The place of understanding

Phone cradled between my ear and neck, I stirred a creamy concoction of butter, milk and cheese all the while listening to a broken soul on the other end. My chitappa, voice breaking, was trying to make sense of the loss in his life. As I held on even if just in silence I realized I really knew what he was talking about. Since the loss of Appa, death and loss has taken a new meaning in my mind. As I struggled to express my empathy and solidarity with Chitappa I knew a time would come years from now when we will be able to hold on to just the memories without the sadness.

It has taken the loss of Appa for me to realize the importance of vocalizing my support to someone who is grieving. In those awkward years between being a young adult and a grown woman, I often waffled at the thought of expressing condolences. Torn between wanting to be in denial and scared about causing fresh grief, I was often mute. Offering silent stoic support in my mind. Only now do I realize silence often feels like indifference. Like rejection.

Now, speaking from that place of understanding I realize there is a lot more to rituals and tradition surrounding death than is apparent. It offers a way to celebrate the deceased person’s life and a way for the survivors to process their grief.

So, if like me you are on the fence about how to be supportive when someone you know is grieving the loss of a loved one, go ahead, offer solace. Give them a hug or write a letter. Leave a note, talk to them, celebrate a life well lived.

9 comments

  1. As you said, I have no idea how to console people and thought silence would be better..but from your post, I see that silence is not the best thing we can do. So far in my life, I have not lost anyone close to me but I know the day is not far away with everyone getting old 😦 Thanks for the post as it taught me something..I wish your Chitappa feels better soon.

  2. I often feel the same way…I did think that talking about it would make them relive it..But your post does shed new light..thanks for the perspective..

  3. Laksh, I still fall in the category of people who end up being speechless when confronted by such a situation. I will remember this post and will try to overcome the silence next time.

  4. You are correct in what you say, however sometimes I feel that people need space to be able to grieve in their own way. So often I feel as though we are imposing and not giving them the space they need. Guess it is the way we start thinking after living abroad for so long. However as you say our rituals and the support of loved ones gives us the strength to move on in life. May god give you all strength to go forward with fond memories and rest her soul in peace.

  5. I am not a stranger to loss. In my experience, man is a social animal, we need the support of people to get through the initial days. It is true that people have to come to terms with it in their own way, but support is necessary. So it is the job of friends and relatives to extend support at times of loss

  6. I often feel like I have been superficial when saying something to someone who has lost a person. The only thing I do is talk about the deceased person because it seems like after some time, people stop talking about the person…and I would hate for one of my loved ones to never be spoken of, like they never were.

    Some traditions celebrate – I find that the traditional tam brahm stuff that I have seen is pretty tough on the ones left behind. Loved the Arya Samaj ones that really talk of the person in a celebratory way. So for me, it depends on what tradition…half the time, people are running around to get this and that and please the priest instead of just being or doing what they need to do to grieve!

  7. Important point Laksh. Am going thru’ the rituals now for my f-i-l, and seeing the healing it brings, and the bringing together of people otherwise torn apart by petty quarrels and big feuds.

    I had no rituals and 95% no support when I lost my son, and that is the part of Hindu tradition I cannot understand…for such an unspeakable tragedy…why are young children who passed, not entitled to the same as an older person?

    The few ppl who turned up, wrote or phoned, I didn’t mind if they said the wrong thing…what mattered was that they cared to reach out when there was no tradition and ritual demanding that they do so. Hope your Chitapa has his support thru this. Hugs.

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