Bereavement & Navigating A Community That Attaches Guilt To Moving On

15 years on, I can still smell the greasy paranthas we ate in the early hours of the morning (I think it was 2am), I can hear the chatter that filled the entire house that night. We laughed, we smiled and we exchanged fond memories from the past. I’m not sure if this was our way of celebrating her life or mourning, but either way, it felt right. The next day however, was quite the opposite. 11-year-old me, watched as her heroes became human. The people she thought were invincible, suddenly became vulnerable. She learnt that her (almost) 100-year-old great grandmother was not immortal after all.

Fast forward to the present day and 27-year-old me has been to more funerals than weddings, not a statistic I particularly love to shout about, but certainly a number that has shaped my way of thinking over the years.

In the run-up to my second-year final exams at university, I lost three loved ones in the space of six months. The ability to concentrate became a myth and I found myself in an angry headspace. Soon after what felt like a whirlwind of emotions, I found the strength to talk about how I felt. I spoke about the anguish caused by not getting the chance to say a final goodbye to my Nani and the irony of having that chance with my Nana but still feeling the need for closure.

However absurd, dark or confusing my thoughts were, I let them free.

As a community, we aren't very vocal and often conceal our emotions under the pretext of ‘strength’. We shed tears in isolation and hold back from speaking about the people we have lost. If five out of five members in one family refuse to speak about the deceased or about how they truly feel about their loss, then the chances of freedom are unlikely. Ignoring your emotions and suppressing your thoughts, will suffocate you.

Silence is good for contemplation but when your silence turns to suppression, nothing good can come from it. Ignoring reality can be a common practice in our community, but if you don’t talk about it, how will you move forward?

Before my Thaya passed away I had planned a trip to Amsterdam, so when the day of the trip came, (a few weeks after he passed away), I was torn. It felt like I was letting my family down by going, but I had learnt over time that anything I did or did not do, wouldn't bring that person back. So, I went. I mean in hindsight a trip to Amsterdam (of all places) whilst I was in a headspace full of every possible emotion, probably wasn’t the best of ideas.

However, it was a decision I took after coming to the simple realisation that ‘life must go on’.

As a community, we attach guilt and disrespect to anything that might indicate we are moving on. Moving on does not show disrespect to your loved one, instead it generates the strength to go on and that’s how you pay them the biggest tribute of respect. As much as we’d do anything to bring them back, the truth is we can’t. But, what we can do is keep their memories alive, by going on with our own lives.

I’m no expert, nor do I know what is right or wrong. Everything I have learnt, is from experience, not from books or the internet, I’m not qualified to tell you how to handle bereavement. However, what I do know is that distance and isolation will cause you to believe that no one cares, when in reality everyone is hurting the same.

Over time l have come to understand that every experience, good or bad, teaches you a lesson. I have learnt that what feels like unjust loss, one day turns into courage. The only terms and conditions being that you believe it to be possible. So, going back to that day, 15 years ago, 11-year-old me learnt that if we can empathise and be compassionate - we can get one step closer to our healing.

Article orginally posted in The Filmy Babe.