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Wow. I can’t believe it’s two days to December 2021.
It’ll be one year since I suffered from a tragedy I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. I was a different Roopa before my loss in December 2020—lively but thoughtful, an extroverted introvert, happy, ambitious, and a lot more carefree then.
But post-December 2020, I’m a quieter, more introspective, and a much, much sadder Roopa than I have ever been in my life. And I have a feeling I will be sad for the rest of my life.
Coming up on the one year anniversary of the biggest loss of my life, I wanted to take a step back and think back to this past year and reflect on who and where I am a year from the tragedy.
In so many ways, nothing has changed. I’m still wrecked and heartbroken. I’m still sad as f*ck. I still cry all the time. My heart still hurts, and I constantly feel raw with my extremely overt and palpable emotions, threatening to ooze out of me at all times.
But this past year, I was privileged to be part of two conversations that helped me snap out of my grieving process and allowed me to function as normally as I possibly could. Before I explain, the following is me with my friends—even now.
“Don’t call me. Why didn’t you call me?”
“Don’t say that. God, I wish you’d say the right thing.”
“Don’t crowd me. Leave me alone. Did you forget about me? Really? Just because I said don’t crowd me, you decided to leave me alone? How insensitive are you?”
“This hurts my feelings. That triggers me. Don’t say this. Don’t say that. Don’t say anything. Be quiet. Why are you so quiet? Why can’t you say something, anything, to me? Why won’t you let me talk about my loss?”
“No, leave me alone. No, I won’t come on Zoom today. I don’t feel like it. How could you just leave me alone? Couldn’t you persuade me to join you on Zoom?”
These are just some of the things I’ve said to my friends over the past year. And yes. It’s surprising I still have any left.
It is testament to my amazing cohort of friends who have held me close to their heart and walked the path of grief alongside me. Quietly. Courageously. And generously. They’ve talked, listened, given me space and then hounded me when they instinctively knew I needed them to, let me cling when I needed to, and allowed me to breathe when I needed to be on my own.
Want to know just really how amazing my friends are?
These are the same friends who don’t just hold me tight through my craziness, they then read all of the articles I write about my grief process where I list the many things that “people just don’t get right when they’re with someone who’s grieving.”
Like I said, I’m surprised I still have any friends left.
My friends do it because they’re rock stars, and most of them have been through loss themselves and know the ups and downs of the grieving process. They’re also extremely sorted people who know what to say when to me, and it’s thanks to them that, a year after my loss, I’m still standing. And, occasionally, I also smile sometimes.
When I think back to when this shift happened—going from deep despair to feeling a sense of hope—two conversations come to mind. These talks have uplifted me and given me courage and the will to go on.
Over the past year, there were many, many, many days when I went to sleep at night, not wanting to wake up the next morning. And honestly, some days, I still feel that way. But after many conversations, the following two stood out and helped me come to terms with the tragedy in my life. And I, now, mostly, go to bed and make plans for tomorrow.
I know that this feeling may not last and I may not feel this way a few days from now. But my friends tell me that it’s okay. Grief and the grieving process are not linear and go up and down like a yoyo. But given where I was (even a few months back) to where I am today, I’ll take every win I can get—big or small.
One of my friends really put things in perspective. (FYI: this is true only for those who have lost someone who lived a long and fulfilling life and passed away at the right time.) Not that losing someone is ever easy. But my friend told me something wise.
She said that as gutted as we are when we lose someone, especially if they’re older, we know that they will die at some point in the near future. Whether they went today or a month or a year from now, just sheer old age and health concerns mean that they will pass on soon.
So, as devastated as you are now, understand that today, you are as young as you can be and you can handle the loss as best as you can. So, pushing your grief to a later date when both you and the person you lose will be older will make the process that much tougher.
I cannot tell you how much this made sense. I had so many tell me that the ones I lost “are in a better place” and that “their suffering has ended” and that “you are now free.” Thing is, I don’t want to be free. Selfishly, I’d rather have the ones I lost around and living and suffering than be grateful that their suffering is over. That’s what grief does. It makes you selfish. Your grieving heart wants the ones you lost to just be alive.
But when my friend talked about the inevitability of death (an obvious point of life), especially when it comes to someone older and who will go soon anyway, it struck a chord.
Another friend told me, “Roopa, watch out for when your survival instinct will kick in.”
Despite learning to navigate loss as best as I can now and knowing I’m in a better place today than even a few months back, I still feel that if I went to bed now and never woke up ever again, I would be okay with it. I’ve lived as much of a full life as the ones I lost, and if I went tomorrow, I’d be okay.
And then something surprised me.
After taking my first vaccine shot, I realized that I just could not get a slot for my second vaccine. I remember sometime in August, stalking the Indian online vaccine portal like crazy trying to get an appointment. One week of crazy later, I paused one day and thought, why am I doing this? If I really want to go to sleep and not wake up tomorrow, then why am I so stressed about getting the second vaccine shot? Given the severe lack of oxygen in India back in April, I almost ordered an oxygen concentrator because…better safe than sorry.
And then I thought—why? Why am I so bothered about saving myself when all I really want is to go to sleep forever?
That’s when I remembered what my friend told me. It’s the classic struggle between the head and the heart. The head is logical, a survivor, and looks for solutions to problems. So, when the brain realizes that the second dose of vaccine is essential to survival, it goes into overdrive, trying to fix the problem.
Same with the oxygen concentrator. Given the catastrophic months we had in India in April, May, and June when so many died because of a lack of access to oxygen, my brain wanted to plug the gap by buying one and keeping it at home.
Yes. My brain was in survival mode, even though my heart was/is emotional and raw. But in this tug-of-war, my brain won the battle. So, even as I found myself sad and at the end of my tether, I realized that I want to bounce out of it.
I see that as the single most important part of my recovery process.
Your survival instinct will get you through what nothing else will.
These two conversations have made me stronger today than I was even a few months back. Again, I’m not saying the strength and positive attitude will last (I hope it does), but even one good, solid day for me now is a win for me.
What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts about this. So please do let me know in the comments section.