Today’s prompt on the Write Tribe’s Festival of Words was grief. A long time ago when my husband died, I had started writing in my journal. Today I am sharing a part of that with you. Please handle with care.

Grief

It was on a Wednesday at 3.50 a.m. that my husband  was declared dead. As if on cue, though it was well into October, the heavens opened and it poured.

I did not break down or cry. In fact I felt strangely calm as I went about seeing to the disposal of the unused medicines and the other formalities that needed to be completed before we could take him home. I could sense people looking at me strangely, wondering how I could be so calm.  But the truth was, I was not calm. I was dead; dead to any feeling; dead to any fear or pain. I felt as if I was in a bubble, totally separate from what was happening.

The undertakers had put his body in a closed ice box with glass on top. So while we could see him, we could not touch him. It was only after the mass that I even went near the coffin.  The coffin was placed outside in the quadrangle between the church and the graveyard. I went and stood next to the coffin. I was still in my pain free bubble and as I saw him lying in the coffin dressed in his best suit, I remember thinking, “Why is he sleeping in a coffin wearing his suit?” I put my hands on the lapels of his suit to pull him upright.

As soon as I touched him, my whole body exploded in pain. The feel of his body was so comfortably familiar, I could not take my hand away. Out of the bubble, I could feel everything with heightened senses.  It was as if my mind was split into a million pieces, yet each of them absolutely clear. One part of me was heartbrokenly crying over him, refusing to let go. Another was aware of my daughters nearby and their grief. A third part of my mind could feel the pain of others around me : my sisters-in- law , my bother-in- law, my nieces and my nephews.

Yet another part of my mind was taking in the voices around, all the gossip, the whispers and the murmurs.

Hands came to pull me away; people telling me to stop crying. Why?  Why should I let go when these are the last few moments I’ll have to touch and feel him? Who are you to tell me to stop crying? Who are you to tell me to behave myself? Who the **** are you?

Finally, I yelled back, “Leave me! Go away and leave me alone!” I screamed at whoever was trying to hold me back. I couldn’t care less if it was proper funeral etiquette or not.

Even days and months after the funeral, people were still trying to tell me how I should deal with my grief.

While trying to deal with my grief, I used to search the internet for blogs written by people who have dealt with grief.  The first line of one particular blog struck a chord. I do not remember who had written the blog but the first line stated, “Those who say that time heals all wounds have obviously never lost a spouse.”  It went on to say that even if we do get on with our lives, there is always a part of us that is in pain. One part of us grieves forever.

As I read it, I was struck by how true it is. For those who have lost someone who has been such an integral part of their life, time does not really heal. It just helps you cope better. My sister-in-law lost her husband more than 20 years ago, and though you could say her life is pretty happy and normal, there are still days when she remembers him with so much sadness and pain.

So can I really expect the pain to go away so fast?

Another friend who lost her husband a couple of months ago, calls up regularly to cry. “Sunita, I can’t stop crying. I feel so sad! I don’t know what to do.” And all I say to her is, “Of course you will feel sad. It’s okay to cry. It’s just been a few months. There is nothing wrong in feeling sad and crying.”

“But everybody else tells me to stop crying; to get my act together; to be grateful for what I have in my life,” she wailed.

“Bull shit!” I feel like telling her. But more politely I say, “Who is everybody else? Did they lose their world? No, na? Then don’t bother about them. What do you feel? What does your heart say? Cry as much as you want. Scream as much as you want. Yell at God! Fight with Him! It’s okay. He will understand.”

The world is always there to tell you what you should and shouldn’t do. “Don’t lock yourself at home so much. You must get out more.” “You must eat properly.” “Stop crying.” Blah blah blah blah….

What gives people or society the right to have rules for grief?  How can there be a right or wrong when it comes to grief? Who is society to decide who can grieve; how long you should grieve or how you should express your grief? Why do I have to follow these norms? I’m damned if I will.

I’m sure they are all genuinely concerned and mean well. But where are they when you wake up screaming in pain in the middle of the night? When you put your hands over your ears to shut off the sound of the beeping of the monitor in the ICU which still rings in your ears? Where are they when you feel you can’t go on one more day and just want to crawl into a hole and die?

No matter what anyone says, at the end of the day, it is you and you alone who have to deal with your pain.  Most people, even those close to you don’t want to know all this, not because they don’t care, but because they do not know how to really help you. They mouth platitudes because they feel helpless. No one else can understand, because they haven’t felt it.

Yes, they love you, but they don’t really know how to help you out.  As my daughter told me, “Mamma, I’m sorry. I don’t know what more to do for you. I can’t help you anymore. I’ve got to get on with my life.”

And to be honest, is it really fair to expect others to put their lives on hold just because our world has stopped?

‘I’m Writing Bravely for the Write Tribe Festival of Words – March 2019’

5 Replies

  1. Hugs, Sunita! Tears welled up as I read your post! I think it needs a lot of courage to bare your heart and share them with the rest of the world. I think I know how raw your emotions still are, even today and the fact that no matter how hard anyone tries, they can never compensate for the loss and the vacuum you’ve been feeling inside since your world stopped one October day. Nothing ever prepares you for it and it is also one of the hardest things to deal with.

  2. My mother in law lost her husband when she was 48 years. She is 68 now. 20 years have past yet she tells me that she cries daily , rememberers him daily. She had a beautiful life and she misses that. While her children grieved with her forvfew years they now had their own families so they moved on. She felt alone. After retirement from work her sadness increased.
    Whenever she is unwell or has an argument with her son and daughter or me she keeps remembering her husband.
    I have been witnessing this since the past 14 years of my marriage. Like you have mentioned I am also one of those who tell her to move on.
    Sometimes when I have to listen to all her sad moments I feel as if I am caught up in this unhappy moment unnecessarily. I do not like the sadness . Maybe because I have not experienced this grief.
    But after reading your post I want to ask you if there is a way for me to reduce her grief.

    1. First accept her grief. Because it is real. But also encourage her to remember the good times she had with her husband. Memories do not only have to make you cry sad tears, sometimes those tears can be happy too.

      1. I guess you are right. Thanks Sunita , it was getting difficult for me to deal with her grief and I agree while I thought I empathise with her and respect her for her strength about how she conducted her life bit somewhere I have not accepted her grief.

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