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Of love & loss: Leaning on books, pet, friends & nature to navigate grief

I walked for hours on end, aimlessly, through the dust of Delhi roads dotted with shade-giving trees. Sometimes, I walked oblivious to the fact that the sun has set and the darkness has enveloped the capital city.  The surrounding ambiance of springtime with the call of the Barbets and the bursting forth of the Mulberry trees will not appeal to me. They will stay away from me, the one, frozen by the chokehold of loneliness.   

Separation from a loved one does that for us all.

Staying together, seeking refuge in someone or something from an otherwise harsh world is bliss. But the hostile reality catches up with you soon. A misunderstanding, minor incidents, or an ego clash– it can be anything– will deliver a blow denting the relationship, and breaking hearts. Separation follows. As they say, you realize, change is inevitable. Still, you will struggle to accept that fact. Thereon you sink into a void.

Grief has many doors. These doors are of the swinging kind. Never quite shut, they oscillate, you feel they’re shutting but then someone leaves swinging them again in rapid motion and you’re suddenly lonely. And just when you gather the pieces and try to move ahead, it dawns upon you that the swinging door doesn’t have a lock and your heart has nowhere else to go but carry the anguish that falls like the Delhi mist.

I remind myself of W E B Du Bois’ words. “How does it feel to be a problem?”

I feel despair. I feel so much despair. I was asked to let go of someone at the exact moment when I’m dreaming of a future with that person. I was sincere and gregarious in my love and it magnified my life each day with its dreamy melodies and soft hues. I was in love. This love was transforming me infusing me with hope. But then things go awry.

I remember the lines of poet Mary Oliver: “Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.”

I struggle to understand what this gift is all about. I sense its all-pervading presence eating into me. I tend to retract. I try to understand what had happened to me. I flail and drown, reach up for air, and drown again. I wallow in self-pity even as I try to learn to navigate through loss and the consequent grief each day.

As these waves wash over me day after day, I learn slowly, perhaps not even seemingly, to let go. The pain inhabits me for some time and then, just as the person who broke my heart, moves out of my sight. I have no control but I don’t give up, I keep up the fight.

With this elemental force, I live, I eat, I sleep and I breathe. I learn to see the sky crisscrossed with the branches of the Mulberry pregnant green with its fruit. With anguish and its consequent ennui marooning me, I learn to be friends with the wider earth and nature. I don’t have a fixed duty to see the beauty around me but I stumble upon it when I am enveloped by a generous hug from a friend or when I am sitting around with my dog and she quietly smells my tears, licks them off, and then settles so close that I am forced to face the warmth and it makes a difference. That gift of darkness stays on my skin for a long time and in the end, I want to share it with others. Be patient and let them know that heartbreak is inescapable as long as we love sincerely. And we will always love like that.

ALSO READ | ‘Grief is an important emotion’

I want to see off this heartbreak till the very end, to see it cease my actions, my thoughts, and my daily routines and leave me numb. In that very act of ceasing and being with it till the end, I will reach that point of personal pain, the point from where it all began, and turn to Rilke’s advice, “listen to that inner voice of silence.”

And that will be my reward. That moving from being shattered to being whole only to be shattered again, to oscillate violently from hope to hopelessness and back, to lose and have no alternative to losing, to hold things up and at last letting them fall and at the end, essentially, letting go.

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