Monday, May 5, 2014

Replacing grief

(I love them...but I can't let missing them hold me back...)


Lately, I have been spending a lot of time in my new little office - "le office" - as I affectionately like to call it. It has become my little sanctuary where I go to sit and write and drink tea.

After husband-ji organized it for me, there was one remaining box of picture frames and art. I wanted to go through it so that I could hang a few more pieces of artwork over my desk. As I went through the pictures, I noticed there were so many picture frames of my grandfather.

My grandfather died 6 years ago and it was the reason why I decided to uproot our budding life in San Francisco and move back here. He died suddenly, suffering from strokes and never recovering. It was traumatic. It effected me for years afterwards and our family was a mess. My grandmother's Alzheimer's disease progressed after losing him - so I also lost her to the dark depths of that disease. I was depressed for several years after he died - having decided to suddenly move back and start our life, with memories of both of them all around - yet being unable to speak to them.

Looking through all the picture frames of him, I realized how much I was holding on to him and the memory of his death that it was preventing me from moving on with my life and living my life. There were so many pictures of him that it didn't leave any room for anything else in my life. I missed him so much that he was haunting my life. I thought of all the things he would miss - our wedding, our children - and it prevented me from having those things and moving on with my life. I think it took me 3 years after his death to start having a life again. 

Now, 6 years later, having started our own little family...I realize it. We have moved on - we have our life, our child, our friends and our the daily hustle and bustle of our big fat joint family. 

Sometimes when you miss loved ones so much, you forget to live your life too...

Last year, I lost my grandmother to Alzheimer's and as much as I wanted to, I could not grieve properly. And maybe that's a blessing in disguise. My daughter was 7 months old at the time and she was growing up so fast that she didn't let me get depressed. And in her expression, I saw both of them. Her hair curls just the way my grandmother's did. Her eyes sparkle like hers. She loves the same books that grandma read to me. And every time she would do something funny, I would say in my mind, "Oh you funny girl! Hey grandma, isn't that funny what she just did?" And it was like my grandmother was right there beside me, laughing with me.

Then, this year thatha died. I knew that husband-ji would have to eventually experience losing his grandparents like I did. And it was quite amazing how different they mourned, than us. It was better, I thought. His family hardly cried, meanwhile I was bawling every time I called India. They mourned his death for 13 days and then they sent him off. They let go of all past regrets in 13 days, they didn't go on and on for years like I did. Maybe they do it the right way...maybe we should all grieve like they do...

Seeing these picture frames again, I am bearing witness to just how much of my life was completely taken over by grief. I am realizing how many years it affected me for and how much it held me back.

Setting up my new office, I am keeping one memorial picture of him, and one memorial picture of my grandmother, and that's it. The rest of the pictures I am filling with pictures of us, our child, and our journey...I want to remember the good times, and I want to look forward to the future...


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4 comments

  1. @Alexandra

    When I read your feelings for thatha, I am filled with admiration for you. Your relationship with your MIL is so refreshing. Since you are not and Indian DIL, you do not carry pre conceived notions and baggage. You have helped you MIL discover her 'inner women'. Usually, Indian DIL and MILs are at each other's throat from the very beginning. I wish and prey that one day all Indians enjoy the same level of informality and comfort in our relationships. India does not progress much because most of the time are we are busy solving our domestic problems and accummulating weatlh for dowry/marriage to put up a show. These inter cultural blogs do show us a way that there may be a different way to lead life but I must tell you that being an Indian I do not always agree to what I read in these blogs.

    According to Hindu belief, It takes one year for the departed soul to travel from one realm to other. Over a period of one year various parts of body of the soul gets constructed head, legs, hands etc. The family has to adhere to various rituals to ease this passage. So, wwe do remember our dead for at least one year. Oh, I remembered, your were planning to write a post on Hindu dealth rituals.

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    1. @anonymous - Awwww thank you. You know, there once was a time when thatha used to frown at my hubby for bringing into the house his friends from college who were of lower castes. Somehow his thinking changed, and I think it was because we were thankfully able to develop a friendship to the point where neither of us saw color or saw any difference. That is why I recommend intercultural marriages so highly, seeing that effect.
      Yes, they did a one month death anniversary and will do a one year too. I think you will like the upcoming post on that a lot.

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  2. Yeah, here i India i think people tend to forget soon. But there are exceptions. Just like me. I could never forget my grand parents. I was so close to them and could not even stop thinking about them.
    Mostly, it was my grandfather. It was his death that haunts me all the time. I am not sure why? Everyone else in the family seems to be fine or they might be just grieving within.
    I find it so unusual that his love, laughter, words are still so alive in my memories. I find it so unfair that i could not even say proper good bye to him(I was in another country on a job tour).
    Everytime i read someone write things about losing family and all, i just cannot stop myself from thinking about him. Its too hard not to.
    I always thought i am being unusual by thinking of him so frequently and its not natural to hold on to the dead, but i find it comforting to learn that it is normal and you miss the people you love.
    I should tell you that i find your relationship with your grandmother really wonderful and sweet. Every word you speak about her reminds me of my grandpa. :)
    And i think you just took your time to come out of the pain. It must be normal and do not ever think that it held you back. There is a reason why we love a person and that love is the reason why we grief when we lose them.
    Good luck. :)

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    Replies
    1. I can really understand your sentiments. After having my daughter and seeing her grow up, I feel like I think about them even more. It is hard, I wish they would have known her but in a sense I feel like they are watching her.

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