Friday, 30 October 2015

No, only time does not heal

When you are grieving following the death of someone you hold dear, people usually say, “Oh, time heals everything so you’ll also be healed.” But I strongly believe that time by itself cannot do anything to heal the intense pain brought about by loss. It is not only me who thinks time is not enough to cure such a deep, but unfortunately invisible wound inside. A Holocaust survivor, Catheryne Morgan, who lost her parents in Auschwitz, the infamous concentration camp when she was merely 14, also expresses the same view in Allison Gilbert’s book ‘Always too soon: Voices of support for those who have lost both parents.’ She says, “Everything I am comes from living without my parents. Time does not heal. My pain is still strong, and it stings still. I live with it day in and day out; it will forever be a part of me.”

Catheryne’s case may sound extreme considering the circumstances under which her parents passed away, yet somehow I can relate to her. After losing both of my parents within a short time span of 15 months, I also realised that time alone was never going to heal me. So I explored different techniques to cope with my shock and pain when I unexpectedly lost my mother in April, 2013. I used the same means one more time, when my father passed away in a very similar situation like my mother’s in August, 2014. Neither of them could survive a stroke.

I was all alone in Australia struggling with my loss, while my four siblings were in Nepal. The first thing that I wanted to do was to get connected with the people who have experienced the same feelings. So, I started exploring and reading articles and books about people who had lost their parents. Whilst reading about their experiences, I was able to relate my pain to theirs, which gave me some sort of consolation. Although I got some mental peace, all my painful feelings were broiling inside and looking for a way to escape; I felt an urgent need to express them somehow. If you have people around you with whom you feel comfortable sharing your feelings, talking to them is a great way to get things off your mind. On the other hand, if you are an introvert and do not want to share your ‘personal’ stuff with others, it is better to maintain a journal where you can write anything that comes to mind; it worked very well for me.

Psychologists also agree that expression, whether oral or written, is essential in the grieving process. In Sue Monk Kidd’s novel ‘The secret life of bees’, it is written that the Jewish people in Jerusalem have a very peculiar way of expressing their grief. They have a ‘wailing wall’ where they go to mourn; they write their prayers on scraps of paper and tuck them into the wall. By expressing our grief in a way which we find comfortable, we take a step closer towards liberation.

Then comes the time factor. It is true that a grieving soul must take their time to recover. As clinical psychologist Sue Morris indicates in her book ‘Overcoming grief,’ ‘grieving’ is entirely a ‘personal’ matter, so different people need different time frames to heal, ranging from a few weeks to a few years. At the same time, it should also be noted that it is not just the passage of time that helps ease grief’s hold; more importantly, it is what you do during that time that makes a difference. So, it is unrealistic to think that you simply sit back and get over the deaths of your parents or your dear ones in a matter of certain time. The time you take in fact allows you to use different coping strategies so that you can get back to your normal life.

In my experience, ‘healing’ is just an ‘adjustment’ where I have to learn to live without my parents’ physical presence in my life. I like the analogy of ‘right hand vs left hand’ used by Sue Morris. According to her, losing our parents (or loved ones) is like losing our right hand which we had used in writing throughout our life. Now onwards we have to learn to write from scratch using our left hand, so obviously it takes time for this hand to achieve a similar level of mastery. Yet, we never forget that we lost our right hand. Likewise, even if I have started living without my parents, as Catheryne Morgan says above, I feel my unprecedented loss day in and day out. When I need to share something about myself, the first people that come to mind are my parents. They cross my mind over a hundred times a day. What else is there to say? I feel them in every breath I take. They will be a huge part of my life for as long as I live.

(Published in an English Daily The Kathmandu Post on Sunday, October 18, 2015 
                                                 in the title 'Heal thyself)
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1 comment:

I would appreciate any and all suggestions on making improvements (as long as they are viable).