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The Inconsolable Pain of Loss

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The Inconsolable Pain of LossNever in my worst nightmares had I ever expected to hear the news of  D’s unexpected demise. And certainly not in the way he died. In good health and fine fettle, he was someone who found a way to your heart just by being his soothing, silent self. His quite demeanour and unassuming ways reflected not only a highly refined upbringing but also a level of maturity that singled him out in a crowd.

That fateful afternoon, death beckoned him in a swimming pool far from home, after a heavy meal, dragging him down remorselessly to the bottom of the deep end. My thoughts went to his beautiful wife who had been such an inseparable part of him, his young daughter with whom he’d enjoyed such a deep bond and his recently married son. And what of his parents who had invested their dreams, hopes and life in him! I couldn’t bring myself to say anything to alleviate the burden of their grief. Words would be so inadequate, so hollow in the face of their anguish and pain.

Frankly, the pain of such a tragedy is something that words can never assuage. Each one of us experienced D’s loss in our own personal way. To me he had been a most affectionate and supportive nephew and friend. Though destiny had taken us far away from each other, he was as close to me as the memory of the wonderful times we had shared. His departure was not just a gut-wrenching pain, but a pain that churned deep and hard in the depths of my being.
Well-meaning friends and relatives would have certainly sought to reach out and console the stricken family members, fumbling through layers of awkward sympathy to make a meaningful contribution.

What is the best way to condole with a family that has suffered such a massive loss?  While it is important to let the grievers indirectly know that they have your complete support, it would be wise to keep words to the minimum and wait instead for them to speak and unburden their grief. Death commands a respectable silence sometimes. As the family alternates between anger, sadness, numbness, acceptance and grief, give them as much space as is needed, without resorting to truisms such as, “This too shall pass,” “Time is the best healer,” “It is God’s will,”  etc.

If the situation permits, you might like to render some practical help, such as organizing things and trying to get the disrupted functions of the house back on the rails. Try not to get hurt or frustrated if your offer of help is met with complete blankness or rejection. If the griever seems receptive to physical expressions of sympathy like an embrace or mere holding of hands, do so by all possible means, but play it by the ear.
There is no right way to express grief. Just allow the griever the space and dignity to express his or her pain in the way they choose to. And most importantly, don’t discount their feelings and grief by saying, “I know how you feel.”  Because you don’t. No one really does.

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Responses to The Inconsolable Pain of Loss

  1. 1 poonam khurana

    The pain of losing a beloved friend or family member can never be understood or shared adequately. Having known the family intimately (I think it must be the same person anyway), I can understand how terrible must have been the pain that D’s family went through. It was not just that his end was so unexpected as much as the manner of his going which caused all of us to feel that life has no meaning at all. And forget finding the right words. There are none.

  2. 2 Geeth Krishnan

    Going through the write up by Jaya Ramesh on the The Inconsolable Pain of Loss,I felt a searing pain somewhere deep inside me.And the diction was so very eloquent that the mumbing pain was conveyed to the extent,it must have been intended by Ms.Ramesh.The gripping nature of the article is best illustrated by the fact that,despite a time squeeze,the first thing I did was to sit down and organise my thoughts inorder to send this E-mail.And it is through these sort of compelling tributes from friends and relatives, that the dear departed will be reborn before those,who weren’t lucky enough to know them while alive.The lines”Grieving over what has been lost makes the remembrance dear”, in a sense encompasses the pain and the sadness felt as a result of the demise of a dear one.

  3. 3 jaya ramesh

    Dear Poonam & Geeth:
    I was deeply touched by your response. When good people go away, they leave behind beautiful memories and pain in the hearts of friends and family for whom life may never be the same. But when someone as young and wonderful as Dilip (D) departs without being given the chance to make his goodbyes, somewhere far away from family and those in whose life he made a world of difference, then the pain becomes really excruciating. Speaking for myself, Dilip’s sudden demise has created a void that time cannot heal. His death seems so very meaningless.

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