Coping With Loss




This year marks the 10 year anniversary of my father's passing. It was a landmark birthday of his a few days ago and I was utterly unprepared for the force with which this hit me. So, I've been thinking a lot about family, loss, and coping this week. It's important to take time to reflect and to mourn and grieve at your own pace. I've found myself, when my health allows, back in cafes in comfy armchairs, lost in a good book. Sometimes, I need entire days like this, when I don't speak to another person except to order my food and drink. It helps me hold on to him a little longer. These catacombs of silence are woven through me in pockets like honeycomb. The sacred and unspoken gift of a day shared together, unshackled from the life I have lived without him in it.




My father, much like my mother, was intimidatingly accomplished. As a parent, he fell into two very opposing camps: On one hand he was formal, reserved, strict, and demanded excellence. On the other, he was the cheeky Charlie that would run into your bedroom while you were downstairs, loudly twang all the strings on your guitar and run away, at full pelt through the house screaming, "IT WASN'T MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE".

My heart is one half tabla and one half polythene bag. It sings and swells with qawwali song but always remains crumpled somehow; squashy and misshapen. I tried to reconcile this wriggling sense of unease when I was nineteen by punching a hole through my lip. It was not successful. My dad never found out, though.  Well, except for one occasion, when I was home from uni and accidentally walked onto the landing one morning with a one inch titanium spike through my chin. My incredibly straight laced, Saville Row suit wearing father, who just happened to be walking through the hallway downstairs, stared up at me in horror, "WHAT'S THAT? On your face, what is that?" he said. "NOTHIIIIIING" I replied, from my bedroom. Because, obviously, I had already bolted into my bedroom. Then I emerged again, cool as a cucumber, sans titanium appendage for Take Two, like it was all in his mind. I knew this would work because we were brown people, and it absolutely did because nothing is more potent than the power of South Asian denial.

I have been chasing his memory for a decade. I find him in the most curious of places. A flock of birds scattering in the air, large flat planes of water, one perfect note. Ten years of measured control and composure, save for these small moments I allow myself. But lately, I feel like all my molecules have been jostled about. Like I have turned to powder; and all the ash that sits in my mouth, now lingers on the air, unsure of what to do next.

What is it about grief and its spectacular ability to kick you squarely in the proverbial balls at a moment's notice? I'm reminded of something I read in Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood many years ago. She talked about the idea of memory as something that isn't linear, but rather a pool that we plunge our hands into and draw from. The idea that significant moments in your life don't move further away from you but remain under the surface, layered on top of one another, resonates with me at the moment. The passage of time since losing my father and losing two of my dear friends is not linear at all. Its force, power, and profundity doesn't fade or become a part of your history. It is always there. So much so, that ten years feels like two and, when one draws it from the pool of memory, it is just as raw and brittle as it ever was.

To anyone going through this currently, I see you, I hear you, and you are not alone.


-N

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