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Recently, I met a friend of a friend who was dealing with the tragic loss of a family member not so long ago. I spoke about my own loss to her and I realised in that moment, that it had been quite some time since I had even spoken about a personal loss, let alone thought about it in great detail. It got me thinking about mourning the loss of a loved one and how best to deal with it. I was asked if it got easier, and my reply was ‘yes, it does.’ I have found that time is in fact the great healer, the great teacher. It is what gives perspective, and makes experience meaningful. I was at a loss for advice to give her, and I found I became increasingly frustrated with myself for not having anything to say apart from my feeble “yes it gets easier over time.” Maybe I wasn’t prepared to think about it again? Had I subconsciously pushed it out my mind so that I didn’t have to delve into it during my day-to-day toils? I am ok with thinking about my lost loved one when I am on my own, and am frequently reminded of them at very random moments and events, but when I was asked to speak about it in public, I was at a loss for words. I was stumped. Nothing that came out of my mouth seemed worthwhile or constructive, in my books.
So. How did I deal with grief? I think that each and every one of us deals with grief in our own unique way. It is also very relative depending on the circumstances of the death and the situation. I was very lucky in that I had a lot of support, and being the youngest in a big family, I didn’t have to shoulder the burden of supporting the rest of the family. However, I found that immediately after the death, I became quite introverted and anti-social. I didn’t want to engage with people, or anything for that matter. I remember feeling terribly embarrassed at all the fuss and attention people were showing; I didn’t know whether it was pity or concern. I didn’t want to be pitied; I didn’t feel like there was anything to pity. I didn’t want to be singled out as being a victim who needed help, as someone who had suffered this god-awful loss. That was not me; it must have been the person behind me, or next to me, but certainly not me. I was in denial, and I had yet to accept it and until I did, I simply wanted to be left alone, to struggle with it in peace.
Cliche as it sounds, I found meaning in death. Just as time is a great teacher, so too is death. I can safely say that I would be a completely different person had this not happened to me. It teaches you gratitude for life and love. It teaches you to understand just how impermanent and fragile life is. It the most poignant wake up call there is.You are asked to wake up to life, to realise and value what is MOST important, to prioritise and live your life onwards with these newly acquired lessons. It teaches you to never take life for granted. Religion- Buddhism- meditates on the very notion of death and suffering (mind the pun, and the Mind!) Since the passing, I have become far more spiritual (granted I was a lot younger then) However, it opened my eyes to what true gratitude really is and the need to value and hold close those who are most important to us. I learnt the importance of surrounding myself with only the loveliest of people. As time goes on, you realise who is worth your very valuable time and effort, and who is truly concerned about your welfare. Share your baked goods and chestnuts with these people only.
I guess the most important thing is time and perspective. The absence is permanent, but you find ways to make it a part of your identity and it will inevitably shape the person you become.
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