The Luxury of Grieving

Saturdays With Shivani

I did an oddly morbid thing today— I searched for quotes on death and dying. Most links had the adjectives ‘Inspiring’, ‘Positive’ or some such, attached as prefixes. From Buddha to Jim Morrison, the Paramhansa to Mark Twain have spouted words of wisdom to help us accept death with equanimity. I wonder if they were around today, what would they say?

With pyres burning round the clock and bodies floating ashore rivers, it is no longer possible to stay calm. I am scared every time the phone rings or a WhatsApp notification comes. I have typed in the words, ‘Rest in peace’, ‘My condolences’, ‘May God give you the strength’, so often that now the phone goes into auto suggestion mode. As I allow it to take over, I realise how mechanical all of it has become.

We are not stranger to losing loved ones but, in the past, we were given time to process our grief. We got the chance to bid a dignified farewell to them, surrounded with family and friends. We paused, took our time and learnt to live with it but now we do not have the luxury for any of this. As Mary Catherine Bateson said, the timing of death, like the ending of a story, gives a changed meaning to what preceded it. Forget our long drawn elaborate rituals, even finding an available slot at a crematorium isn’t easy. I’m told that even the ashes of your loved one comes at a premium. This is something no one prepared us for.

The pandemic is relentless and continues to ravage us unabated. No one I know is untouched by it and all of us are functioning at a spinal level. It has brought us to our knees where all we aspire to, is to survive. We keep calling our loved ones for no reason at all just to hear their voices and be reassured. The grief, for now, is being packed away to be dealt with later but how long will it be before that later finally comes?

Bertolt Brecht said, because things are the way they are, things will not stay the way they are. I am holding on to that with all my might. As the country gasps for breath, we hope for a reprieve. Praying for all of this to end and wishing that everyone stays safe and survive to tell the tale; to reclaim the luxury of grieving over what we may have lost.

Love and light to all

Dr. Shivani Salil