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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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.”

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.

On 19th Jan 2013.

On 19th Jan 2013 she would have been 22 and we did nothing…  what we each did try, in our own ways, was to try to pretend that it was just another day. It was a mistake.

A mother (and now a friend) who lost her 23 year old son in an accident said she could not even think of adopting, even if she wanted to, because her son would not have liked to see her hug or shower affection on anyone other than himself. I understood what she meant. There are many things I can or cannot do because I know Tejaswee would have been glad to see them done or not done. I feel warmer towards people she liked, a favourite cousin,  a dear friend…  and the cat whose life she saved and the dog she brought home are like precious bits of her we have with us.

I also want to watch the movies she thought were worth watching, support the causes she supported or read the books she had been asking me to read (Everybody Loves a Good Drought, Shantaram… ) Most of the time it is easy because what she loved I loved too. But sometimes, even with all the common interests, it’s impossible to read something she liked and not think, “She read these words.” And then begins the same cycle of wondering why any parent had to accept this, and then the resignation and the realisation of our own insignificance. We did not matter.

One of the mothers I got in touch with through this blog lost her 24 year old daughter in 2011. She spoke aloud some of the things I said to myself and she sounded like a lost child. “Why did she die? How could she die? How will I live now?” Same questions repeated hundreds of time. Sometimes I put her on speaker and cycled on a stationery bike or made a cup of tea. Sometimes I felt like shaking her and telling her to stop, which I am sure is why those who are grieving are asked to, “Try to focus on something else.” Not because it helps the person who is trying to make sense of something that can never make sense to them, but because the person who is trying to help doesn’t know what to do (Just listen). Sometimes I joined her.

After having said this to herself every day for around an year and a half, one day she said, and I heard my own thoughts in her words, “I think I am beginning to accept that she is gone… “ and then she asked, “But how could I!? Am I forgetting her? Didn’t she matter? She was my life!! I thought I would go mad or die, but I am talking about how I am feeling!” So this person, I have never met and someone I never completely agree with (she thinks it’s okay that women are not allowed to read the vedas) – recently said, “This evening I was coming home from the gym and I realised I was feeling alright… Are our lives getting back to ‘normal’?”

I asked, “You tell me? Is this how you were before your daughter died?” The ‘normal’ today means for me to learn to avoid triggers that cause more pain. It’s the way all animals (or life forms) behave, we avoid what hurts.

But what if what hurts is something the child we are grieving would have loved for us to do? Tejaswee would have wanted me to remember her on her birthdays – to do something to mark the day.

Grieving parents receive a lot of advice, mostly it is  either to cry or to not cry; either to talk about the pain or to ‘not dwell upon it’. In the beginning it is not possible to control any of this. In the beginning I sat staring at her photographs and repeating (to myself) a million times, “She died. She just died. She really died. How could she die? How could this happen? There is only one way this can be undone, I should wake up and find this a nightmare.” While brushing teeth, while walking to the door to answer the door bell, while being shocked to find that I cry in exactly the same way she did (as an adult I had never before cried aloud, she never heard so this must be something that genes decided not environment), while conversing normally with visitors, while living an increasingly ‘normal’ life.

Someone we recently met insisted that we visit them. Meeting those  who do not know about Tejaswee can be difficult because they might ask how many kids we have, and, it’s not possible to simply and honestly say, “Three. 22, 21 and the youngest is 9.”  And I can never say two. But I think she knew, because she  told us about her brother, who had died in an accident. She said her mother had found it helped her to connect with other parents coping with child loss. And this was more than thirty years ago. I was grateful for the conversation and will be meeting her mother, in her seventies now, when she visits her this winter.

Why does meeting other parents help? One of the things it does is, I think, it lets you know that you are not alone in feeling the way you do.

I had attempted to push my son to get closer to those who were sure to take good care of him because I was sure the grief would kill me or make me take my own life. The guilt and confusion became easier to deal with after learning I wasn’t the first mother to feel this way. One of the mothers I met asked her sister to adopt her child, and yet another mother attempted suicide thrice, and only stopped when the surviving child, (then 25) pleaded she waits until this child of hers was married. Another friend lost her only child (18) and also wished for death but has no idea (like me) why she didn’t actually attempt it. Amit Sharma has blogged about suicide – and I want to thank him, I would have never had the courage to admit this if it was not for his courageous post here. But not talking about these issues means those who have these thoughts have no way to find out they are not alone.

At first staring at Tejaswee’s photos was all I could do, then once I chanced upon a picture [shared here] I had not seen for a long time… why do we take pictures? It brought back that morning – it was her seventeenth birthday. I had told her no matter how cute babies were, it was awesome to have grown up kids. Now seeing that picture I didn’t want to remember that morning. And I didn’t ever want to forget even a moment of that morning. But I wanted to remember it with her which was not possible. And so, feeling slightly short of breath, I understood for the first time why the mother in ‘Rabbit Hole’ put away their son’s photographs.

Another mother in ‘Beyond Tears‘ couldn’t listen to music, specially celebratory music. I was glad I wasn’t alone. Music came back to our house with Brat Three – she brought back dancing too. She has no idea we can say ‘Thank you’, or ‘I love you’ or ‘I like mango’ without actually singing and dancing to say that 😀 

A friend tells me she would not complain if her child (who is coping with a medical condition) ‘finds peace’ and that ‘maybe Tejaswee is at a better place’. But Tejaswee was where she wanted to be, she loved her life, she had a lot to look forward to and she always said she wanted to live a long, long life [On Growing Old and Dying Early…]

Another suggestion that never works for me is, “Atleast you had these nineteen and a half years with her.” I have tried telling this to myself but I am very sure that the pain (for me) is not worth it, or worth anything. What would Tejaswee have chosen? My son says he is not sure what he would have chosen.

Together some of us have reached a point where we can (mostly) choose to focus our thoughts on what keeps us busy. But now I also understand that grief cannot be run away from. It’s there just below the surface and if the minds denies it space, it takes over the body. 

On 19th January this year it had seemed improbable that the difficulty in breathing while trying to find photographs from Tejaswee’s 19 birthdays (to create a collage) could have been caused because it was her 22nd birthday and she was not there. It didn’t make sense because the pain now was nothing compared to the initial months. Also now there was control over what one thought – enough to simply have locked a part of the brain – and to go on like there never was a young woman called Tejaswee Rao who would have been aghast that her mother was not doing anything special on her 22nd birthday. Just because she had died. The breathing became laboured again, though only momentarily, on mother’s day, but we were in Kufri and it was cold, so there were other explanations.

But the wheezing this morning was undeniable. I had been ill these past few days but there had been no wheezing and it was frustrating to think that this day might end in a hospital again. But then, if the mind could make the body sick, maybe the mind could fight back too? So I snuggled up to Brat Three and told we were going to light a green candle today and we were going to talk about how much we missed her older sister, and that if I cried it would only mean that I was sad because I was missing her. But what does Brat Three know about Tejaswee? Son spoke about the books she would have read to Brat Three, the cakes they would have baked together, the clowning, dancing, stories, movies, outings and hair dos they would have done together. I wish they had met. Husband joined on the phone and Brat Three saw an opportunity to ask if she could watch Chak de India a second time. Later while I wrote this post and son was reading, suddenly we heard clapping from the TV area.  Her sister would have put her laptop aside and joined her in cheering for Team India.

For now the wheezing has stopped and it feels like there was no illness ever, if it comes back by evening or tomorrow, then it was not caused by stress.

Photograph by Divesh Idnani, June 2009

And here’s an email I received this morning, in answer to: “Is this how you were before your daughter died?”

Date: Sunday, 11 August, 2013, 6:25 AM
> I am fed up of telling people I am
> ok.Why should I tell anyone I am ok when I am not?Yet,I look
> ok to all and sundry.I smile with them,I greet them,laugh at
> their jokes,listen to their talks…
> But how am I?Ammu,I am not the amma you knew.I am living
> without you.I never thought I could.I still cant believe.So
> many days I wish to wake up and find you.
> I spend each day thinking let today be over fast.I avoid so
> many people.I miss talking to you.How many times I have told
> you not to tell so many things at the same time.You used to
> tell me about so many things.How much I miss your
> chatter.About your friends.I knew more about them than their
> parents.Your kindness.How much I learnt from you.How do you
> think I am now?Do you think of me?Only afterwards,I knew you
> have touched so many hearts.*** called up to say how you
> used to give him your notes as he had to miss college to
> work to support his family.He told me you never told
> anybody.I told him you are like that.
> Why did you have to go?Was it your time?We had lot of things
> to do.Is it all over?You wanted to do so many things.So many
> small things.So many big things. How much should I think
> and cry?That is all I can do now.I see your things,dust them
> and keep it as it was.You love new gadgets.I cry when I see
> something new.Who will explain it to me?
> …
> Cant write anymore da.There is so much to tell you.

Related Posts:

A letter to the future… – Tejaswee Rao

Weekly Photo Challenge: Thankful

Helping a family coping with child loss.

In loving memory of Tejaswee Rao ♥

We can’t change what we would give anything to change, but we can control how we deal with it.

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

Two conversations with Brat Three

Growing up with Brat Three.

So we are learning on the job, with support from, links from this blog, some instinct and from more love than imagined possible until we met this little someone who was a near stranger until she joined our family.

Here are two early lessons.

1. December 2012

In the annual function at her school, I had picked her from backstage after her dance was over and was planning for us to go out for lunch and then head home, as we looked for the exit gate, she noticed a large screen.

“What’s that?”

I was startled, “Your annual function… You too could be seen there when you were on the stage, dancing with the candle in your hand.”

She stares at the screen.

IHM: “Let’s go inside and watch the program.”

Inside she is stunned, staring at the stage and then turning to look at the audience. “Who are all these people?”

IHM: The parents and families of all your friends who are performing on stage. Like I have come to watch you, they have come to watch their children.”

Brat Three: “They are the mummies and papas of all these children?”

IHM: Yes, now watch the kids on the stage….”

Brat 3: All the children’s mummies and papas… so many children’s mummies and papas…? They all have mummy and papa?!!

IHM: Yes…

DSC_7061And she watched the ‘families’… toddlers, parents and children instead of the show.

Brat Three Eyes We are alike this way. Like us she is trying to understand why, when there are so many parents and so many children in this world, did some children and some parents have to be without parents and without children.

2. October 2012

“What can you do if children don’t study?”

One day when I was helping her with Maths, she asked, “What happens if children don’t want to study.”

IHM: “We explain to them why they need to study, all the stories they can read, places they can travel to, things they can understand and do if they study…”

Brat 3: “If they don’t understand, then what can you do?”

IHM: “Hmmm ….maybe explain again?”

Brat 3: “What can you do if children still don’t understand and they say they don’t want to study?”

IHM: “Maybe we tell them they have no choice? Fun and work must go together.”

Brat 3: “If they still don’t understand? What can you do if children still refuse to do their work?”

IHM: “Maybe we can send them to their room? Or cancel TV time or park time?”

Brat 3: “If they still don’t listen, then what can you do?”

IHM: “What would you do if you were trying to make such a child understand?”

Brat 3:“I know such children are sent back to the orphanage.”

IHM: “No. We won’t do that. Cancelling ice cream for a week, or park time or TV time is what we would do.”

Not sure how this should have been handled. I wanted her to see this as a simple fact, not as an attempt to reassure her. I realize now that it would have been too much to expect her to completely believe whatever I said immediately.

This is a picture from around that time.

Brat III, Older Child Adoption

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.

She would have been 21 today and I miss her.

I have no words, just thanks to all who remembered Tejaswee today. This year is easier than the last one, so I am sure it does get better. My mother is with me and her constant attempts to cheer me (joking, talking about everything but what’s in her mind and mine) upset me and then I sat her down and read out from some of my earlier posts about there being no right or wrong way to grieve. I told her it was okay for me to not laugh or be able to focus on anything sometimes. I also assured her that I was much better but she really needed to accept that I was not and could not be the same daughter she had before her grand daughter died, but that did not mean I was always crying. I told her I actually laughed aloud when I read Tejaswee’s letter to J K Rowling, and how I will never forget the wonderful life we had, and the amazing memories we have now. I told her I didn’t need to forget Tejaswee.
She says she understands but everything she does conveys she wants everything to be ‘normal’. I tried to make her see that it didn’t harm me to acknowledge that I was thinking of  my daughter on the most special day of my life and hers (and every single other day).

My deepest gratitude to the blogosphere and the internet for keeping me sane during the toughest time in my life.

This portrait by Midhun Kumar made me feel I was not the only one remembering her today.

From this photograph by Divesh,

Thank You.