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Home > News > Specials

The Rediff Special/ Shankerprasad S Bhatt

When grief weighs us down...

December 12, 2007

There are many instances of grief in family life, such as the death of a partner or a family member or a friend. When we experience something that causes us shock and sadness, we may feel the urge to withdraw. We may feel remaining withdrawn will keep us protected from the world.

During these times, it is important to reach out to those trusted and precious people who care about us the most. Such people can console us, give us proper advice and the confidence to deal with our problems. Despite our best efforts to go on with life, we never know when someone else's experience or perspective can give us additional information or the consolation we need.

To solve our problems, the universe speaks to us through many channels; when we open ourselves to others to receive its messages, we also receive nurturing care from a loving partner, other family members and close friends.

Grief is part of the human experience; sharing our vulnerability is what creates truly close bonds in relationships. Opening ourselves up to our family members and close friends gets to the core of our being, past all of our defenses and prejudices.

When life seems to crack the outer shell of our world, we are both raw and fresh at the same time. It is then that we discover who is truly willing to walk with us. We also see that some of those sent to us might not be the persons we expected. Regardless, we learn to trust in the universe, in others, in our own strength and resilience, and in the wisdom of life. This is the time when we can judge who our people are.

Sharing grief allows us to ease our burden, as someone else helps us carry it. This helps us process our inner thoughts and feelings through the filter of a trusted and beloved partner. Remember, not sharing your feelings denies your loved ones the opportunity to feel for you and console you. By sharing our hopes and fears, joys and pains with another person -- like a family member or a friend -- we accept the universe's gifts of wisdom, loving care, consolation and moral support.

Here are some important steps to deal with grief:

1. Adjust your work schedule

The experience of grief is similar to recovering from a serious illness or disease; some days will be darker, some brighter. You need to recognise your limits and separate the things that must be done. Don't worry about keeping up with your usual schedule. If you have to cancel or reschedule your commitments, adjust accordingly.

2. Avoid making major decisions

Grief can cloud your judgment and make it difficult to see beyond the pain you're feeling at the moment. Impulsive decisions -- to move or change jobs, for example -- can have far-reaching implications for which you may be unprepared. If you must make an important decision, discuss your options with someone you trust.

3. Talk honestly

Pain held inside is like pus in a wound -- it needs to come out for you to heal. When friends ask how they can help, ask them to just be with you and listen. Tell them how important it is for you to be able to express what you're thinking and feeling. If you think you need more than the support of your friends, consider a professional counsellor.

4. Express creatively

Writing is another excellent way to express your feelings. Try keeping a journal or writing letters (whether you send them or not). When words won't come, artistic outlets like painting or sculpting can help you to communicate what is in your heart and soul. Creative expression can bring clarity to the turmoil and give you insight into feelings you weren't aware of.

5. Honour your loved one's memory

Preserve your memories in ways that are comforting and meaningful. Enlarge and frame a favourite photo of your loved one. Contributing time or money to your loved one's favourite cause or charity is a noble way to honour his/ her memory. Before my wife Ranjan passed away June 6, 2000, she told me to donate money to install computers in one or more schools at my town Umreth, in Gujarat. I did what she said. Now, more than 2,000 students from Jubilee School, where I studied, are learning/ have learnt how to use the computer. By fulfilling her wish, my soul got a lot of consolation.
Shankerprasad S Bhatt lives in Chicago.

Illustration: Uttam Ghosh

The Rediff Specials