Dont know if I am really qualified to write on this topic, but having lost my husband 2 years ago and after going through the turmoil, I want to share things which people miss or are afraid to do. When Chao suddenly passed away following a cardiac arrest, life came to a standstill. Watching the doctors trying to revive him for an hour and being alone in that hospital for 3 hours since he had gone, I had gone completely quiet, broken down but I did not collapse. I was doing all that was required. My phone was ringing continuously with the word having spread like wildfire and I was picking up, and softly accepting the condolences of my friends and Chao’s friends and family. I was in shock, my whole world had collapsed. Not once in our time spent together did we even discuss this eventuality, this horrific fact that life could end suddenly. Then what was I supposed to do? Do I stay back in Lonavla and do everything there or go to Mumbai. By the time my first friends arrived and then my family arrived, I had already taken the decision to bring him back to Mumbai so that all the people who mattered to him could see him one last time. It would have been very difficult for people to come to Lonavla. My senses were intact, I did not scream or shout, I did not howl crazily, I didnt know what to do. I just kept thinking this is not true. How could this happen? If I could turn back time. Did I do something wrong? No no, this is all just a bad dream. It was raining crazily that night, like there would be no tomorrow. Chao loved the rains so I thought, he’s gone with the wind, in this beautiful weather. (Sorry got lost in the memories of that day)
Then for months I couldn’t sleep, I wouldn’t eat, I would cry endlessly for days till all my tears would dry up, my throat would get sore with all the crying and no voice would come out.A lot of friends just couldn’t believe that Chao was gone. People would come to meet me, slowly and steadily. Some with sorry faces, some saying – we understand what you must be going through, some relatives with pity and some offering and bringing proposals to get me married off. Totally heartless! What did they understand about my loss? Did they ever lose someone who was their life, their best friend, husband, mentor, heart and soul? What do they know? For months I would hear different things from different people, so I really want people to understand how to behave when someone close to you goes through this in their life.
- JUST BE THERE – You don’t have to necessarily say something or do something. Just be there for your friend or family. Be available to talk to them, or to just give a hug. Be there to just give him/her some company when he/she needs it. Be there to share the loneliness or grief that person is going through. Be there to listen to the silence that is speaking a thousand words. I remember there would be days and days when nobody would call or visit or meet me. Or even listen to me. Listen to me talking about Chao. Saying how lonely I felt without him. Or to just hold my hand. Those were by far some of the worst days of my life.
- KEEP IN TOUCH – Most of the people just send a RIP message and then the next second forget about it. For the person who has lost someone dear, thats not all it is. It is tormenting, hurting, painful, intolerable and the least you could do is show up. I understand that everyone is busy with their lives. But it doesn’t hurt to just make a call once in a while and check on the person. Or try to call or meet sometime. If you are close to the person, then stay in touch. Dont forget that this is the hardest time of their life and they need you the most now. If you care take out time and make the effort to talk and listen. Only a few friends did that for me and for that I shall always be very grateful to them
- CHANGE THE SETTING – Most of the days after losing someone, we tend to sit in the same room, follow the same schedule, live in the same house. All those places remind you of your loss and make you more miserable. Its the natural thing to do since I was always trying to feel close to Chao by listening to his voice, reading his messages etc. But then my friend Manisha invited me to Hong Kong to spend a few days with her. I refused and resisted, but she coaxed me into travelling and that trip helped me to stop crying endlessly. For a few days I was away from all the people, places, things that reminded me of Chao and that helped a lot. So try to do that.
- GIVE IT TIME – There is no limit or benchmark as to how much time one will spend grieving over their loved one. Each person is different and some people overcome it quickly and move on, while some people never come out of it. It might take 6 months or 2 years to start feeling normal again. So don’t start giving your opinion about moving on and lecturing about life. I didn’t know that it would take me so much time to come to terms with Chao’s death. I went through so many stages of denial, anger, guilt, helplessness, pain and a part of me died with Chao. Life will never ever be the same for me and I think no one can ever understand my agony over losing him. Now even after 2 years, I count the days I’ve lived without him and I miss him terribly. Tears come very easily and that’s not going to change ever. No one can replace him and no one can fill that vacuum in my life. So give the person a lot of time and be patient and loving as much as you can. Let the wounds heal slowly over time.
- OFFER SUPPORT – Emotionally, financially, physically, a lot happens when someone you love dearly has gone. Often, people want to help but don’t know how, so ask or be helpful as much as you can —whether it’s a shoulder to cry on, help with funeral arrangements, or just someone to hang out with. Keep a watch and offer help if the person is sinking deeper into their grief. I was sinking into depression slowly and there would be many endless days where I just didn’t want to do anything, meet no one, talk to no one and just be with myself and Chao. And there was also that day when I wanted to be done with this grief. I felt I would explode and I just decided to end my life. But I had the courage to fight this. I have never taken the easy way in life, so I pulled back and decided to face life. Offer whatever assistance you can. You could suggest a job, or freelance projects or introduce him/her to new people. It could even be good to get them to meet people who have gone through a similar situation. Give them hope to look forward to something in their life, find a purpose. For the longest time, I just felt that there was no purpose any longer in my life. Why am I going on living? What for?
I know that its awkward and sometimes you don’t know what to say. But don’t disappear, don’t forget, don’t lecture, don’t give up on the person. There were a few friends who couldn’t muster the courage to call or message for a year after Chao had passed away. I asked them where were they when I needed them the most. Your awkwardness or dilemma is negligible as compared to the real trauma that person has faced in their life. So the least you could do is just be there. Reach out, do not leave the person alone, call, meet, connect and do whatever little you can do to help. Remember that every little effort matters and you could become the catalyst for him/her to come back to normal. Try to bring some cheer in their lives, make them smile, relive the memories of the person gone and make them see the good in life. Help them find a reason to live, to exist in this world. Its not easy and it will never be. But so is life!
Grief is never something you get over. You don’t wake up one morning and say, ‘I’ve conquered that; now I’m moving on.’ It’s something that walks beside you every day. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing… not healing, not curing… that is a friend who cares. Dont forget that at some point you will have to look in Your Rearview Mirror!