazy brat of a mum!
I was filled with guilt – of not being there; ashamed- of my ignorance, for when she told me she had been detected with cancer and didn’t want to talk about it since it depressed her, I agreed to not question her; and angry- with my total aloofness from the real situation – yes, my mother had informed me about the diagnosis and the treatment, but had sworn the rest of the family to secrecy regarding revealing to me the intensity of the illness, since that would worry me… Even in her pain, she was thinking of my helplessness at being far away, and of how her daughter needed this time to adjust into her role as a new wife in a new country, to make a home away from home… Her selflessness touched me – but angered me more at the time, for then I had no kids of my own to realize what motherhood is all about!
Oh, I love her so much – if there was one think I could change in this world – it would be the eradication of cancer that took my mum away!
As the thoughts created waves of despair and wanting to be with my mother, my husband decided to drive- on and on – till I was at peace, or at least any semblance of sanity after this cathartic stream of tears subsided. And the short drive turned into an 8-hour long one. Thoughts came and went. Feelings and emotions raided my soul with no mercy. No words were spoken for the 8 hours by either of us in the car. And then– there was total silence in my mind that filled with empty sadness. The ‘event’ had been realized, felt and accepted completely.
It felt good. .. really, really good – to grieve and get it all out. I had felt the full import of sadness. Good grief – what a load off my chest. I suddenly felt light – sad but light!
Afraid of showing emotion, I now believe, it’s okay to cry. It’s important to feel the grief. So it’s okay to wallow in self-pity, ask “Why me”. Feel that sadness, be one with it, sense it in its entirety, even embrace it – and then – just like that – let it go! Just let it go!
And guess what – once you’ve felt the true heaviness of the gravity of grief – you don’t even have to let go – the sordid yet essential balancing emotion simply disappears – like grey clouds moving away and leading to clear blue skies and golden sunshine.
Aradhna Sethi hails from India but lives in Europe. She is the former editor of a newspaper and a contributing writer and editor for publications within and outside of Europe.