On the 29th of April, 2020, I found out from a friend that one of my favourite Bollywood actors, Irrfan Khan, succumbed to cancer and passed away. Like many of his fans, I was devastated. I’m not sure why but the loss felt personal. I didn’t even know him, and he sure as hell didn’t know me.
Then, within 24 hours, we found out another legendary actor, one that helped create the film industry, Rishi Kapoor, also passed away. Cancer being the same culprit. He was my mom’s favourite actor, the first movie she ever watched in a movie theatre was his famous Karz. It’s hard to believe he will no longer be seen on the big screen.
Anyway, oddly, the news of these deaths triggered some kind of freak out. I ranted to my boyfriend about how I’m so sick of the atmosphere of gloom and doom. I want to get away from this constant fear and paranoia. I want to be able to make plans with my loved ones. I just want my life back. Being the doctor that he is, he approached my meltdown with assurances of how this will be over soon. A vaccine will be created and the despair I’m feeling now will be a thing of the past. Sneha, everything will soon come back to normal.
Normal. My sense of normalcy. That’s what I’m grieving. The very cause to my meltdown. It’s not just me, the world is mourning the loss of our normal lives.
When we talk about grief, we automatically assume a person died. But loss comes in many forms. Losing your job, a divorce, or even being diagnosed with an illness. All these events change the way of living that we had gotten so comfortable with. Grieving is a difficult process. It most definitely will not and cannot happen overnight, and one shouldn’t try to rush it either. There’s no deadline for grieving any kind of loss-big or small.
Swiss psychiatrist, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross theorised that there are five stages of grief in her book, Death and Dying.
- Denial: When you first come across the bad news, it’s a whirlwind of emotions. One refuses to accept the situation, thinking that there’s bound to be some kind of mistake. “How can this happen to me?“ This is the initial shock talking. It’s the defence mechanism our minds use to protect us. Once the shock wears off, so will the denial. The process of healing has finally taken its first step.
- Anger: Red, hot rage and resentment are the characteristics of this stage. Naturally so. It’s unfair. We wonder what we’ve done to deserve such kind of pain. Our instant reaction is to lash out at the reason of our loss, at ourselves or at our belief systems. I remember when I was grieving the loss of my father at the age of ten, for a long time the target of my fury was God. That was my belief system at the time, and it failed me. I felt abandoned.
- Bargaining: Have you seen people pray when their loved one is in the hospital fighting for their life? They’re trying to negotiate a deal with the God they believe in. “Let her live, I’ll do anything.” Some people in this stage are stuck staring at the rear view mirror, all the while beating themselves mentally about what they could’ve or should’ve done.
- Depression: The reality and finality of the situation has finally hit. All those feelings, thoughts and emotions are just too overwhelming so you fade into the background. A feeble attempt to numb the hurt and the pain.
- Acceptance: Accepting the loss doesn’t mean you say whatever happened is perfectly fine and then move on. Instead you accept that whatever happened is not fine, but I’ll be fine. You’re accepting the fact that there are going to be some good days and some bad. A new sense of normal is welcomed into your life.
Kübler-Ross mentioned that not everyone goes through the stages in the same order, and it’s not even necessary that each person has to go through all the stages. I think what she means to say is that grieving is a highly personal process. There isn’t any right or wrong way. Just another reminder of how we don’t live in a black and white world. Embrace the gray.
Until next time,