Of bumblebees, coffee and bit of grief

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We went to watch transformers yesterday and both Nishu and me quite enjoyed the movie. Nothing gives me more satisfaction than seeing smiles on his little face. But every time he’s happy I get a sharp jab of pain that she’s missing it and I can’t help reminiscing. She would have enjoyed the movie so much, we would have had a coffee afterwards, her favorite cold coffee with crushed ice.

Then we would have gotten Nishu his favorite transformer toy, done some groceries and returned home. Being a Saturday evening, she would have ordered in and we would have watched a late night movie over dinner and drinks. It’s always the little things that make life worth living. While I miss her all the time, on weekends when I’m out and see all the other happy and busy people, it just accentuates my loss.

Grief doesn’t let me enjoy even otherwise a perfect evening with my son. There is always that emptiness, an acute sense of loneliness. I don’t know what to do with it, I try to leave it at home but the sucker that it is, it follows me like a shadow everywhere. It puts voices in my head and makes my eyes well up at unlikely places without any warning.

Often I find myself unconsciously reaching to call her or go to the other room and tell her something. It just lasts a split second but it’s enough to ruin the day for me. The deafening silence and the void created by her absence are too much to bear sometimes. Just the other day someone asked me “are you coming out of it” and I didn’t know how to answer that question. Problem is that there are clear moments before I plunge into darkness again. There is no defining moment where I can say things have gotten better.

At this point I don’t even know what ‘better’ means. All I think of is that today she’s not there and ten years later also she won’t be around so what’s the point of ‘better’. I have no illusions about my future, I know how painful it’s going to be but then having  already lost everything what do I have to fear. It sometimes make me put on my ‘I could care less’ hat.

I try to find distractions for myself.  I read, I blog, watch movies and try to introspect to see what else I would like to do in my free time. But I also find that no matter what I do, there is really no distraction. I’m beginning to realize that instead of trying to run away, I need to walk with it, make the loneliness in my life a friend. We need to have a toast and take one for the long road ahead.

Sometimes I think, I need to take a vacation and go somewhere. But I’m also a little afraid of having too much time by myself. The monotony of daily life at least numbs the pain somewhat. But then this is also no way to live. So I guess I need to keep trying and try to face my fears rather than running from them.

I know there are so many people out there who are traversing this difficult path. Suffering makes us all united in this journey. Of course each of us have our own demons to fight, our own little battles going on. But we all have to be on this path because it’s also the only one out of this dark place. I wish everyone peace in this journey.

So yesterday, I got my son his favorite ‘Bumblebee’, had a coffee and looked grief in the face for a brief moment and said “to hell with you, I will see you later, for now you can take a hike.”

“It’s like the people who believe they’ll be happy if they go and live somewhere else, but who learn it doesn’t work that way. Wherever you go, you take yourself with you. If you see what I mean.”
― Neil Gaiman

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A child’s view

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I went out to a business dinner today. It was good to be amongst people and feel normal for a while. But the problem is having other people does not reduce my loneliness in any way. There is only one person I want to be with and she can’t be there ever. It’s precisely this type of thinking that makes it unending.

I have written a lot about how I feel and the various circumstances I have had to face. Today I want to write about grief from a six year old perspective or at least what I see and interpret. Even before all this happened, I wanted to be a sensitive father. My little boy’s feelings are important to me, I don’t want to brush them under the carpet just because everyone else thinks he is too young to understand.

Children are amazingly perceptive, they gauze things very quickly. When the unthinkable happened, no one gave me any advice because no one had been in this situation. The only thing I heard over and over again is that he’s too young and will forget with time. It doesn’t make sense to me. Firstly as I said, kids are highly perceptive of their surroundings and their parents. Second, I don’t want him to forget his mom. It would be such a travesty.

I know that he is going to miss his mom who loved him so much that she gave up her life fighting to be with us. I want him to remember the times he spent with her. I also know there is nothing I can do to fill that void, it will always be there. What I can do is to listen to him, understand his feelings and help him cope. If I assume he doesn’t have any feelings because he’s too young to understand, how am I  going to help him?

I’ve been honest with him. Having to tell him  has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done. How do you tell a six year old that the person he most adores is not coming back? I thought about it and couldn’t think of a way where it could make the task any easier. So I tried to tell him honestly that mom had gone to be with God and will be living there. I hated to bring God into the conversation but I had no choice because I cannot explain him the facts yet, because of his age. Someday I will and he has every right to know what happened and how it happened.

I also tried to tell him that mom can see us even though we can’t and she loves us as we do. I told him that she has taught me how to take care of you and do all the things that she used to do. He was satisfied with this explanation though what effect it has had on his little mind, only time would tell. Initially for a long time, he kept asking if she’s going to be back when he grows up. It was the most heart breaking question I have ever faced and again I didn’t want to lie. I told him the truth and I know he’s not happy about it.

I have realized that with children, the fantastic thing is that they believe if they trust you and it is everything to them. I’m simply amazed that while I struggle so much he’s been his happy cheerful self. But I know that he misses her immensely, my efforts are in helping him open up if he wants to and letting him know I’m there for him always no matter the time of the day or night. When I play with him or read him a story, I would casually bring up mom and ask him gently. He would then tell me what he had been thinking.

While it was extremely difficult to realize that I can’t give him that one thing that he needs the most, winning his trust also made me happy. At least now we have got to a stage where he can confide in me. There’s lot more work to be done but we’re getting there. Now a days, he often reminds me to do things the way mom did or he says ‘learn from mom’ or ‘ask her’. It hurts but that’s the way I want it to be – open and direct no matter how hard it is for me.

Just imagine how difficult it would be for him if I just act if nothing has happened and want him to do the same. I don’t understand why people suggest taking this approach when clearly it is wrong and can cause long term damage to a child’s personality. Just because something is difficult doesn’t mean it has to be avoided.

I want him to be comfortable with discussing things with me. I know he would have been with her. While that comes naturally for a mom, for me it means making the effort and spending lots of time with him trying to understand his emotions and helping him understand mine. I know both of us need each other, without her we need each other to survive. As I keep telling him “We’re a team”.

Our new relationship is still evolving. Earlier I was more or less a weekend dad, while she did everything for him. She simply loved being a mom and I could see the excitement in her eyes as she would plan things for him. It breaks my heart every time I think how much of his growing up years she’s going to miss. I never thought it would come to this but it has and there’s nothing I can do about it.

But I have to keep the promise I’ve given her of ensuring that I fulfill all the dreams that she had for him. It is one clear purpose in my life whenever I question myself about what is there now to live for. None of it is going to be easy. It’s a daunting task whichever way I look at it. I have a lot to learn as a single parent and I intend to use every resource available to get there.

Lot of people have also told me it can’t be done, men cannot raise kids. I could care less for the naysayers, I know it can be done and I have her love and support to get through it. It’s a challenge that I have embraced. I have already faced the most difficult situations anyone can come across. What do I have to lose anyway?

In the imminent fog of my own grief and despair, my little boy has shown me the path ahead. He’s the light I need to follow. I have much to learn from him. His approach to life has inspired me, it’s amazing how much children can teach us when mostly we think it’s the other way round. But they have much deeper understanding than we have as adults. We only need to keep our minds and hearts open to them.

“While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about.” 
― Angela Schwindt

Disjointed thoughts

These days I yearn to go back to what our life was before this storm swept away everything I lived for. It hasn’t been that long, probably less than a year when we still belonged, when things still made sense, when there were things to look forward to and life seemed so full and content. Looking back, I realize those last few months before the ordeal began were probably one of the best in my life.

In retrospect it was all like a dream but then just like that, without any warning, it all came apart one fine day. Both of us had never spent as much as a night in the hospital in our lives till that point. She was the last person I would have ever imagined falling sick. In fact I can count on finger tips how many times she had been sick in the 12 years that we had been together.

And yet, she got inflicted with the deadliest of cancers one fine day just out of the blue. I mean what are the odds of something like that happening to someone so young, strong and positive? When you think about someone getting diagnosed with such a rare disease as leukemia, the general impression is that the person might have some ailment or family history or some such cause. But it wasn’t anything like that.

Later on in my discussions with doctors and my own research, I found that it must have developed within few weeks. It simply defies any logic, something sinister like that develops all of a sudden and the person is gone within months. I don’t think I will ever recover from the shock of it. There will never be any closure to why it happened to her.

When it came to her, I always worried sometimes annoying her. If I dropped her outside a mall on the way to work, I would call to check, if she went somewhere, I would want to know if she reached safe. It used to irritate and please her at the same time. Yet in those couple of weeks when this fatal disease sneaked in, I had no clue. I had no idea how little time I had got left with her.

These things didn’t happen to people like us, it’s something that I read or heard in the news. But it happened to us and took away the most precious thing I had. I know how futile it is to try and make sense out of it.

Yet, despite all that happened and despite the fact that my life has changed beyond recognition now and it can never go back to what it was, I feel I was amazingly fortunate to have spent 12 years with an extraordinary person like her. The way she lived her life, touching lives and spreading joy is an inspiration for not only me but every one who came in her contact. She was remarkable in every sense of the word.

Every day that goes by reminds me of what was and what could have been had she been around. Grief and sadness torture me every single moment. It becomes difficult to breathe sometimes, they say time makes the pain bearable. In that sense, I’m doing my time. I have been handed a life sentence.

When I look back, I want to remember every word that we exchanged but I can’t remember much. It’s all lost and yet immortalized in the happy, commonplace normalcy of life that we shared. It’s sacred. These days when loneliness strikes and it does often, I take refuge in the memories of the past. The images and voices so vivid that sometimes it recreates the past on the canvas of the present. Sometimes the boundaries get blurred till the stark reality of my existence takes over.

This is what grief feels like to me, someday it will become less painful and yet I feel I’m in no hurry to get there. While I carry this pain, I also carry my love. When the pain recedes, I fear if I’ll be letting her go. It seems strange that I would want to be in so much pain but then that is how I see my life shaping – around this pain not devoid of it.

The pain I feel now is the happiness I had before. That’s the deal.” 
― C.S. Lewis

My parenting list

There are days when you don’t feel anything, you don’t care about anything, you just drift aimlessly with the hours. When I have such days, I don’t know if it’s for the better or worse. It’s just another day in this grief stricken world of mine. Today I gave some concrete thought to the kind of parent I want to be.

Being a single parent my ask is obviously much more difficult. I was never a person with much drive or ambition in life – a fact she wasn’t too happy about. I was mostly happy coasting along enjoying our little piece of heaven. Now that it’s gone forever, I realize I do have a definite purpose. I have to provide a happy childhood to my son. If my life was what it was, then this would have been a breeze, I would have probably not even thought about it. With her around it was a given.

However, without her it’s a daunting proposition, a mountain to climb. It’s one thing to visualize a goal but quite another to actually work towards it. To do that I need some clear ideas about things I want to accomplish. Being a list maniac, here’s what I think I should be doing,

Show affection – I believe displaying affection is important – hugs, kisses, pats, high fives all go a long way in showing a child you care and love him.

Read him a story every day – This is fast becoming my favorite part of the day. We have finished couple of storybooks already. We read together and I brace for the countless questions.

Play with him every day – I have to do a better job at this. It requires lots of patience for to make it enjoyable for him, you need to become a six year old kid too.

Take him to the movies – This is something she started and I’m continuing. Watching movies together is fun. Next up Transformers. Only thing now I need to stay awake the whole time so that I can have at least some answers when peppered with a million questions.

Read animal encyclopedia together – This is something I tried and both of us enjoyed it. I didn’t even know half the things there.

Talk to him about his mom everyday – From the start I was clear on one thing that I am going to help him cope, listen to him and not marginalize his emotions because he is too young. I want him to remember the times he spent with her and how precious those were. We talk about her, see her pictures and miss her so much. It’s a difficult path to tread but I know it’s the right one.

Go cycling together – This is on my to do list. I need to buy him a new one and fill some air in the deflated tires of mine.

Find out things together – I have a new task of googling for answers to his curiosity filled questions. I sometimes wonder what was I doing in school. I don’t seem to know even simple things.

Going on vacation – This is something she made an integral part of our lives. We have to continue with her in our hearts. The last one was emotionally a disaster. I wasn’t ready and it made it worse. I will try again.

Giving more time than money – I do have a significant challenge with a full time job and long commute times. I have to figure out a way to do this in the long term.

Accepting my shortcomings – I have no lofty goals of being a perfect parent and there is no such thing anyway. My hope is that I will be honest to a fault and own up when I falter.

Learn new things from him and for him – I don’t have a clue yet. But there will always be things under this.

Be more outgoing for him – As it is, I’m going to need lots of help doing all this. I have to turn a corner on this someday before rest of my hairs turn grey. I’m a work in progress.

Patience – lots and lots of it. Nothing more to add here.

Be honest with myself – There will be times I’m not going to be able to do many of this because I’m also a grieving husband besides being a father. I have to keep trying but also know my own limits.

Have an open mind – I’m going to read, research, share and learn from other parents. I’ll be open to ideas and ask for advice.

Be organized – With my own state of mind and number of responsibilities I juggle in a day, this is important. Lists, reminders, tools all to be liberally used.

I know this is an ambitious list and some of it seems impossible considering how I feel most of the time. But then that is the challenge. My motivation is to do this for her, it’s the least I can do trying to fill in the big shoes of someone who did everything above and much more and never needed to make any lists.

Lost happiness

Many times I’m told that she would have wanted me to be happy. Like I do with everything these days , I’ve mulled this over. While I agree with the thought at some level, I find that I don’t fully understand what it means.

We were happy in our life together here, it seems unlikely she would have wanted me to be happy alone. I’m sure such a scenario would have caused her immense sadness. She knew how much I would struggle without her. So how can I be happy without her? I don’t know what it means really. Happiness is something I learnt from her. She made me realize what it feels like to be truly happy.

Her enthusiasm for life brushed off on me too. She had the ability to make even mundane things sound like so much fun. For instance she loved taking bus rides for her outings. She once gave me such an engaging description of it that even I had to try it out – how convenient it was, how you could spend the time listening to music, how fun it was to look out the window and survey all that was new. I guess when you have such an upbeat perspective on life, you see things differently from the rest of us.

Researching properties was another thing she was fond of. I had little interest in such things. We already had a house which was also her find, and I thought why bother about another one. How many do you need anyway? I’m not someone who thinks about future investments or much financial planning. But being her project, I had to move along. She did the searching, talking to people, finding out on Internet forums and I did what I always ended up doing – signing the checks and arranging finances.

While the project was under construction, she would make us visit and ask the builders a zillion questions about if the project was on track, what were the current prices, what modifications they were offering, how were the facilities coming up.. Endless list always. My theory was that we’ve paid the money, so let them do their job and we are anyway living in our own home so what’s the hurry. She would roll her eyes and say how lazy I was.

I believe she needed something to look forward to always. If nothing she would create something – a quick vacation, new classes for Nishu, new friends or just everyday things like a bus ride and shopping. Life had to be full and every moment something to be cherished. Just the other day, Nishu was asking me about the new upcoming transformers movie. She’s the one who encouraged his love for characters and stories. She knew everything about  transformers, Cars, Monsters University, Superman, Batman and countless other characters that fascinate kids of this generation.

She had this unique ability to connect with people of all ages. Her friends belong to age groups from 2—65,having the ability to relate to every topic under the sun obviously helped. If she met someone or a friend called, she just couldn’t hide the excitement on her face or in her voice. It can come from only a genuine affection for people. I was more than happy to let her manage my social circle. My friends became her friends in no time as did their wives.

Whenever I told her about a new colleague or acquaintance I had made at work, she would always say “you should call them over, we should meet up with family”. Of course I never followed through socially much to her exasperation. I remember once we went to a work related picnic organized by my company. I think she managed to network with more people than I did. It came effortlessly to her – meeting new people and creating a positive impression.

My life and world with her, was filled with many such small happy moments. Life without her was something so scary to me that in our 12 years together, we were apart for less than a month in total mainly because I needed her around so much. I don’t know how life can be this cruel that it takes away the one thing that you most cherish. You can lose and regain everything – money, career, material objects but how do you get back someone like her.

As I reflect on my life without her in the last few months, I sometimes think to myself – what was tougher, the impossible days of the months before or now. It’s a no brainer, as long as she was there, no matter how big the adversity, she somehow invoked hope always. Without her, I sometimes feel unsure if I would survive to get thru another day.

Happiness seems to have gone with her never to come back. Of course, I will look forward to a future for Nishu, despite the huge setback, ensuring that he is happy is my responsibility, even more so in her absence. But happiness just for myself is something I don’t want anymore. I have few desires left and without her there is no one to coax me to enjoy the many pleasures that life offers. I find them meaningless now.

How do you live a lifetime like this, I do not know. I should know how fickle life is, but I think I’m going to be around for fulfilling the dreams she had for our son. Something tells me I will have to live these coming decades without her. It’s a thought that keeps me awake at nights. I know she would want me to be happy – it’s just that without her, I don’t have many reasons to be so.

“Time was passing like a hand waving from a train I wanted to be on.
  I hope you never have to think about anything as much as I think about you.” 

Being Weak

“Be strong”  is a phrase I’ve heard so very often in the last few months. What does it really mean? Does it mean not to allow yourself to crumble in the face of what is absolutely the worst possible thing that can happen to anyone? or does it mean that one is expected to somehow defy the whirlpool of emotions that come with such a life changing catastrophe?

Again it’s one of the well meaning but poorly understood advice that gets passed on all the time. I tried to be strong initially but it wasn’t long before I figured out that it was not only impossible but wouldn’t help in any way. I believe we should be telling people in my situation to allow yourself to be weak, to give in. Once you accept this, it takes much unnecessary pressure off and really you don’t need any more stress to what is already a mind numbing situation.

Expressing emotions is a human need. It can come in many ways – tears, pouring your heart to a friend, allowing yourself to grieve and in my case, writing about it. It all helps in little ways to lessen a pain so intense that mostly bearing it seems to be the only conclusion. I think that the fundamental problem seems to be that since people cannot see you in pain, the obvious advice is to try and shut it out. But it doesn’t work that way because grief is unpredictable and doesn’t follow any set pattern. Trying to evade it is inviting trouble.

I myself handed this advice to her many times during the treatment. I regret that I never held her hand and allowed her to tell me all her fears though knowing her I doubt she would have told me anything like that. She loved me too much and feared that I won’t be able to see her like that. But then there are things that need not be said, sometimes you can feel the words without saying anything at all. Though in my defense, I did tell her on our chats once that sometimes it’s alright to be weak, one cannot be strong all the time.

Sometimes being strong is not an option, how can you be strong when you have lost the person you had loved most of all. It would be so brutal to have loved and yet not allow yourself to feel the pain of a lifetime of separation. In any case, you can’t deny yourself the pain, you might be able to suppress it but when it erupts it’s like an untamed fire.

And yet, specially men for whatever reasons are expected to stay ‘strong’ and keep their feelings closeted to themselves. I find that just trying to act normal takes out such a lot. Working through the day, managing to keep your composure, creating an illusion that you are really handling it well has taken its toll on me. There are times when you need to do that but at the same time, there has to be a release, an opening up of pent up emotions.

To me this blog has provided that platform. It has helped me understand my own thoughts and share it with close friends and family. I really don’t know how else to express myself because these are not things I can just pick up the phone and tell someone. The only person I could have told all this is gone. Not being able to tell her things has created an unimaginable void in my life which I don’t think I can fill in this lifetime. If she was reading, I’m sure she would have just smiled and wished my pain away.

I really think we should allow people the space to be weak. It’s a natural response to losing a loved one. In this weakness is embedded the love that was shared and to be weak, to allow yourself to feel the immense pain is the least you can do express how much it hurts to have lost someone so precious. If there can be any solace it is that I’m the one left behind to bear this pain for the rest of my life. It’s my destiny which I cannot avoid.

“People are afraid of themselves, of their own reality; their feelings most of all. People talk about how great love is, but that’s bullshit. Love hurts. Feelings are disturbing. People are taught that pain is evil and dangerous. How can they deal with love if they’re afraid to feel? Pain is meant to wake us up. People try to hide their pain. But they’re wrong. Pain is something to carry, like a radio. You feel your strength in the experience of pain. It’s all in how you carry it. That’s what matters. Pain is a feeling. Your feelings are a part of you. Your own reality. If you feel ashamed of them, and hide them, you’re letting society destroy your reality. You should stand up for your right to feel your pain.” 

Hundred days of grief

I know how futile it is to keep track of days when you know that it’s never going to end. There is no silver bullet or a bend in the river when things are going to be what they were. Yet, I keep a count of days like I did when on the rare occasions we weren’t together. It’s a hundred days now and I don’t know how I’ve made it this far.

Words like tough, difficult or impossible cannot do justice to what I’ve experienced in these hundred days. There have been too many dark days and nights filled with immeasurable sadness. There have been times I’ve felt extreme pain and loneliness so crushing that I’ve physically felt what grief is like. I’ve come face to face with my darkest fears. I never ever imagined I would live to see a time like this.

Each day I’ve reached new lows, just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, it has. When we were in the hospital, I used to crave for normalcy. I wanted to somehow go back to how it was before – our sweet little piece of heaven that we had dreamt up together. During those weeks and months, the thing that kept me going was the thought that in the end if we were able to reclaim our lives then it was all worth it. She was my biggest strength, witnessing her indomitable spirit everyday made me fight from the sidelines.

“We are in this together, you are not alone “- I must have told her over and over again. We were a team, we did things together in sickness as in health. But in these hundred days, I’ve been alone. The person who taught me how to live is herself devoid of life. In her absence, I’ve had nowhere to hide, fear and dread have crept in from all directions. I have felt life draining from me. Yet I’ve lived, I have gotten up every day and gone to work. I’ve tried my best to act normal but I haven’t been able to fool myself.

It would be fair to say I’ve lived in a dense fog. There are many days I have no memory of. I have been there amongst people and yet I have no recollection of whom I met and what I said. I’ve forgotten simple things, missed reminders and done dumb things just because my memory has failed me. I have felt like a ghost, witness to my own life. It’s been a nightmare in every way.

The first few days and weeks the shock was intense, it was so strong that it protected my mind from the reality of it all. I almost felt strong in those first few days. I had no idea of what I was going to be hit with. Because when the shock wore off and the reality set in, it was like being stabbed in the heart every minute of the day. The pain of it was brutal, I had voices in my head saying “why are you here, don’t you know she’s gone, it’s over”. I would be working and suddenly this would start. I went for long walks, I wanted to be alone.

I experienced a frightening range of emotions – sorrow, physical pain brought on by grief, anger, depression, disbelief and extreme loneliness. Yet, in the midst of this darkness, there was a light – her memories and the responsibility of taking care of my son. He is too young for all this. “He needs one of us” – her words kept me from giving in. When all seemed lost, I just tried to put my head down and wade through my responsibilities.

This weekend has been particularly rough. Nishu was sick again and I had to take him to the pediatrician. He prescribed few antibiotics as he suspects an infection brought on by the cold. I’ve spent more than my fair share of time dealing with the medical stuff. I wasn’t expecting to be in it again. Things got worse when the Dr went over the family history and I had to hear myself say things I thought I would die before having to say it. But I guess, it’s inevitable, it’s the painful truth in my life. I  know I still don’t accept it which is why it hurts so much.

I am beginning to realize I’ve to be much more patient as a parent, regardless of the state of my mind, I have a responsibility to create happiness for him. It came so naturally to her – being happy and taking care of family. Her presence itself was uplifting, if she ever felt low she wasn’t the one to show it. Though, before all of this, there was hardly anything that could keep her down for long. I guess she was like a child – always living in the moment. She was too precious to have gone away so soon.

Looking back on the last few months, I believe I’ve started this gradual process of change. Loss of this magnitude changes your core beliefs. It’s too early to say what kind of person I will emerge from this. Right now I’m fighting my own battle to survive. I’ve learnt not to suppress my feelings, to try and stand up to the waves every time they overwhelm me. It’s probably the only way I can hope to survive this.

Who can say for certain
Maybe you’re still here
I feel you all around me
Your memory’s so clear

Deep in the stillness
I can hear you speak
You’re still an inspiration
Can it be
That you are mine
Forever love
And you are watching over me from up above

Living with the loss

I have been having an early start as I need to be at work by 930 am most days this week . I get up with the usual heaviness , push myself to get dressed and drive to work. Nishu is still recovering from his sickness and had a tender stomach so I let him skip school last couple of days . His cold seems to be much better. I hope he will get completely recovered soon.

As more time passes and the dullness of each day assumes a frightening permanence, I miss her all the more. There seems to be nothing to look forward to – no weekends or holidays or any of the other things that added joy to our life.  Sadness has taken permanent residence within me. Her memories are becoming increasingly vivid and momentarily they create an illusion of normalcy. This is short lived as the brutal realization of what I have lost comes screaming back. It is devastating.

I guess I have entered the darkest phase as the shock has worn off by now and the full magnitude of the loss is becoming evident everyday. Little things that she used to say or do flash back all the time through out the day. I don’t know how long I can sustain this mental anguish. Every time I login to Facebook, I see it’s someone’s anniversary or vacation or other reminders of the life I once had. It is difficult to handle these triggers which are literally everywhere.

I still can’t believe it’s happened to me, I still question myself on how did so much happen just out of the blue. We had a perfect life and so many dreams and goals we wanted to accomplish together. Then just like that it happened one day. It is hard to believe still, I guess I was hoping that with so much of misfortune, our luck will turn at some point but it never did. Till the very last day or I should say the last minutes, I held out hope.

Now after three months, I’m still struggling to come to terms what has happened. It still feels so unreal, like a never ending nightmare. I’m also struggling to come to terms with the word “forever”. When you are used to living with and seeing a person every day for 12 years, it is almost impossible to imagine that you won’t be seeing the person again. I can’t make sense of it at all because the weight of that is enormous.

I also cannot comprehend why others can get on with their lives while I can’t. It’s an impossible situation to be in – grieving and also having the responsibility of a parent. I wish I could get a break from this emotional exhaustion even for a day but I don’t. I wish for a change I could worry about normal things like traffic, work, money etc. But those common place worries have evaporated replaced by the sinister foreboding of an enormous loss.

It has been difficult to focus at work though I try to make an effort. It’s the normalcy of life around me that catches me unawares. At this point most people have gone back to their lives which is fair enough. It’s a busy world out there which stops for no one. But for me, time has come to a stop. I long to go back but can’t and I hate to move forward alone. I feel so robbed that we will not have the future we had dreamt together. There will be no more anniversaries and birthdays to celebrate together. No more of our cherished weekends and much longed for holidays.

I haven’t thought about what to do with this new existence of mine. Right now things don’t look good and I’m still struggling to come to terms with the situation. I try to spend a lot of time with Nishu but the emptiness is always there. I miss talking to her, asking her things and most of all I miss being cared for and loved. Living alone hurts and just having no one to confide in hurts even more. I guess I got no options but to keep taking this pain and keep soldiering on.

I guess I’m alive but feel like a ghost, it’s all part of living with this loss. For the first time in my life, I fear the length of time I’ve got left. If you have watched ‘The green mile’, the below quote from the movie particularly rings true to me.

“We each owe a death, there are no exceptions but sometimes the green mile seems so long”

Things people say

This is a sensitive topic so at the outset, I just want to say that I mean no bitterness to anyone. Before all this happened, I probably suffered from a similar ignorance. Fact of the matter is that when it comes to bereavement and grief people do not know what to say.

I just want to give you my perspective and observations on this because mostly I’m in no position to mention this to people. I have realized that people can generally be classified into three categories. First is one where they feel very awkward and decide to stay away, second where they say things which really shouldn’t be said even though they are well meant mostly and the third category where people really make an effort to understand and listen to you. I owe you my gratitude and I know most of you read this blog.

The other categories, the things which sometimes drive me crazy when people say “I didn’t have the courage to meet or talk”. I do get it but it just drives me into the ground. It is like confirmation that someone is neck deep in hell. While this may be true, it’s not what you want to hear from someone whose intention is to make you feel better. The other really uncomfortable situation is when people specially elders come to pay condolences. Again this custom is well meaning but the effect can be devastating.

Some days I might be doing relatively better and then like a truck someone’s condolence hits me and it falls apart like a pack of cards. I don’t see the point of formal condolence meetings. It’s such a terrible idea – bunch of people huddled together and nobody has any idea of what to say. So lots of things are said which shouldn’t be said. The other day someone told me that I need not worry as Nishu will not remember anything by the time he grows up. Again I know the intent was good but I really didn’t like hearing that because I don’t want him to forget his mom. The very thought is unbearable to me. I hope that never happens.

Then I get to hear “only time can heal”, “God’s will” and many such platitudes. I hate every single one. First of all its not as simple as passage of time, I wish it was but nothing can be further from the truth. Second, I don’t want to hear the word “God”, destiny is acceptable but not some higher power which I have no faith in. There is also the problem of people trying to force you out of grief somehow inferring that by now you should be over it. One cannot get over it in a lifetime forget a couple of months.

When I’m having a troubled day, I might not show it because it doesn’t help but it doesn’t mean all is hunky dory. It gets me every time people assume that just because I’m seemingly normal, I’m doing fine. Someone at work told me “you seem to be taking it well” on my very first day back. I was very tempted to be rude but I let it go.

So the question is what is it that needs to be said when someone is in such a difficult situation. Again I can only give my perspective because it might differ from person to person. For starters, acceptance helps – just the mere confirmation that yes it is going to be extremely tough and there’s not much one can do but face it. The problem comes when even before accepting people start trying to fix something which really has no solution. It helps when people listen to what you are going through even though they can’t understand all the myriad emotions. It helps when people remember the loved one and share memories.

It definitely hurts to see the person you love so much become like an elephant in the room – every one is thinking about it but no one wants to mention. It’s alright to remember, to revisit memories. It gives you an assurance that people haven’t forgotten  they still care. And really in this journey many times things become so difficult that no matter what someone says, nothing brings any sort of relief. But then no man is an island, it’s a human tendency to look for empathy.

We are a closed society – we don’t like to discuss and share personal stories. The traditional approach is to let the person tough it out alone as anyway no one can do anything. While this is true to some extent, it is an extremely inhuman way because in this lonely journey, people need all the support they can get. It has the potential to wreck havoc and humans have an inherent need to connect to survive. It’s true for even someone as introverted as me.

Continued trials

A quite and trying weekend, Nishu got down with cold and fever. This was his first bout of sickness without the comforting presence of mom. He is doing fine, hopefully few days of rest will be all that is needed. But my grief stricken mind perceives things differently. Sickness and medicines causes immense terror as if the effects of a post trauma syndrome have taken over.

It rewinds the most difficult weeks and months of my life. This was the last thing I needed considering my perpetual state of emotional exhaustion. I couldn’t step out of the house this weekend and it makes things worse. Tried to watch some TV and it all seems so inane and pointless. The more days pass, the worse this becomes. All this platitudes about time healing are crap.

I don’t know what will fill this utter emptiness that I feel. I guess it’s all just because of one thing – her absence. It can’t be ignored, it hovers above me like the sky, it’s everywhere. It’s there when I wake up, when I work, when I read, watch TV or write, it’s simply omnipresent. I haven’t got used to it and something tells me, I never will. Each day brings the same foreboding and heaviness. There’s really no getting around this.

While I’m in this senseless state of existence, the world moves on. Needless to say, I haven’t experienced anything like this before. I have had no experience of dealing with loss as big as this. In these three months, I have kind of lived outside of myself. I know it sounds bizarre but that’s what it has really felt like – watching the world from the outside in slow motion, almost dream like.

I know three months is not a very long time but it has also been the hardest. It has really been like living in the immediate aftermath of a great storm. And in many ways the analogy is close, I’m left surveying what is left of my life to rebuild. I don’t think much about the future because it frightens me no ends but also because when you struggle so much with the present, anything else seems very far away.

She was the most gregarious person I’ve ever met – you just couldn’t keep her down for long. I guess she was my savior at all social occasions – introducing me to new people, coaxing me to call up and talk to people. She really tried to bring me around to her way of nurturing relationships. Without her, I will always struggle no matter how hard I try.

I wish I could tell her everything that I’ve written on this blog. But then everything I’ve said about her here is something I must have told her already at some point. She knew how much I would miss her but knowing her as I did, she was so busy living that something like this would have never crossed her mind. Even in the recent months when life had become impossibly tough, I could bet she would have summoned her incredible will and simply blocked out any such thoughts.

I wish I had interesting things to write about but my life is now centered around living with this loss. I have a long way to go in this darkness. I know I have even tougher days ahead.I also wish I had some choice in the matter.