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Critical thinking

How The Bereaved Grieves

Last year, I lost my father. It is more than a year now, and the clarity I have about death is, at the very least, not as ambitious as it was back then. I know for certain now that grief comes differently to people.
I announced the news to my mother and a relative in the house. I am not sure how to describe the ‘thud’ you feel in your heart whenever death is announced. It is a very brief ‘thud,’ but the brevity of it doesn’t mean it is not powerful. Imagine a high-impact earthquake that shakes you off your feet for a few seconds. You have your head buried under your arms — a natural response to danger — yet know that the flesh is incapable of withstanding the brute force of nature. Why? Because the impact doesn’t necessarily leave with physical harm, your mind may as well have suffered a long-lasting trauma you may not have been prepared for beforehand. Humans are the weakest of all species, after all (and you are welcome to disagree), and, despite years of evolution, humans have only become worse at ‘handling’ their lives.
You read manuals on dealing with a situation like these, but the reality hits you raw and deep. Faced with a dire situation, you do what you feel. Reason transplanted in logic takes a backseat, and emotions run amok. And, when this mental frenzy kicks in, followed by physical responses, you deal with such situations your way. Trust me, our ways reflect us. The same principle, so far my understanding concerns, applies to death. The ‘thud’ I just mentioned kickstarts the grief process.
My mother cried, of course. So did my sister. So did my aunt. So did a long-forgotten paternal uncle. So did a friend of mine who hadn’t ever met my father. Each one of them responded very uniquely to the situation. Some of these responses were expected and rather culturally mandated, whereas others did come as a surprise. For many of them, my father’s death was the first of many deaths. But the first is always the most haunting because it is a shock. You aren’t prepared, though you may have read enough that death comes to all. Perhaps, in your head, you narrate a make-believe story that you, of all the people, are best positioned to deal with death. After all, when you know the inevitable, you know the future. But is knowing the future enough? I guess not.
I watched my mother wail. She would suddenly turn quiet in between, only to burst into tears a few seconds later. The pandemic had robbed many people of their normal lives, but we, perhaps, carelessly thought that we were untouchable. We all think like that, don’t we? We often say, “Oh, everything’s sad, but we will be alright. We are doing good.” What starts as an act of self-assurance becomes self-aggrandizement. Our self-importance ideation often haunts us in moments like these when we are pulled from above and dragged down to the bottom. My mother and I do believe that we did this to ourselves. We are not special. Everyone dies. Even the Gods do.
My mother is doing well now. She has kept up with her normal life so have we. But my two best friends haven’t really accepted the fact. Correction. They do accept his death but may still be affected. One is by guilt, and the other is by fear.
The guilt-ridden one remembers my father. But she feels guilty that she didn’t meet him one last time. A few days before he was hospitalized, my father often called out to my friend and asked her to come home. She didn’t because she couldn’t. She was busy. My father wasn’t particularly very attached to any of my friends. But he wouldn’t miss an opportunity to educate or tease them. For instance, he used to intentionally mess up her name, and she still embraces that version of her name. Every time she came to pick me up for our brunches, he would warn me to “walk carefully” even though we were riding a bike. These little things, though occurred sporadically, left an impression on my friend. So, when she was told of his death, she grieved. She regretted that she didn’t visit my house when she could.
The second friend is still fear-ridden. What impacted her more was the consequence of death. Her own father doesn’t keep well, and my father’s death serves as a cruel reality check that death comes to all. Quite often, she would tell me that last year was crazy because the shock of my father’s death still lingers. How can a person simply disappear? She grieves still. But her grief manifests in her fear, her fear that she might lose her own father. Loss in one’s life often reminds us of the losses we may potentially suffer in the future. And at times, we are not well-suited for that sort of premonition.
Of course, there are several other examples. A former colleague who had lost her father wept over the phone, telling me she understood how I must be feeling. Her grief is the past that she can’t change now. Then, there was an aunt who hadn’t really talked with my father much, but her grief rested on the fact that her sister had lost her husband. Thus, everyone’s grief was lumped into a feeling of what they felt most intimately. There were people who didn’t shed a tear but were left with an extreme impact to deal with. In a way, if you think about it, the way a bereaved grieves tells a lot about them. How they grieve defines their character in some way. The bereaved are storytellers, and their grief is the voice.

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CEOWORLD magazine - Latest - Critical thinking - How The Bereaved Grieves
Ayushi Kushwaha
Ayushi Kushwaha, Staff Writer for the CEOWORLD magazine. She’s spent more than a decade working for various magazines, newspapers, and digital publications and is now a Staff Writer at The CEOWORLD magazine. She writes news stories and executive profiles for the magazine’s print and online editions. Obsessed with unlocking high-impact choices to accelerate meaningful progress, she helps individuals and organizations stand out and get noticed. She can be reached on email