Tag Archives: Coping

DADDY | “WAIT, WHAT?” or HOW I GRIEVE

“Do not hang up the phone. You need to tell me what happened.” I told her. Calmly but directly.

“Your father. He’s no longer with us.” My cousin told me. She wanted me to call my mom and hear it from her, but when you get a phone call like that at 10:30pm, you know you need the information right away.

That’s how I learned my father had died. From a phone call late on a Saturday evening. He and my Mumma were at their home in India, on their annual visit. They were there, and then, in a flash, only she was there. That’s how real life gets. Quickly.

What followed was a whirlwind. Getting my sister. Looking for tickets to India. Coordinating a fly through Dubai where I could get my VISA so I could enter the country. Saying goodbye to my family here — and oh wow, talking to Anaiya about her Dadaji turning into a star. Arriving and seeing my Mumma. Then seeing my Daddy’s body in a clear, refrigerated coffin in the bedroom. And then everything that followed.

I had time. At the airport. On flights. But I had no space. I had zero space. I was instantly immersed in the entire world and sometimes all I wanted to do was cry. (Note: The two best places to cry in an airport are the bathroom, and, a gate that’s just been vacated. Push your face up against the window looking out and let it fly. If necessary, to distract even more, hold your phone up to your ear. It’s amazing the cues you can give to people that help you create space.)

The one place I found space was on Facebook. Facebook got me through. Because I could ignore everything and just write.

A funny thing happened. I found my voice. I found my POV about all of this.

A funnier thing happened. I realized quickly I was writing for all the people who loved my Daddy but couldn’t be there (we were in India, some were in other parts of India, others were in the US — few of the hundreds to thousands who would have wanted to be there were able to be.) My writing turned into a way to help people grieve and connect. I was humbled.

And then, an even funnier thing happened. People who had lost someone reached out and told me that what I was writing was helping them. Grieve now. Grieve for someone they had lost recently or even, years and years ago.

People reached out and told me to package this in some way. Package this writing because it could be helpful to others who go through this. Not just the words, but the approach of just laying bare all the truth.

Everyone grieves and heals differently. The only thing I can say with confidence is that this helped me. Which is why I’m sharing as I was asked to.

I moved everything from Facebook to my blog, and have for the first time, in years made this blog public. And I’ve organized it and summarized it below for anyone who needs it or wants it. I’m skeptical it will be shared, but if it is even once, then it was all worth it.

  1. February 4th: A Star – The announcement.
  2. February 7th: Ami Chhatna or Auspicious Rain – Observations around the cremation.
  3. February 8th: On Grieving or A Single Blade – Advice and context for people trying to console those grieving.
  4. February 9th: My Sis or Creating Space – My love for my sister and helping others understand her unique grief.
  5. February 14th: Love or The Insanely Finite – A short post for Valentine’s Day.
  6. February 15th: 12/40 or Happy Birthday, Priya – My wife’s 40th birthday.  She’s amazing.
  7. February 21st: Embrace It or On Your Shoulders – Acknowledging all the support and strength we were given, one Mama in particular.
  8. February 23rd: Memorial Service or Kishore Kumar Said it Best – Setting the tone for a memorial service that would honor Daddy and also, one he would have enjoyed. 🙂
  9. March 3rd – Forever Man or Forever, Man – One month after; I wrote a poem that I still read all the time.
  10. March 6th – “Thank you. For everything.” or Thank you for everything – For my Mumma. My first post after the memorial service and I always knew the first page would be turned here; and I had been writing this post in my mind for a full month.
  11. March 12th – Sir, I Gave you my Word or What Gives you Faith in Humanity – One of my favorite stories about my Daddy. We made this the program at the service; a takeaway, something to remember him and his values by.
  12. April 5th – Tending vs Trending to Entropy or High Hopes – A family wedding, two months after Daddy died. My thoughts on it, and a conversation with him to help me get through it.
  13. April 24th – Go Birds or Humbled by Thoughtful – One of the most incredible gifts I’ve ever received; Daddy was a huge Eagles fan and this gift in his honor … I have no words.
  14. April 26th – 4 Years Ago or A Lifetime Ago – Amazing what a simple photo can trigger. Let it trigger.
  15. May 21st – Just Monday or Unvarnished Truth – It’s not easy. I missed Daddy a lot this day and I allowed myself to be truthful about it; but forward looking about it.
  16. June 17th – Dali’s Persistence or Happy Father’s Day – 4.5 months later on my first Father’s Day without you; I’ve found real peace in how I plan to move forward.

If you’re reading these, I hope you find them helpful. If you think someone else would find this helpful, share away.

Death sucks. Until it doesn’t. Until we make it not.

Also, it helps that I’ve taken a bunch of his clothes and wear him with me as much as I can. 🙂

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DADDY| ON GRIEVING or A SINGLE BLADE

@$&?!

I forgot to pack my razor.

I’m showering at 1 am. In 7.5 hours we will start preparing the body of the man who made and molded me for his union with his Maker. And I haven’t shaven in days. And the blades I thought I packed at 330am before heading out on a 24+ hour trip to the saddest destination I will ever visit, are most certainly sitting atop the chair on which I packed.

I’m a fast packer. Not a good one.

(Opens Daddy’s medicine cabinet door in his bathroom in India. Sees one perfectly placed razor with one, single, remaining blade.)

“He did it again. He planned perfectly.”

DADDY | 2-8

My Daddy had left a single razor blade just for me. With his silly Sensor Excel razor. Blades that are so hard to find I would buy them in bulk for him (100 blades last time) out of fear of them going extinct, and him choosing never to shave again.

Now? I won’t be able to look at a razor again, for a long long time, without tearing up or downright bawling.

—————————

So.

How does a person who is affected so wildly by a single razor blade answer a question like “How are you doing?”

Visiting someone who is grieving is hard. What do you say? How do you take their pain away? Can you even? The circumstances are compounded by emotion as well as a lack of familiarity with this situation (who wants to get comfortable with death?)

Here are some things that have crossed my mind as I reflect back on past experiences, and dig in on an acute and intimate understanding of what we are going through now.

Specifically, what people who are visiting my mom can keep in mind when trying to comfort. I wish I had thought of some of these before having to live them, as I am sure I’ve fallen victim to these in the past.

Here goes…

1) Every question asked is a burden on the grieving to respond and answer. Think about it. Every time you ask me how I am doing, I have to relive how terribly I am doing. I have to tell my story over and over again. Not in a way that helps me heal, but stops me from it. Because to answer that question for you, I can’t start with where I am, I have to start with where you are. I have to give you all the context or nothing of value. And after being exhausted I will default to the latter. Instead of dealing with my current emotion. Instead of that, if compelled to ask me a question, eliminate the weightiness of it. “How are you feeling right this moment?” But I actually suggest just telling me you love me, telling me you are there for me, and being close enough to me that I feel your support not just hear it (hand on an arm, shoulder, a hug, whatever, steady check INS.)

2) Focus on doing over asking. Don’t ask me if I need Water. Just bring me a glass. Don’t ask me if I want food, leave food out for me to graze. Don’t ask me if there’s anything you can do, ask me if you can specifically do something. Better still, out of the goodness of your heart, do what inspires you. Keep my cognitive overload low. Reduce the number of smaller transactional decisions I make in a day so I can focus on the bigger things.

3) Its not about being strong, it’s about being healthy. Try to avoid telling me to be strong. When you do, you’re adding another weight around my shoulders. Am I being judged? Is there a way to grieve? Crying doesn’t make me weak. It makes me honest and proves I am dealing and engaging. Instead, alk to me about being healthy and finding my way. Doing what works for me. And let me know it’s ok to cry. To laugh. To sleep. To do whatever I want to do to find peace first and progress next. As long as I am finding my way to healthy. Advice is always welcome. As suggestions, preferably not as mandates.

4) Find and manage my momentum. People are compelled to say something which is what gets us into trouble. My advice is to wait for me to lead. If I am quiet I want to be quiet. Sit with me in my quiet comfortably and I will never feel more at ease. If I am sad or spiraling downward, field me graciously and redirect me back. Or be a life preserver with your arms around me, literal or figurative, so I don’t drown. And if you feel me telling a story, advance it and propel it forward. Get out your surfboard and ride my best waves, and tame my worst. But avoid cutting them off. You won’t effectively stop my feelings at the source but you can help ensure positive momentum.

5) I know I had a good life and was lucky to have him. But this still hurts like 1000 simultaneous punches accompanied by the strongest hands strangling my triple-chinned neck. Allow and encourage me to find balance. Accept my tentposts. My endpoints. My Absolute North and my True South. He lived an amazing life and we are proud to have been a part of it and blessed by him. And at precisely the same time, this is brutal and devastating. Our lives exist between those two endpoints for the foreseeable future. The space between them will compress. Our requirement to feel both simultaneously stretched across the widest expanse will change, and we will swing between one and the other less violently over time. Acknowledge both.

6) Bring energy. At the end of the day, the mood in the room of those people grieving is dictated by the people who grieve. But it’s impossible not to be affected by sincere, authentic love and positivity. Bring it. Don’t be afraid to smile. Lift me up and you create positive momentum in the room.

I love your support. Know that. Every bit of love, support, condolence. Every hug. Every pat on the back. Every text. Every email. Everything I love. The experiences that are most helpful though, and I believe this is fairly universal, are the ones that embrace some of the above. Just my $.02.

As I watch people interact with my mom, I wish I could share all of this with them. #iamgrateful and #iamthankful for FB because I don’t have to think about sharing it. I can actually just share it.

——————-

A single blade. Who knew a single blade in my Dad’s medicine cabinet would encapsulate our entire relationship.

Love you, Daddy. Also, the Sensor Excel sucks. The blade is so small it took me 13 hours to shave my face. No wonder you got up so early for work. You lived to 77 but 10 of those years were spent shaving.

Note: I’ve collected all the posts and thoughts I’ve shared about my Daddy’s death in one place. Some people have found it helpful as they’ve navigated through their own experiences, or, as they’ve had to step in to support others. This is one in a series, and you can find the full list of posts here.

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