Neerja.

How can watching something painful actually help someone in pain?

I had no idea what to expect from Neerja – but it turned out to be a cathartic experience. I identified with the mother and wanted to cry – aloud, even before anything began. The way Shabana Azmi wakes the daughter up, hating to wake her when she seemed to so need that sleep; then gladly letting her sleep just a little longer, snuggling up beside her, watching her asleep, her head on the pillow. I wanted the moments to last forever.

Shabana Azmi seemed to have experienced the scene, or the love – or else she is just a fantastic actor. Reminded me of another similar scene in Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd. where she has lost her family in an accident and here too she was equally relatable.

Even the mundane – the daughter teasing the mother for the way she dances, the clowning and the camaraderie. The everyday life I was so complacently content with and expected to last a lifetime. I cried at the unfairness of it all, but along with sadness and exhaustion I also felt a lightness.

I could hear other viewers crying too. What were their thoughts? How would I have found this movie if it was not seeing myself on the screen?

The family learns about the hijack and while they wait for information, It was us outside the ICU again, reassuring ourselves, insistently, that all would be well. The desperate hope that buying a yellow outfit could influence what they would soon learn… I wanted to reach out and hold their hands – tell them I understood.

The way the mother looks afterwards. Stunned. Dishevelled. The little girls walking to school. A photo album on her lap. It was like meeting a mother in our Child Loss support group. I wish. .. really wish I could meet this mother. 

I shared all of this on our group – In Our Hearts Forever and realised not everybody felt the same way. My husband too refused to watch this movie. Affirms what I have said earlier – the only person who can decide what works for them is the person experiencing the loss. 

The Voice.
There is a voice inside of you
That whispers all day long,
“I feel that this is right for me,
I know that this is wrong.”
No teacher, preacher, parent, friend
Or wise man can decide
What’s right for you – just listen to
The voice that speaks inside.

Related Posts:

Talaash: Lakh duniya kahe

In our hearts forever.

Why I liked ‘Rabbit Hole’.

“Grieving parents behave in a different manner. ”

The right way to grieve.

When we surprise ourselves.

 

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In our hearts forever.

Finally, after four years of realising that such a group would be most helpful, I created a grief support group for mothers coping with child loss on Facebook in August 2014.

At first we interacted only on Facebook.

The first day, within hours of the group being formed, two of the mothers called to say they found the interactions overwhelming. I thought they weren’t sure they wanted to be a part of the group, and I did understand that each one of us may not find the same things helpful. But they said the sharing of experiences was cathartic for them.

One of the members’ family feared she might find the meetings depressing, another member was pressurised to go for a meeting. I believe there is only one way to truly know what would work for us.

This:

The Voice.
There is a voice inside of you
That whispers all day long,
“I feel that this is right for me,
I know that this is wrong.”
No teacher, preacher, parent, friend
Or wise man can decide
What’s right for you – just listen to
The voice that speaks inside.

[Shared by Women’s Web on facebook, link]

Five of us who were in Delhi-NCR, met for the first time on the 30th of October. There was no plan, whoever was free managed to come.

We talked about what hurt and what helped. What we couldn’t understand and the questions that would never be answered. Those of us who had travelled longer on this journey talked about how we were now able to do things we never thought possible.

We also realised our journeys were a lot alike, (which was why knowing what to expect helped), and yet they were different. Which was why it was important that we choose our own paths.

This was around Diwali. As we were leaving, we were in the lift and one of the mothers said, “They are able to put up lights…! I too will be able to do that in five years.” 

One mother, let me call her SP, didn’t come. She said she got ready and got down the lift, reached the car and then sat there wondering what she was doing. She was sure it would be a mistake. She locked the car and went back home and sent a message that she would not be able to come.

We told her we would love it if she came for the next meeting, or the next. Whenever she was ready.

And she did come for the second meeting on 12th December. This meeting went on for over five hours, very positive, very warm and we parted on an unbelievably cheerful note – with many ideas and plans for future.

What made it even more special for me was that the next day was Saturday and two of the mothers, SP and AV agreed to come for the Saturday walk (more Hikes than walks) that I have been going for (with Let’s Walk Gurgaon – but more about these life altering walks in another post).

That warm Saturday morning I will always remember, and it turned out to be a beautiful trail.

The trail

I had never seen so many Pied Kingfishers at one place… Then, as we walked along the 9 km trail, AV said, “I see this as a new beginning for me, IHM.”

I knew what she meant, this was how I had felt when I went for the first walk in March 2014. What was so healing about these walks? That it was possible to be alone or to interact only as much as one wished to? The group’s willingness to walk as slow as their slowest walkers? The always knowing that there was support, in case one needed it? The beauty of the trails? Being with nature? Having to totally focus on the walk (from time to time)?

SP was the other mom who had agreed to come along. She said she had ankle and knee problems in both legs, and she wasn’t sure if she could even complete the walk. But she wanted to try and she did. Her legs hurt, but there were helping hands all along. She finished the trail, but would she ever come for these walks again? Only if she received the same kind of warmth and support she said 😀

Then some days later she called to ask how to save her pictures from the walk from facebook. “I am smiling so sweetly! I can’t believe I am smiling so sweetly! IHM you guys have changed my life in two days!”

She said her legs did hurt but not enough to prevent her from coming for future walks 🙂 Reminded me of how I had felt the first time. I had to take a paracetamol because of the muscle ache and slight fever from the unused to exercise. And I remember how the biggest concern was getting well enough for the next walk.

And that is how 2014 has been for me. Full of hope and healing.

This group is a closed group and only for mothers who have known child loss.

If you know of someone who has lost a child, please let them know about this safe and supportive space –  and let them decide if this is for them. One way would be to write this email [indianhomemaker@gmail.com] on a piece of paper but it would be  better to  message it to them (on their phone) so that it is not misplaced and whenever they are ready, they would have the option of joining.

Another way would to be to send a message on this page, https://www.facebook.com/IHM.Indianhomemaker

UPDATED: The group cannot be found by non members.

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She will live forever in our hearts.

On 19th Jan 2014.

Two photographs in an email.

On 19th Jan 2013.

On 19th Jan 2011.

Do dreams have meanings?

Do you believe that each day promises a fresh beginning?

2011… and an unbelievable dream.

Creating a Support Group

Words do heal.

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

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

Just pick it up…

“Grieving parents behave in a different manner. ”

When they cry.

The right way to grieve.

When it is okay to count your blessings.

Some days…

Why do I blog about child loss and how I feel?

Tejaswee Rao, Princess Park, my daughter

1. It makes me feel better – I find it cathartic.

2. To understand what is happening (to myself) – with some more clarity by writing it down and sharing it.

3. Four years ago I had sought and found information [link] ( – most helpful when in the form of personal stories), about life after child loss, and I hope these posts are found by those who need them.

4. For readers to get an idea of what child loss can do to parents, so that they don’t take it personally when – for an example – their invitations or gestures of friendship are are declined. Specially when the grieving parent/s seem to be meeting other people or seem to be generally getting on with their life – try and remember you don’t know what they are coping with. Let them be. This needs a separate post. 

Remembered this today.

Related Posts:

When we surprise ourselves.

“Grieving parents behave in a different manner. ”

On 19th Jan 2013.

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

One special Rakhi.

Today the siblings tied Rakhis on each other’s wrists (though Brat Three was looking at her gift while tying the red and gold thread). Then, when her brother asked for one more thread I was puzzled for a moment, “One more?”

“Tejaswee’s” He said.

I tied one Rakhi for each from Tejaswee.

This was taken on Raksha Bandhan, 2000

Rakhi 2000, Sangli Apartments

Four years ago I was still hoping, against all hopes, and praying on this day.

Related Posts:

Raksha Bandhan…

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

Introducing a new family member.

On 19th Jan 2014.

On 19th Jan 2014.

In November 2010 when a parent said they lit a candle and cut a cake on their child’s birth anniversary each year, I was sure I could never do that.

But today, Brat Three cut this cake.

LoveYouTejaswee

And her brother insisted on this orange candle…

Orange Candle

* * *

Later this afternoon I wanted to rest but Brat Three woke me up, asking me to come and see something. “Can’t it wait Brat Three? I am trying to get some sleep!”

No protests, no attempts to convince, no ‘it will take only a moment’, just an uncharacteristic, almost meek, “Okay.”

Later when I got up she got this for me to see.

HappyBirthdayTejasweeRao“How did you think of making this card Brat Three?”

“Because it’s her birthday today.”

“But she can’t see it… how will she see this card Brat Three…”

“She will. She knows. She can see from there.”

 * * *

Earlier this morning Brat Three had to draw a ‘Family Tree’ for her home work and she asked if she should show three children in our family.

I wasn’t sure.

“Name the three children?”

“…then should I show two children?”

“Three is fine. There’s you, Brat Two and Tejaswee.”

Tejaswee2

* * *

And this photograph is from 19th Jan 2010. Tejaswee’s 19th birthday. The dogs came out every morning to say ‘bye bye to Tejaswee’ …barking to make her come back.

DSC_0006

Related Posts:

Two photographs in an email.

On 19th Jan 2011.

On 19th Jan 2013.

Of Calvin, a dream, an old song, and a birthday…

What are little girls made of?

While walking a dog…

Brat Three – Questions about death.

When we flew home with Brat Three the first time in July 2012, she stood looking outside the window, asking an odd question and looking outside, very calm, very well mannered and very quiet. Quite unlike her real self.

Then, this June we flew to Baghdogra and I realised how much more comfortable and ‘herself’ she had become. She laughed aloud at the take-off and then had endless questions about everything she saw.   Clouds from the planeAnd then she asked,

Tejaswee kahan hai? Main itnee der se clouds mein dekh rahee hoon, mujhe to kaheen naheen dikh rahee. Maybe she is behind that cloud, in that hole.”

(Where is Tejaswee? I am looking for her in these clouds but I can’t see her anywhere.”) sky, cloudsThis June, while searching online for a school project, we found dolls’ furniture, and hoping it would keep her occupied during the long, long days of the summer vacations, we decided to try making some. Didn’t realise how much she would love this bed… or maybe what she loved was the process of the making of the doll’s bed.

She was so happy that she was worried. 2013-06-29 07.56.14 DollBed.jpg.14 “Jab aap mar jaogee to aap upar clouds mein chalee jaogee, phir aap wapas meri friend ban ke aa jaana to mein khush ho jaooungee.”

(When you die, you will go up, up in the clouds. Then you must come back as my friend, then I will become happy again.)

Tejaswee

Another time.

“Why have you hung Tejaswee’s big pictures on the wall here?”

“Because I miss her…  she is not here with us.”

“Don’t you miss me? Put my pictures, big pictures.”

“You are here. We are all here… we can hug and hold each other…”

“When she comes back then you remove her photos and put my pictures.”

We have talked about death and attempted to talk about cells, heart (with a You Tube video) and breathing and ‘not feeling anything anymore’, about ‘going up’ and about ‘never coming back’, but how do we explain what we don’t want to or can’t understand? 

I gave her a hug. “She will never come back Brat Three.”

“Sometimes it can happen, sometimes she can come back.” (She says the same thing about the Delhi Metro, “Sometimes there can be 5 coaches in the metro.” Or, “Sometimes Sunday can come again after Monday.”)

“If she comes back, she will herself remove her photographs and put your photographs up here.”  

Tejaswee2

Related Posts:

Two conversations with Brat Three

Why this?

Learning with Brat Three.

Brat Three learns to argue, insist and convince.

Brat Three loves Sher Khan and Sher Khan loves Brat Three.

Introducing a new family member.

Who likes mangoes?

On 19th Jan 2013.

Can you guess what these warli silhouettes on our front door represent?

The figures aren’t perfect, some crucial details are missing! But they do manage to convey what they are supposed to.

Can you guess what that is?

Brat Two with his guitar (he says it looks like a spoon 🙂 ) Brat Three and and Brat One – Tejaswee.
warli figures, warli art on my a grill door, safety grill door

2. With Sher Khan and Mutt.

warli art on the front door

3. Gabbar can also be seen in this one. Only his ears should have been two wide, floppy   triangles, turned upside down.

warli figures, warli art,

4. I wonder if I should paint them orange and turquoise, or cobalt blue. Any suggestion? 

warli art, warli figures, warli figures on a grill door

Warli Figures on the door, Warli art, warli figures, safety grill door

Introducing a new family member.

An eight year old, spirited, determined, smart and sensitive little girl joined our family on 21st July 2012. On this blog I am going to call her Brat Three. [Blogged about Brat One and Brat Two, herehere , hereherehere ….]

We had not planned to adopt an eight year old, all along we were sure a new born or at the most a three or four, or even a five year old would be easier for us to raise. One of the reasons I want to blog about raising Brat Three is to share the surprises that older child adoption brought for us.

The challenges too, but we seem to hear about the challenges all the time. I also feel some of these challenges apply to all parent-child relationships.

We had expected to work at helping an eight year old adjust to a new environment, school, family, food and life, while teaching her new languages. The first surprises were her determination to work at all of the above, and our own lack of unrealistic (or any) expectations. We were just happy to have her as our daughter.

And the first challenge was reassuring her that she didn’t really have to try so hard, that most of it would happen over time and that we were a family, no matter how long she took.

Although all our doubts about adopting an older child vanished once we met Brat 3, I still wanted to be sure we were not romanticising adoption. We wanted to have realistic expectations. So, what could go wrong with something that felt so right to us? We asked friends and family what to expect and what to be prepared for. 

Were we ready, after all these years, to once again deal with home work, tiffin boxes, PTMs and waking up early or missing the school bus? We actually looked forward to most of these.

Were we ready to replace the freedom of watching news hour debates night after night with reading bed time stories?  We quite looked forward to that too.

At first I had planned to home-school her for one year, to bring her to the level of other children her age, but was glad to find the two schools I approached (via friends) willing to work with her, at her pace.

2012-09-04 19.20.19 - Me Mamma, Brat Three, Older Child Adoption, Eight year old

Since our expectations were almost nil, it was difficult to understand, even for me, why it was something we so eagerly looked forward to. Why did we think taking on  the responsibility of raising an eight year old child was going to make us happy? One of my biggest concerns was, being able to raise a happy child, when we knew even our happiest moments were never going to be free from pain. But then, along with happiness, the way we see disappointments has changed too. 

I am grateful to whoever shared this link sometime after August 2010 –  Pain of loss eases with adoption. Reading how Tamara Thomas felt about her loss was like reading my own thoughts; but when I first read this post, I wasn’t sure about adopting a nine year old. There were no doubts about wanting to adopt, only we had a smaller child in mind. After Brat 3 joined us, I spent hours on the internet trying to find Tamara Thomas’ blog, I had forgotten her name, all I remembered was ‘adoption after death of daughter’. When I finally found it, it felt like she was talking about my relationship with Brat three, this strong willed little girl who changed our lives, made us busier, changed our focus, made us happier than we ever hoped to feel.

My mother, who had been unwilling to say anything earlier, pointed out, “Your voice has changed again, it had changed when…  (She never says Tejaswee died, and I still have to keep saying it to believe it.) …but now you sound almost like your old self.”  

So did we adopt because we expected this little girl to make us feel better? All we knew was that we were very sure that we wanted to adopt a child. Once she came home, it felt like she had always been here. I keep marvelling at the wonder of adoption, how it connects total strangers to make happy families.

Brat Three, Older Child Adoption, Eight year old

Also, I do believe that anything one does, one does (and must do) because one expects to feel better. If we didn’t expect to feel good about it why would we have adopted? And yet, I have no idea why it helped so much, it has helped more than I would have ever dared to hope. And it helped each one of us.

It helped Brat Three too. Once when a friend in the orphanage handed her a fallen eye lash to make a wish, she said she had wished for her adoptive family to come soon. Now that that wish has been granted she says, she is waiting to find another fallen eye lash so that she can make a wish to meet Santa. 🙂 (She does suspect it wasn’t Santa but dad who got her a gift hamper on Christmas eve, but wants to keep an open mind 😉 )

Brat 3 and Santa, Brat Three, Older Child Adoption, Eight year old

 Sneaked in some pictures of Brat Three in these posts:

Some action shots direct from a recent battle field!!

Guess which one of these Rangoli Portraits is me?

This afternoon.

[Read about Brat One and Two, herehere , herehere, and here]

Links: Older Child Adoption

Pain of loss eases with adoption – Tamara Thomas

Adopting an older child: Is fear holding you back?

Take a Chance on Me

Some adoption parenting resources

Talaash: Lakh duniya kahe

A friend said she wanted to ask me not to watch Talaash, because she thought I might find the movie disturbing. The fact is, the movie was of interest only because some reviews mentioned Inspector Surjan Singh Shekhawat and his wife Roshni coming to terms with the sudden death of their child.

And I am glad I watched it.

Spoiler Alert.

I would like to believe these lyrics (and what they mean in the movie), and even if believing is not easy, or possible; the remotest possibility is more than not having even that little, remote hope…

Lyrics, translated in English.

Laakh duniya kahe, tum nahi ho
Tum yahin ho, tum yahin ho

How much ever does the world say, you’re not there… [that you don’t exist]
you’re here..

you’re here only…

Meri har soch mein, meri har baat mein
Mere ehsaas mein, mere jazbaat mein
Tum hi tum ho
Tum har kahin ho

In every thought of mine, in my every talk,
in my feelings, in my emotions,
only you’re there…
you’re everywhere…

Laakh duniya kahe, tum nahin ho
Tum yaheen ho, tum yaheen ho

Tumne chhoda hai kab saath mera
Thaame ho aaj bhi haath mera
Koi manzil koi rehguzar ho
Aaj bhi tum mere humsafar ho
Jaaun chaahe jahaan tum waheen ho

When have you left me alone, (you never have)
you are holding my hand even today..
be it any destination, any path,
you’re my companion even today..
wherever I go, you’re there…

Laakh duniya kahe tum nahi ho
Tum yaheen ho, tum yaheen ho..

Khushboo banke hawaaon mein tum ho
Rang banke fizaaon mein tum ho
Koi gaaye koi saans goonje
Sab sureeli sadaaon mein tum ho
Tum ko har roop mein dil hai pehchanta
Log hain bekhabar par hai dil jaanta
Tu mere paas ho, dilnasheen ho

You’re there in the wind as a fragrance,
you’re in the seasons as colors,
whoever sings, or whatever breath echoes –
you’re there in all the musical calls..
the heart recognizes you in every form,
people are ignorant, but my heart knows..
you’re with me, close to my heart..

Tum yahin ho, tum yahin ho…

[From here: Lakh Duniya Kahe Tum Nahi ho Tum Yahin ho Lyrics Translation]

Helping a family coping with child loss.

I am publishing my response to this comment as a post in the hope that it is read by those who need it. Please feel free to ask if you wish to help someone who has lost a loved one, and are not sure what  to say. I will do my best to help.

Question: I totally understand that you now and you before will not be same. My aunt is in same situation sans she does not think that logically on the process of grieving and she is surrounded by many people who wants her to be ‘normal’ specially because she has another child to look after.

IHM: There is no right or wrong way to grieve, but having support, not being judged and not being ‘expected’ to behave in any manner can make it easier.

Crying, not crying, eating, not eating, talking, not talking, not wanting to meet anyone, wanting to be surrounded by sensitive listeners are all fine.

It’s very difficult to be logical when you are going through something as illogical as a child’s death. Many people who are asking a grieving parent to be logical might also say, ‘If this  happened to me I would go mad.’

The loss is too big for a parent to remain the same.

Question: This upsets my Aunt and she feels guilty for not being there fully for her second child. How is your son? Do you talk with each other about Tejaswee? How does he cope with the vacuum in his life?
IHM: We talk about Tejaswee and how we are dealing with our loss, in the initial months my son showed me You Tube videos on the existence of soul and trailers of movies about death of a sibling (Cloud St Peter, The Lovely Bones, others). But if one of us does not want to talk, we respect that.

We read books about grief, we maintained journals of what we were feeling, but many times we didn’t read what the other had written because even that was painful.

Children also grieve.

I realise we are not the way we were, parents change towards surviving children, we have become less hassled by things which might bother other parents, the feeling now  being that we really don’t know what  happens tomorrow. He is encouraged to do what he enjoys doing…

We have phases of being fully there, and then being overwhelmed by grief. With time, we are being there  for him more and more… but it definitely took time. I don’t think grieving can be hastened, think of it like a horrible illness, because the pain is severe and disabling. So, instead of asking the parents to ‘focus on the positive’ or to ‘focus on the surviving children’, the biggest support relatives can give is help them care for their surviving children (the way they would have if both the parents had been physically ill). This is what helped us through.

I remember telling my sister in law that our son lost his parents along with his sister. He has  changed unbelievably, he used to be the baby of the house, generally clowning and irritating her, so much that she made videos of him rapping to annoy her, while she is trying to study…

My brother in law took over his studies almost entirely; my sister in law told our cook that even if she made khichdi for us (we couldn’t eat anything, so we drank a khichdi kind of gruel in tea cups, for many months) she must make complete meals for him. We had moved close to where they live, and she sent over anything special cooked at their place, in case we’d like to have some too.

No pressure or blame, but accepting that we were in too much pain to see anything else.  The parents do realise they are not able to be the kind of parents they would like to be their other children, it’s better to realise that in time they would be able to care for them, but not like they did in the past, it would be a different normal.

In our case, it’s a more easy going parenting now, more flexibility, more acceptance… The parents would benefit from reassurance that until they feel upto it, they have support from relatives/friends (same as in case of severe physical illness).  It’s cruel to ask them to focus on their surviving children when they are in so much pain that they can’t. Like, would we ask an accident victim screaming in pain to think about the good things in his/her life? Child loss is much worse. You can’t think beyond your loss, and those who are going through it want the pain to stop. Memory might be affected, physical health problems and faster aging might happen.

We couldn’t attend weddings or functions in the family, but always, one of his cousins picked and dropped our son; my sister in law suggested we shop for him and came along to help us do that (this was many months later). The 13th day after Tejaswee’s death, was raksha bandhan, his feelings were nowhere in my mind, only the horror of Tejaswee’s death was, but Tejaswee’s friend tied him rakhee, and a cousin took him out.

Some points:

The only way to help is to be there for them, in the way they need you to be there.

Don’t ask them to focus on the positive. They will eventually, when they can, there is no other way to survive, but it can’t be hastened.

Don’t tell them they have other children to think of, they  know that anyway.

Avoid giving advice or judgement. Don’t compare them to other grieving parents you have seen.

They may talk about the death, repeating the same things.

Some parents like to talk about their child (I do) some can’t bear to talk about their child.

The one time I couldn’t bear to be alone was after my daughter died, but it’s fine if someone does want to be left alone.

Respect their wishes. Know that they have no control over how they are feeling. They are going through the worst thing that could happen to them.

Related posts:

The right way to grieve.