Coping with Grief

Greeshma Sukumaran
Published: January 2020

In our heart of hearts, we all know that death is a part of our lives, the Mental Health of America’s portal professes. Death is the only occurrence that gives meaning to our existence for the simple reason that it reminds us of how precious life is. The loss of a loved one is life’s darkest and most stressful moment and in some cases causes emotional crisis of immense proportions.

Suffice it to say that it is never easy dealing with death. After the demise of someone we love, we experience a sense of bereavement, which means ‘to be deprived by death’, and we all handle it differently. Loss of any nature can be a traumatic experience for many and one of the toughest challenges you would ever have experienced all through your existence. I have witnessed several days and months come and go since my beloved granny left for her heavenly abode. But the more I think about the loss, the more I am reminded that this is one moment in life that I will never get over. Even as time ticks away, my thoughts just refuse to go away. Every day I am reminded that she still exists. It is never easy, but this is a perplexing reality that all those who have suffered the loss of a loved one live with. As expressed by thinkers and philosophers of yore, death or loss is one of two things – either death is a state of nothingness and utter unconsciousness, or, as mortals say, there is a change and migration of the soul from this world to another (Plato, Apology 40c-e, tr. Jowett; 40c-41c).

In my case, the initial days following the demise of my granny proved to be very painful and left me confused. To begin with, I could not readily accept the news of her demise. I was in a state of utter disbelief. I must confess here that the whole experience was deeply personal and the pain I endured was unimaginable. I have witnessed loss before but it never crossed my mind that there would be one that would leave me so shaken. Looking back, the loss taught me many lessons on grieving and coping mechanisms that I had never given much thought.

One, I came to accept that death is real. Even though there are days I feel the presence of my granny around me as I make futile attempts to indulge her in conversations, I have realised that she will never be there in the physical sense. That is one reality that I have to learn to live with and embrace life again without her. Secondly, I have come to discover that the loss of a loved one helps you to mend ways with friends, family or people, who you may have lost connection with. It is in loss too that we begin to acknowledge the people we have taken for granted. It is important that at the time of loss, we stand by each other and embrace bereavement together and unravel a supportive system, which may not have been in existence.

Thirdly, it is significant that you give yourself time. It is significant to understand that there is no right time to grieve. The outpouring of emotions is an eternal part of it. If you believe in yourself and hold on to dear life, you will surely emerge stronger. Give everyone room to grieve. I realised many a time that the comforting words and questions that abound can be a tad baffling or irritating after death. I guess we all react to death in different ways. Some cry, mourn and others don’t. But we mustn’t become judgmental. Emotions that pervade the room cannot be taken as indicators of love. Wise counsel suggests that you be there, give those mourning the support they need and more than anything else allow them space to grieve in solitude.

Maybe in the initial phase, it will be a trifle difficult to deal with, and may even take months and years to come to terms with the loss, yet the intensity tends to diminish. With support, patience and effort, you can overcome grief. And with time, the pain will lessen leaving you instead with only cherished memories of your loved one.