When your father dies all of a sudden you don’t really know how to react. There are a million things happening all at once around you. You become an observer in your own life’s tragedy. It is not unlike having an out of the body experience. But it is very different from that because you are also aware of your body. You are no longer in control of your self. Something has broken and suddenly you are adrift in a sea of sorrow.
It is a very difficult tine for anyone who loses a parent but more so when you are a single child and Daddy’s little princess. It is hard then to see the man who lifted you on his shoulders, so you could see the idol in a crowded Puja pandal or if you had shoe bites from all the pandal hopping wearing your new shoes, lying in a hospital bed, helpless and unable to speak. It is difficult for you to visit him in the hospital when he looks at you with the saddest eyes imploring you to take him home because he can’t speak with the tubes in his throat. The excruciatingly difficult emotions to see him not recognize you one day. It is too sudden and you are forced to face him every day in the same house where you and he watched cricket matches, argued and hugged. All of a sudden the world around you crumbles but you are left unable to grieve, because at least he is alive, even if he is not th same person anymore. In fact you do not recognize the sad man lying in the bed. he looks like your dad but doesn’t sound like him. He doesn’t know who you are anymore, the illness has wiped your memories from his mind and you are just another visitor to his bedside. May be you wish somewhere that doesn’t suffer anymore. You sit with your mom, in silence and darkness, wondering what will life be if he was no more.
And just like that one morning after he is back in the hospital with complications, he is no more. You stand beside a lifeless body in an ICU and you do not know how to react. Your mom acts brave and you know you must be brave for her, because he brought you up to be a brave individual. The relatives and friends reach out to you with words of sympathy. You no longer feel that you are in the hospital, you are now an actor on a stage. You speak without tears, your voice doesn’t falter, you greet friends and relatives and try to look out for your mom. Your mother rushes around looking busy, so that nothing touches her. You know it is her way of coping. You act normal or you act weird, depends on who is watching. You know a hundred pairs of eyes are judging you but how does it matter now. It is only when you sit down, you realize you were holding your breathe. When you try to breath in the air feels stagnant, your chest hurts and you gasp and the tears flow freely not because you feel sad or lost but because you feel the loneliest amidst all the people surrounding you. Are you sad? You wonder. There is no name for some emotions. This is one of those emotions, a nameless ache inside, a deep hollow inside that you know will never be filled. One of those unspeakable horrors of life that you can never really share with anyone.
Yes, that’s probably the truth about losing your father. You will never be able to stand in front of anyone and say it out loud, how much it hurt, how much it pained and how lost you feel every day. Losing a parent is not easy and you do not wish it upon anyone. But even the closest of your friend is probably thinking, ‘thank God, my father is okay’. you can’t burden them with your tears. Your best friend sends a condolence message and it is same as the one sent by any acquaintance. Why do condolences messages sound so impersonal and formal?
The day moves on and more people arrive and then you undertake the last journey with your father – the funeral procession passes through familiar streets and you reach that place – the place that scares you. It is time for his last rites. The last rites are performed by you. They make you do these religious rituals. You don’t know what they mean or what they will achieve. You know your father didn’t believe in them but you still do it. You calm yourself so you don’t create a scene. But at the very end all calmness vanishes, the tears overflow and you feel like sitting down and crying like a child who has lost her father in a crowded place. But you don’t, you stand up on trembling legs. You stop the animal noises which push through your lips from somewhere deep inside. And you let you Dad go. It is the final goodbye.
Everything else after that, after the fire has consumed him, is just like a surreal dream. You follow instructions, you do the needful, all of a suddenly the world outside doesn’t matter. Your head throbs and you become aware of the headache and you feel all your senses shutting down.
That’s it. It’s over. Nothing will ever be the same now. You cannot say this, to your best friend. you can’t share these thoughts with your significant other. They will never understand because they have their Dad’s waiting for them back home.
It is at this point that you realize why condolence messages are so impersonal and formal. Because they come from people who haven’t experienced what you just did.
Days turn into weeks into months, you start a new life with a new man, no one asks about your Dad, shows no interest in knowing about him, or your past experiences. You realize slowly, in grief, we are all alone.Our lose is our own and we cans hare our joys and happiness but grief can never be shares because frankly no one cares. Not your nest friend, nor your lover, nor your spouse, no one in the world.
But that’s how life is. A loss of someone may be insignificant to all but may be the single most influential moment which defines the life of one person. Grief is probably the only personal thing we can never fully share with the closest person(s) in our life.