When we surprise ourselves.

Earlier this year I volunteered to be there for a mother who had lost her adult child, in case she needed someone to talk to. The intention was only to reach out to someone I was almost sure I could help. It turned out that her need for positivity in hopelessness (and I have known that need) required a constant repeating of healing, hopeful and helpful ideas. And positive thoughts help everybody, even those like us who sometimes use them as crutches and painkillers, even when some of these thoughts would not be seen as positive by some others. For me, here was someone who felt the same way about life, death, pain, hope and helplessness and someone who understood what we were living with. So ‘helping’ here was an excuse, I was actually helping myself.

I have, in the past, said to others and to myself, that it would take a lot to make someone like me really unhappy – that I could take a lot in my stride. Later, for a while I blamed these thoughts (along with a million other things) and wondered if such thoughts provoked bad luck.

But this weekend the kids and I went to a neighbourhood mall, finished some much required but mundane shopping, I managed to get a slight headache and then sat down for a late lunch, tired and relieved it was done, while the kids ordered. And then as I was irritated with myself for not ordering something else and as I still continued to eat something I wasn’t enjoying, I happened to look up at the two young people at the table, equally tired but happy. And an unexpected thought crept into my mind – didn’t even realise I actually thought that thought. How could I? The thought was – “This is contentment.”  But I did feel at peace at that moment and this is how I feel most of the time these days. How would Tejaswee feel if she could see us sitting there and if she could hear my thoughts? She would have been proud. We had achieved the unachievable … the inconceivable (to us).

So I have made peace… sort of. It’s difficult not to resent and feel angry with whatever/whoever had the power to have an almost 23 year old sitting with us in that crowded, stuffy mall on this weekend afternoon, but I am trying to learn to think that she is not really not-there ever, and that she was watching and feeling the same peace I felt. Maybe I felt the same peace she was feeling …because she was feeling it. Maybe I was at peace because she was at peace.

And I am continuing to understand that this peace (still won’t use ‘happy’ to describe how I feel) has been achieved by training the mind to keep twenty years of memories (capable of inflicting terrible pain) locked in a precious, partly cherished, partly dreaded corner.

Maybe this is what coping with grief or any trauma is all about (for some people atleast) – being able to control what we remember and what we choose not to think of. And it’s an ongoing, endless process, but not really a conscious effort. Also, it was not really in my control to do this – it just happened over a period of time.

I also noticed that without really thinking about it, I resisted situations that might bring forth painful memories. I did not attend any weddings or celebrations until early this month. And I wasn’t sure if it would be painful – and this is what I find strange. How can we not know how we would feel? Turned out we didn’t just attend this wedding, we actually enjoyed ourselves.

I had not been able to listen to happy, lively music for three years (without breaking down that is) and had been fine with never again dancing or listening to certain (or any) kind of music. I remember saying there were many who had not been through what we had, but who didn’t care for dancing or music anyway, and they lived fine, so my not being able to bear music wasn’t so bad. But then Brat Three joined us. I remember the first time I sang and generally clowned around with her on ‘Lakdi ki kaathi’ and realised only afterwards, with shock, that I was perfectly fine doing that – no tears, no break down. How did that happen?

Then there was a Diwali Mela in our complex and we took Brat Three there, and she heard music and saw people dancing and with just a little encouragement she had joined them and started dancing with them. Soon some teenagers pulled her to join their group, I was amazed at how much she was enjoying, and although I was crying, it wasn’t too brightly lit and even if somebody noticed, I didn’t care. I was happy but I was also in pain, I wanted to scream. And yet, I was actually overjoyed. I am not able to understand why drum beats and music did this to me… Maybe because we were dancing even 19 days before Tejaswee was born, and we still have photographs with the hamper we won. We were dancing again when she was a baby, then a toddler and then we were on the floor with two toddlers, then two kids and then two teenagers…

Early this month I felt I could attend a wedding in the family, maybe borrow an odd sari from my mom because Brat Three would definitely enjoy everything an Indian wedding entails. That’s how little we know our own minds sometimes (though we know it better than anybody else does). I knew I could attend, I never dreamt I would be able to dance – which is what actually happened. And no tears, no break downs. It’s a mile stone in our grief journey. Did it help that it was a cousin, very dear to Tejaswee who was getting married and that there was Brat Three in a white lehenga hopping away to glory and that the husband was looking overjoyed – disbelieving almost. I think, I could see a reflection of what I was feeling on his face.

I shared all of this with the dear friend who needs to hear positive thoughts and who asks the same question every day, often more than once a day, in many different words, each time like she has never thought of asking it before.

Here’s what she asks:

“I have been meaning to ask you something…  I didn’t even want to get up this morning… do you really feel better now after three years…?”

“I was thinking I must ask you something today, … I was wondering… does this pain become bearable after a while… you will know so I thought I must ask you.”

“You have dealt with it, so you will be able to tell me, does it hurt like this all your life? What’s the point of living if it is so painful to live every moment?”

“This is very wrong you know, what kind of creator created such a world where there is so much pain? We would not have had any children if we knew it was so painful to lose them… Do you really think… does it really become bearable with time?”

I can relate to each thought – have asked the same questions with the same disbelief, and almost always, each time I laugh, there is astonishment, and a quickly suppressed question, “How can I laugh? Tejaswee has died and I can laugh?” There is almost a rebellious desire to never laugh, to show the creator there is no forgiveness from this mother for creating so much pain. Denying these thoughts would be dishonest and does not help validate similar thoughts felt by other parents. But when I talk to this dear friend I make an effort to end these rants with a positive thought, “Maybe I can forgive fate/Creator/whatever, maybe it was predestined, maybe there was no way it could not have happened, maybe there is forgiveness being sought because there is so much hope in the love and the joy that we feel for Brat Three…  and I am sure if we are determined to fight pain and find joy again, we can try to seek happiness and support in whichever ways we are comforted…” 

This post is a thank you note to this mother for all the positivity she brings into my thoughts.

Related Posts:

Do dreams have meanings?

Do you believe that each day promises a fresh beginning?

2011… and an unbelievable dream.

Dreams by Tj91

“The pain will never go, but you will smile again.”

It’s Real not Virtual : Love from Crafty Shines…

Just pick it up…

We are moving…

Words do heal.

Last year, these days. 

38 thoughts on “When we surprise ourselves.

  1. It’s terrifying to think how close any of us are to something similar happening to us. Twenty years of memories….I can’t even imagine it. Sometimes when I think of Anupa dying I wonder how I could possibly manage without her after just five years. Now multiply that several times over and perhaps I can get an inkling of what you went through.

    Wow…and we probably avoid a dozen accidents every day. That…is horrible to contemplate. I can only live normally by shutting out that realization. A full understanding of the precipice we all stand on will probably drive me mad.

    Your blog is probably a great help though. It allows you to process all your feelings and structure it through what I can only call a work of art. A need almost. At least for me, it is. Anupa asked me the other day how much money I would accept to stop blogging and I surprised myself by thinking that I may not do it for any amount of money. It’s my immortality project. My “gift” so to speak. If I’m not mistaken, your blog has helped you cope as well hasn’t it?

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    • Yes Bhagwad it has. It’s still doing that. And not just through sharing of thoughts, which is very helpful… it makes terrifying and seemingly all-powerful pain easier to dissect and deal with but also through all the connections we make – the first two mothers I connected with, I met through this blog. And somehow almost all the people I have met online have been the least judgmental – which alone is a great support. And Tejaswee’s blog is a source of unimaginable comfort – everything would have been much worse if her blog did not exist.

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      • Tejaswee’s blog is a comfort even to those who did not know her – I read her Letter to the Future now, and there’s so much wisdom there. It always makes me feel good to read it.

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  2. YOU’RE BRAVE. That’s all I want to say after reading this heart melting post. I’m just speechless. No words No gestures would suffice the feeling. I sincerely hope that each day brings loads of happiness and positivity into your life. Thank you for sharing this wonderful post. Nothing else would have made me feel better! Thanks!

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    • I edited to make it clearer R’s Mom, Brat Three with her brattishness has brought unlimited love, hope and joie de vivre in our lives, but in this post I mean the mother and a new friend who hungers for positivity, and forces me to see the positive in the bleakest situations.

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  3. Beautiful writing, brilliant post.
    I have a professional peer who is a psychiatrist.
    Both of his sons have passed away – the youngest at 9 yrs old to leukemia & the oldest at 17 yrs old by suicide due to depression.
    I can not even imagine the overwhelming grief & emotions he’s gone through, but he has come to terms with it also.

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  4. You show us such a way forward on conquering the self, IHM. Your blog helps me live more mindfully. Yesterday, looking at a sleeping daughter’s hint of chubbiness, the little that hasn’t melted away, I know I thought of how this time is just now and that I would cherish it a whole lot. Your journey has been one of a few ways of learning, one that has made me stop and think and treasure the time and the people we have, when we have them. In that too, you continue to be an instrument to bring more to people. That is the highest purpose I can think of – being an instrument to help more people get higher.

    Hugs!

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      • Never mind these inveterate thumbdowners.
        They have done it before too and surface occasionally on this blog.

        The most charitable explanation is that they are mixing up the significance of the directions in which the thumbs point and are thumbing down the comment when they actually mean to do the opposite.
        Or else they are rather fat-fingered and the finger is poorly aimed at the icons on a small cell phone screen or tablet device. Unfortunately, there is no way you can correct your mistake if you make one unwittingly.

        If they are really serious about thumbing these comments down then they are incurable and not worth bothering about. They are possibly people , who got hauled over the coals from enlightened readers here when they made an inappropriate/offensive comment and are satisfying themselves in the only way they can using the cover of perfect anonymity.

        Let’s see what they do to this comment of mine!

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  5. This was a heartening read IHM. Especially your friend’s questions. They are so honest and clear, that it scares me to have to answer them. And yet she brings you positivity. She is quite a woman, just like her friend🙂

    Hugs to both of you!

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  6. IHM ,

    There is no easy way to deal with Death , of elders we are still aware that will happen sometime in our life time , i still don’t want to imagine the day when my parents will. You are brave and writing what you have written about Tejaswani and ypur healing process has helped many people think about death in a different perspective . It can happen to any one of us any time and there is no way we can be too prepared to deal with it . Sharing your pain and thoughts and knowing that you are not alone is a part of healing process.

    Warm hug and best wishes for new year
    -preeti

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  7. A million hugs to you all four of you. Tho i have never met you, I feel i have known you forever and wish you and your family the bestest life can offer.

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  8. So true… those precious memories are always there on the mind, partially dreaded partially cherished. Bringing a smile sometimes and making us drown in tears some other times but we do move on in a way. But I would admit that I still find it difficult to talk about the pain, distracting myself to some other engaging activity has helped always.
    Hugs IHM.

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  9. It’s lovely to hear that you are more at peace now, that you can sometimes make merry and it is okay. What you said about Tejaswee always being there reminded me of an idea from Harry Potter, about the people we love always being by our sides through their goodness and the memories they leave behind.

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  10. Dear very human IHM, I am feeling a lot lighter aftee reading your post.And am sure u too are somewhere.I will wish the same as before …May something happens I dont know what but it happens and you feel lighter better….

    I think that something has started to happen. …

    Lots of hugs to you…Fib

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  11. I read this post rather late.

    This is to assure you that I empathise with you.
    I also congratulate you on the way you have faced your loss of Tejaswee and in your efforts to help others who have faced a loss like yours.

    Adopting brat 3 was a noble thing to do. Not every one is capable of doing so.
    Please accept my on line support in all your ventures.

    Your blog is one of my favourite “watering holes” where I spend some time as I aimlessly browse the web during these recent years of retirement and leisure.
    I have benefited greatly from reading your thoughts and views and also from interactions with other readers of this blog, by way of comments and counter comments.
    Your readers are obviously a very intelligent set of people, the like of whom I do not get a chance to socialise and interact with in real life due to my gender and age.

    I hope this blog will go on for ever. It is a great way to remember Tejaswee
    Regards and best wishes.
    GV

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  12. IHM, I’m not sure how appropriate or helpful this comment is going to be but I have to say this now out of gratitude. I started reading your blog since a year and I just can’t tell you how much of an influence and inspiration you’ve been to me. It’s almost like you and your blog have changed my life forever. I would’ve seen things differently but for you. When I learnt about your past, I was first shattered and angry that this happened to you and Tejaswi. Later, I couldn’t help marvel at your amazing courage, fortitude and truthfulness (truthfulness it has to be otherwise it is impossible for anyone to put across their thoughts and feelings the way you do). It takes amazing strength to go through so much pain and still be a source of inspiration to others as you’re going through it. Strangely, when I don’t see any posts on this blog for a few days in a row, I start wondering if you’re fine. It’s great to know that your friend and brat three have brought in so much positivity. Hope this will continue and wish you well. Hugs!!

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  13. l can’t imagine how much courage it takes to express your deepest, most raw emotions here. l always feel humbled by your honesty.

    I’m glad you have found some peace in your life and a new purpose through being a mom to B3 (l just can’t call that adorable kid a Brat!). Perhaps that’s the key to life, no? Finding happiness in someone else’s smiles? A few days ago you posted how B3 takes pleasure in your happiness. Today it’s how her presence brings you peace.

    l think you’re (whole family) amazing for not being overcome by all things negative and instead being able to find a way together through it all…

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  14. Thank you for sharing such intimate and sensitive thoughts. In some traditions, drum beats are used for Healing, they are like heartbeat. Sending you big hugs.

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  15. Dear IHM,
    I wonder if you know how much these posts you write about dealing with loss help random readers… I’ve had people talk to me of your posts not knowing I knew what they were talking about, and I always see them finding little fingerholds out of their own abyss with the little positivities you try to remember to mention.
    Tejaswee would indeed be proud. You give her much to be proud of.
    Love,
    Sue

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