Only grief

It is only grief. After all. Picture yourself walking an endless walk, mulling over what was. And hitting a lamp post here, tripping over the grass tufts there, missing the beautiful glow on the baby shuffling around you. All because you are mulling over what was.

Some like to blame it on extra-sensitivity. It is quite a mean thing for a person to say they are more sensitive to emotions than others. All are as sensitive, really. But what makes some smile through the heartache? How are some people able to have room for happiness in their hearts even though there is  tremendous grief invading its being? I daresay it is their willingness to accommodate more. There is no way to deal with a loss, physical, emotional or of any other kind. How could you tell the person who’s just lost their son to get on with life? Or what about the woman who has lost her man-forever to another woman? Grief does invade hearts. Most live through it. Some walk the endless walk, the others walk the endless walk with a smile.

A friend who is currently living alone in the big, unforgiving Mumbai is going through a divorce she initiated after 3 years of being thrown around physically, mentally, emotionally by the man she loved. It isn’t easy to sleep the night alone. Though I’ll wager it would be more welcome than having to live with him. But she loved him, you know? And he treated her in a way no one deserves to be. In her own way, she’s getting out of it. Some very impractical issues crop up in her way, though. She’s been doing up her tiny new spartan flat to make it more homey. I called her while she was in the midst of planning the decor of the small living room/dining space. After endless discussions on how to best accommodate both a cozy living area and a dining space without making it too overwhelming, we were exhausted and hung up. In a eureka-like moment later, I sent her some pictures of cute-looking dining tables for two. For two. “Who’s going to use the other chair?”  What do I say to her about that? She confesses that besides the anger, there is an endless, relentless agony of being let down. Of loneliness that finds its way under one ruse or the other. However concerned, I cannot do anything. If grief were a tub full of stinky, slimy maggots, I would pull her out of it, regardless. But it isn’t.

Another friend, a good twenty years my senior, was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes as a young girl. Nudging fifty (or nudged it already), she has physical complications relatively healthy people like me will not even have nightmares about. I first met her when she was a newly-wed. My brother Shonu and I loved her to bits. She even had a cuckoo clock. And played Smooth Operator for us whenever we wanted. She showered us with love and affection we never forgot. She’d always known she couldn’t have children of her own. But she’s walking the endless walk with a smile.

There must be grief stories in every heart. Life isn’t so rosy, after all. Losses come and go (or stay forever). People haughty enough to think they can label things label some losses as ‘grief’. Some losses, however, remain unnoticed. Or worse, unsympathised. Like emotional blankets, as if blocking out fresh sea breeze on a sunny day; and making people smile smugly, saying “Must be crazy. Wearing that blanket, I ask you.”

It is alarming how people assume they can generalise the path to a healthy, grief-less life and cater advice. A friend once told me how funny she found shelves full of self-help advice in bookstores on making lives better. There is no way you could understand why I am crying at the loss of my old, worn out sweater, could you?

So how does one find the resilience to tide over the Invasion of  the Unhappy Heart-Wrenchers? To each his own, I think. The friend undergoing divorce is getting there, living each day. I just told her today she’s gleaming in her latest picture like she used to. I am sure she grinned with delight at the other end of the phone, knowing she’s getting there. The friend with debilitating diabetes talks and laughs and makes people around her smile. She makes them feel happiness. She probably is the Secret Happiness Generator. Life must be hiding some of these Generators in Her scheme of things. Otherwise we’d be inundated with grieving people.

Grief isn’t to be dealt with. It is to be lived with. With a smile.


12 thoughts on “Only grief”

  1. I just found out yesterday that a woman I know lost her 24-year-old son — he died on Thursday night. We think pain is out there assaulting others, and we try to evade it. But it’s always here. Sometimes much worse, sometimes hardly at all, but here. And we each deal with it in our own private ways and on our own unique schedule. Your friend couldn’t stand the sight of two chairs because she was still in that place where she couldn’t imagine anyone else seated there. Happily, it sounds as though she has started to imagine it. Your friend with diabetes sounds healthier than most people I know. And they’re both lucky, I think, to have you in their lives.

  2. Thank you Charles, for taking interest in this one. It was very difficult to write. And I daresay I am going to have to come back over and over again to ‘correct’ it. Grief can be overwhelming for most. The thresholds differ, of course. It will be an interesting research to see how many people carry the burden of remorse over one thing or the other; and the way it effects their lives, directly or indirectly. This section on my blog is an attempt to prod our emotional existences a little. I sometimes chide myself for being too grave for my own good. But continue picking out dark, unwelcome topics for reasons that elude even me!
    So much for my desire to wit a little.

  3. So much wisdom here: Grief isn’t to be dealt with. It is to be lived…

    We Americans are the great fixers, of course. Have a problem and the friends descend, wanting to make it right. But some things can’t be made right by tinkering – although the merchandisers try to cash in, promising that the new car, hair, activity, whatever, will fill the void. Silly people.

    On the other hand, we do have to work to be unhappy forever. There are healing forces abroad in the land, and they’ll do their work if we just get out of the way. I was just sitting here, trying to think of the great griefs and unmitigated disasters of my life. There was “that”, and “that”, which led eventually to “those”. Then there was the despicable Christmas and the Pollyanna-meets-her-doom summer. But now, they’re all gone. Remembered? Yes. But with a smile 😉

    1. You are very right, Linda. The “healing forces abroad in the land” need some room to get the ball rolling. And unless we stop being so obsessed with losses, they’ll feel a little hampered, won’t they?
      We are a strange lot, humans. We like to hold on to the extreme. Either end, but at the very edge. Something like driving right on one of the edges of the road and either get hit by the mountain on one or slip off down the precipice at the other. So, we either obsess over the morbid, or shelve it as non-existent. Both are disastrous, needless to say. If you ask me whether I’d like to be chaffed on the side by a mountain when I am driving or fall down the devastatingly high crag, I’d find myself looking for a median, somehow!

      Thanks for coming here, Linda. It pleases me to read your compliments.


  4. “Time heals all wounds” is what’s tossed around here at people who are grieving. And it’s true – it does, but only up to a point. And in between, at the point between the even that caused the grief, the sadness, the despair and the other point at which the person moves on in their life to something new, and is able to move on to something new – there is a vaccuum of pain and waiting. What fills that gap is the person who can listen without offering ‘fix-you’ advice. You sound like that sort of person, Priya – you’re able to be a friend, you’re able to think, you’re able to write your feelings and discuss them.

  5. Thank you for making me feel good, Val. It’ll help me begin writing my next post, which I’ve tentatively titled ‘Only vanity’. 🙂

    My brother was gone three years. I still cried (and still do) at the sound of the national anthem (he was in the army, though I think the relation between us and the national anthem goes back to our childhoods). On one such occasion, I furiously tried to wipe off the tears and said to a friend “It’s almost been 3 years. There is a limit to mourning.”
    “You never stop mourning for people you love,” she very wisely said.

  6. They say the period for mourning is 2 years. But I guess there’s no time limit. But I think as women, we handle grief better than men. For we may cry all the time, start snapping at everything. Every emotion is on the surface, out in the open. We move on, in a sense, faster than men. Whereas men, who believe in not crying (atleast not all the time) and not getting emotional have a hard time ‘living’with grief.

    1. You are right. It is probably quite a support, crying your heart out. Men usually feel too bogged down by the masculine image and don’t take its help. But who am I to say with certainty? I am not a man!

  7. You did it again, Priya. Tapped right into the deep dark emotion of grief. This paragraph is poetry, “Some losses, however, remain unnoticed. Or worse, unsympathised. Like emotional blankets, as if blocking out fresh sea breeze on a sunny day; and making people smile smugly, saying ‘Must be crazy. Wearing that blanket, I ask you.'”

    You captured it. From the inside and the outside. For this post, Priya, I think you had the whole view, not the Partial.


    1. Are you a witch, Melissa? I am sure you are, for you can, almost always, zero in on the words that took my entire energy away when I wrote them.

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