Like all things in life, there is a time and a place for everything. Death is an inevitable end to life as we know it and recognize it. No matter how many times you have lost someone to it, the hurt, grief and pain never desists from enveloping you in its midst. One is never prepared for death. Now the death of someone suddenly, someone way too young, way too vibrant, way too before their time, is not only shocking, but gut-wrenching and excruciatingly painful.
Initially it’s almost unbelievable, unacceptable. As it sinks in, your world shifts. How is it possible then, in the midst of such tragedy, to honour death? What is it you are supposed to feel? The grief, the loss, the pain or is it just that horrific bewilderment? When the surprise and shock wears off, you are left with a bitter aftertaste and silent frustration. Between the emotions of total despair and seething anger, between that line of gutless feelings and seething ire, the process of healing is a long time away.
Our bodies may go through the motion, but our spirit is torn. There are gaping wounds and torn pieces – it’s the quiet numbness sometimes that can become your dearest ally. How do you cope with a loss so tragic, so unnecessary, that every fiber of your soul feels despondent? Is there even a modicum of grace and some honour in such a death? You stand on the dying embers of hope and disillusionment, dreams scattered, and a future of dark walls of overwhelming grief closing in.
Losing a sibling, a child, a friend too young to go, too alive to die – is against the order of natural things. How then does one process an exception and not a rule? Much of the time, when the departed is young or the death unexpected, you become emotionally volatile. The shock delays and prolongs the trauma. While planning and moving forward with necessary arrangements, the mind and body are separated till all that you’re left with, are fragments of bits that you hold on to. The bereaved try to keep it together on the outside, while all the time inside, they’re falling apart. Caretakers and well-wishers know to tread with extreme caution and sensitivity here. They may need to construct and develop a support system that best serves the bereaved. It’s work in progress and a process that can help them express their emotions and grief.
It is only when the survivor of a dearly beloved leans into the grieving, can healing actually start. The realization that life will not be the same for them anymore can trigger deep emotions that finally initiate the process. Remembering that acceptance is not a task but a process, is imperative. Everyone heals in their own time. Especially when a relationship with a person who has died was a significant part of the survivor’s identity, placing them in a world bereft of them, can be overwhelming. It may require considerable constructive restructuring and rehabilitation. It is intense emotional work for everyone around. The bereaved often go through unprocessed emotions of conflict and anger with the deceased, in terms of what could and should have been done to avoid this heart-wrenching end. Sometimes, angry grief and relentless pain, with and towards the deceased, and the world at large, cannot be avoided.
You never get over death, you only learn to live with it and despite it. Loss of a life is the most challenging and difficult rite of passage in our journeys. But when it visits the young, we are faced with rather complex and conflicting feelings of processing this trauma. The void left by the absence of the young is far too deep and dark a place for the human mind. It often makes you question the uncertainties of life, the unexpected, the meaning and the reason for our very existence. It makes you realize how intangible and strange the fabric of life is and its inevitable end. How note-worthy or valuable are you then? What is the place you have carved for yourself, for if there’s anything to be learnt from the death of one so young, it’s that your time on earth is exactly the minutes you have thus far survived. There are no sure fire guarantees on your expiration date. There are no assurances no matter how healthy in body, mind and spirit you may be. A freak accident, a car crash, a heart attack, a fire, a famine, a flood anything can wrench you away in a minute and that is perhaps the only surety life offers you. That life can end even when you least expect it. We don’t have the luxury of time – none of us do. How do we then live? Always fearful for the end? In fear for the loss of life at the next turn? How without meaning and worthless is life then? How insignificant are we in the greater scheme of things?
No matter how richly long or frugally short life is, the important thing to remember is how we may live on in the hearts of people you may have touched, on the tongues of people you may have encountered. Memories are the only things you leave behind. Your footprints in their lives may remain or fade. The measure of your life is the people and the relationships you leave behind. Bonds you’ve shared – some strong and deep, others fragile but memorable.
In the natural course of healing and over time, grievers may return to a state of homeostasis. That doesn’t mean they may never cry again over their loss. But as scabs on raw wounds, they give themselves permission to go through life, honoring their relationship with the deceased without overwhelming pain being the only way to remember them and their love. Along with time, you move down a rough path of acceptance and their memories colour tiny moments in your life.
The human senses are strange too – a smell, a touch can bring their presence back in the room. A person’s walk across the street, even their sightings in similar forms are not unusual. Sometimes their voice may whisper to you. There will be flashes and moments, real belief and hope. You will live with their photographs and things, the clothes you can never throw and the shoes you will constantly pick. Their smiles will linger, their music will live on, and all the while the chords of the guitar once plucked will remain untouched in that corner. Months will turn to years, and we may all grow old but the one that left too soon, will always be remembered, as ‘Our Forever Young’.
In loving memory of our dearest friends – Kaizzad Capadia and Naushad Buchia… and all who left too soon…
May the angels guide you home!