Three years ago, my mom passed away unexpectedly at the age of 63.
I was less than half her age at the time. A year later my dad decided to join her. As an only child, I felt an indescribable void. I felt lost and confused.
They had not only been parents but my best friends. Fortunately, my husband, my pillar and my rock, was there for me through my worst days.
I learned the meaning of unconditional love from my mom and dad, and my husband solidified it for me. Without him, I would have survived, but it would have taken much longer for me to be “alive.” I am extremely thankful and grateful for this blessing in my life.
Four out of the five most pertinent lessons (the first one being the exception) that I learned from death were always a part of me, but I needed death to internalize them.
1. Grief never ends, it only transforms.
Even after three years of my mom passing away, I grieve. On certain days memories organically arise, filling me with sadness, tears, and happiness too. I have healed, but I still grieve. When I cross a certain milestone in my life, I grieve. However, the way I express and process my grief has changed. The emotion is not raw anymore.
Now, I truly believe that I have two angels looking out for me. This is a poem I wrote a few days ago, on mother’s day. Writing this poem filled me up with tears of joy and sadness at the same time.
This is how my grief has transformed.
The star that shines on me
Every moment of every day
Watching me, guiding me
With words unspoken.
She has a better view from way up there
Making her more powerful
More magical too.
She sprinkles her angel dust on me all day long
Making everything as perfect as can be.
2. It is not about you, at least not 99% of the time.
How people react to your grief, and other situations in your life, has very little to do with you. It is deeply connected to where they are in the given moment. Every single individual reacts to death and grief differently, based on their experiences, personality, upbringing and more.
There were many times during my worst days of grief, when I felt disappointed with my friends. But then I realized that empathy is not always easy for human beings. It becomes even harder with respect to death and grief, because there are so many variables involved in the grief process. What each individual experiences and wants during times of grief is very unique to them. This learning can be applied to a gamut of situations in life.
3. All we have is this moment.
We all know this! However, losing my parents, allowed me to start practicing this more than ever before. My mother’s death was completely unexpected, a complete shock. It made me realize that absolutely anything can happen at any time. Life is impermanent and unpredictable. So, I try to be in the “now” as much as I can, to the best of my ability in the “now.”
4. Everything happens for a reason.
The flow of the universe is constantly working to achieve harmony and oneness. I have always believed in this concept, but during my worst days of grief, I felt hopeless, and dead inside. I still remember my first birthday after the death of my parents. It was just a month after my dad passed away. I wondered, “Why do I have to be alive when the people who gave birth to me are no longer here?”
My parents were heart patients, but very positive, fun loving people. They worked their way through a couple of heart surgeries each! The universe had in fact been extremely kind to them. They passed away without having to undergo much suffering. Even though I knew this, it took time for me to become one with this truth. For me, death reinforced that the universe listens, speaks, and knows it all.
5. The greatest struggles are the greatest teachers.
Like every other being on this earth, I have faced my share of issues growing up. Health issues and relationship issues. But after facing death, I realized that all my struggles, with death being the biggest one, have helped me discover the best version of myself. One of my favorite mantras in Buddhism is “Om Mani Padme Hum.” The mantra symbolizes a lotus that emerges out of the mud.
I have observed this to be absolutely true. I have watched the lotus within me emerge from deep, dark, wet soil. The best of me has come out of the most difficult experiences in my life. In fact, my writing journey only began after my mother’s death. I do not resist struggles or difficult times at all, I welcome them with my head held high.
I try to find an ease in the struggle, with my breath, and by surrounding myself with as much love and light as possible.
Author: Shruthi Krishnaswamy
Image: Lady Orlando/Flickr
Editor: Sara Kärpänen
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