“Have you ever lost anyone?” she asked crying.
“Yes,” I replied, wiping her tears.
“How do you deal with it? It’s unbearable, this pain,” she cried, gasping for air in between every word.
“You don’t,” I replied matter of factly.
“Wha-what?” She looked up, blood shot eyes and a confused expression on her face.
“You don’t deal with it sweetheart. You need to let it all overcome you.”
Tears streaming down her face, she held onto my skirt tighter and dug her face deep within. All I could hear was a muffled “But it hu-hurts, mommy.”
Stroking her hair gently, I put my face down on top of her head and kiss it softly. “You can’t ever deal with pain and hurt and grief, baby. You need to let the natural course take place. With loss comes grief, then comes the pain. Pain which you’ve never felt before, like little shards of glass piercing through your skin, like your head banging against the wall, like someone punched you in the stomach. And then, as an obvious reaction comes the hurt. And it will hurt and hurt and hurt more than an extracted tooth, more than scraping your knee, more than anything you’ve ever felt. Because this isn’t physical hurting which you can feel and heal. This is invisible, which takes its own time to go, but you need to learn to fight it off.”
The sobbing had lessened a little now, but there was still the wheezing, and the gasping for air. My baby, how badly I wanted to hold her and tell her it’ll all be okay soon, but she needed to learn how to get through this because I won’t be there forever.
“You know, I know exactly how you feel right now. I lost someone myself when I was 21 myself.”
Looking up, she tucked away a stray strand of hair behind her ear, and waited for me to continue, silent streams running down her face now.
“And I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know who’s shoulder to cry on. I didn’t have anybody to advise me. So I did what I could: I locked myself up in my room, cursed God for taking away my best friend, stopped eating food and cried and cried until I made myself sick. I kept punching my chest because that pain just wouldn’t go away. And it felt like there was a huge hole there suddenly and I couldn’t breathe. And then I yelled and cried some more.
Eventually I realized that I could only cry so much, and that I couldn’t stay hungry forever. And so, while I sat and stuffed my face I cried some more, but only, there was something fulfilling about this crying. This all happened over a couple of months but it finally got better. I could never go back to being the same, because that’s humanely impossible.
You can’t ever go back to being the same, and I won’t give you false hopes that it would. Because once you lose someone a part of you goes away with them. They also need a part of you to remember you by, right? We can’t be so selfish. But this pain and the hurting, it gets better.
But for now darling, you need to let the tears flow. “
Author: Tejaswini Naik
Editor: Katarina Tavčar
Photo: Meg Cheng/Flickr (illustration by Audrey Kawasaki)