By Anuja Daulat, Marketing at The Big Silence
Hi, I'm Anuja Daulat and I am so excited to be a part of the team at The Big Silence! This year I've been learning how to cope with loss, and I am here to share my story with you, because I hope it might help others who are living with grief.
The Feelings of Grief
It’s a humid Tuesday evening in the middle of May. I’m leaving my friends’ apartment, backpack on my shoulders, relieved to be done with one of my last assignments of college. Graduation is in sight, and four years of stress, headaches, tears, and exams are so close to being memories of the past. It's the finish line that I think I need to cross to finally be happy, and now there’s only one final exam standing in my way. My friends and I are walking down the stairs when my phone rings and my dad’s contact name and photo flash across the screen. I roll my eyes, not really in the mood, but still answer anyways. Little do I know that I’m about to receive the worst news I ever could have heard.
Nothing can truly prepare you for the moment you lose someone who you loved. On this particular day, it didn’t matter to me that my grandfather was 89 years old, that he had suffered two heart attacks, gone through multiple surgeries, and endured countless other medical procedures throughout his life. It didn’t matter that he seemed to be aging exponentially by the month, or that his heart was having to work harder every single day to complete basic tasks. When the news that he was gone was delivered to me, my backpack still fell straight to the floor, and my knees still buckled below me. At that moment, I felt shock and disbelief. My world had just changed forever, but acceptance of that fact was far from becoming a reality to me.
Two days later I flew from where I currently live in Austin, TX back home to Las Vegas, NV for the funeral and to be with my family. Those days are honestly more of a blur than anything else, but I know that there was a plethora of hugging, crying, and laughing while recounting memories. At the time I thought I was accepting my new reality, grieving my grandfather, and letting him go. The truth of the matter is that the day after the funeral, I got to fly back to Austin, a place my grandfather never existed. I didn’t have to continue my daily routines in the same house he’d been living with my family, where I’m sure his absence would have made itself very present. It wasn’t even until six months later after a particularly rough day of missing him that I sat down one day and realized I never came to accept my new, grandfather-less reality at all. I had simply been going through the motions of life as if nothing had changed. I’ve since learned that this feeling and these actions are normal. Why? Because grieving isn’t fun. Grieving is hard. It’s exhausting, isolating, and painful.
Anger is another common feeling that comes with grief. In my experience, the feelings of anger may be hard to identify at first. It will never not bother me that as the youngest of seven grandchildren, ranging from me, 22 to my oldest cousin, 37, I got the least amount of time with both my grandfather and my grandmother, who passed away after a long battle of breast cancer in 2012. That’s always been a fact that I’ve been hesitant to express, because it’s not like anyone could change this matter, but it’s true. In Indian families, education isn’t just important, it’s put on the highest of pedestals. My grandpa got to watch every single one of his grandchildren walk across the stage at their college graduations, but all of a sudden he’s gone a week before mine? How is that fair? It’s not. In the week in between his death and graduation, I was so angry. I was mad at the world for taking him away, at my cousins for getting more time than I did, and even at myself for times I could have been kinder to him. I spent hours reeling thinking that there was no way anyone could be in more pain than I was at the time. I was angry, and that’s okay.
One of the hardest parts of grief is that it isn’t relatable. Everyone grieves in different ways, and certain things just process at different times for different people. It’s even difficult for those grieving the same loss to talk about what exactly they’re going through. Even if unintended, the support received from friends soon after a loss often fades soon before grief fades, and this along with missing a loved one can bring a strong feeling of loneliness, because again, nobody really knows what you’re going through but you.There have been so many moments where I feel crazy, or completely alone, or even annoyed at myself for still being so sad when months have passed. However, I recently saw a graphic on Instagram that explained how grief doesn’t shrink, people just continue to grow around it, and my perspective really shifted.
My grief for my grandfather is never going to disappear; it’s something I’ll carry with me forever. I had to realize that wallowing in self-pity wasn’t going to bring him back, and that the only way to keep his memory alive would be to talk about it. So, I stopped trying to shove his death out of the way as something of the past that I had to get over, and I started journaling about it, reaching out to friends who have also suffered losses, and finally finding some sort of acceptance that my life had to carry on without such an important piece.Feeling your sadness and experiencing your grief is so important, and nobody else can do it for you. If friends or journaling don’t appeal to you, there are other avenues such as specialty support groups and online resources.
Is Grief a Gift?
I had been living the past few years of my life as if my grandfather was immortal. After my grandmother’s death, the sheer thought of him gone sent me into a panic. Everyone knew my family as a party of five: my dad, my mom, my sister, me, and my grandpa. It’s not that I didn’t know he was old, it’s just that it never occurred to me that he wouldn’t be part of us anymore. Recently we attended the first large family function since his passing: my cousin’s wedding. It was a beautiful, joyous occasion, but I would be lying if I didn’t say it hurt to see my grandpa’s siblings lovingly dance with their grandchildren in the same way my grandpa would always want to dance with me. I’ve learned that you can be in a room full of people, and yet so starkly notice the absence of just one person. However, I’ve also learned that grief is one of the most beautiful gifts life can offer.
Grief sucks. Why would I be calling it a gift? Because I had an incredible, beautiful relationship with my grandfather. He gave me memories I will cherish forever, catchphrases that I will tease my future kids with, and enough laughter to last a lifetime. He taught me how to ride a bike, which ratio makes the perfect scotch and soda, and to work hard for what you want to achieve and never give up, no matter what might be in your way. He and my grandmother sacrificed everything they had to bring my dad and his siblings over to the United States, and despite having almost nothing at first, they inspired abundant success in all of his children. The amazing life my parents have been able to provide for me is a direct result of how amazing of a man my grandfather was. It still feels unfair that he’s gone. I’m still sad, and I will always miss him, but how lucky am I that I was so close to someone so wonderful? To have known and loved someone so much that their absence hurts so badly is difficult, but that right there is the gift of grief.
Would I have loved for my grandfather to see me officially graduate college? Be at my wedding? See me practicing law one day? Play with my future children? Of course. And at each future milestone in my life I will miss him dearly. However, the fact of the matter is that I got 21 marvelous years with a man that held so much wisdom, most people felt lucky after getting one conversation with him. I’ll always have a part of him with me, and I’ll spend the rest of my life ensuring that his legacy never dies, because that truly is the greatest gift I could give him. Sure, he’s not physically here anymore, but I know that from some corner of the universe, he’s holding my grandmother’s hand, happy to be united with her once again, and they’re both beaming down on me and my family as we do everything we can to make them proud.