THE SIGNIFICANCE OF GRIEF
The first time a baby tastes medicine, he cries. So he’s pacified with something sweet. In the absence of sweet, water is offered to dilute the drug’s bitterness. And eventually it disappears. So does the baby’s tears. All, with time. Nobody teaches him to cry when the first drop of that dark liquid grazes his lips. He does so because he’s not used to this new taste. And if apart from crying, he knew another way to communicate, he would have chosen that instead. If he was fed medicines as frequently as milk, he’d grow accustomed to an acrid palette. Milk would then make him uneasy. So he grows up learning that any taste in its extremes and infrequency, is a trigger for resentment. Not for everybody though.
Because two branches of growth arise from infancy. The first one comprises that group, which irrespective of the severity of their illness and the accompanied pain; shy away from medicines throughout their life. They do not trust the taste, the method of administering, the efficacy of the drugs and subsequently the result. The second group welcomes it with open arms. They understand the need, trust the treatment and depending on their conditions, embrace the outcome. Human beings, to an extent, are conditioned to emotions. Its complexity limits their desire of understanding them. So a baby’s tryst with medicines reverberates synonymously with a human’s take on grief.
We associate grief with darkness, with bitterness, with anything that is outside the realms of our understanding. It feels like an anomaly to the natural order of things. We do not stop crying when we’re bullied, scolded, beaten or hurt for the first time. Because we’re used to being happy, and rightly so. But we’re used to being and made happy to such an extent that we start expecting the same out of everyone and everything. We’re told that grief is a passing emotion that need not be pondered over because happiness is just a stone’s throw away. What we need to be told after our first encounter with grief is that life isn’t perfect, neither is this world and in some cases, nor are we. We flip over grief as quickly as we do with pages of disliked chapters in our school books. So we miss out on the lessons. And regret them sooner or later.
A bullied child is appeased with chocolates, made to feel that it never happened, ushered into a new school and is expected to start afresh. Although understandable, it fails to serve the purpose of ‘experience’. He’s not made to understand the right and wrong of it. His grief isn’t respected enough to encourage him to stand up to his oppressors. His tears aren’t understood enough to fuel his pain towards something constructive. He either grows up as a voice advocating the malpractice, or learns to shut himself up in his world of sorrow where nothing can make it right. And in some cases, he turns out to become a bully himself. He isn’t allowed to grieve enough to make it a driving force for social betterment. Sometimes, tears are good. So is pain. If channeled the proper way.
A cheated lover takes to grief in a montage of ways. Be it crying, be it indifference, be it temper, all of them are byproducts of grief. More often than not, she’s told that it’s in the nature of men to be beyond loyalty. She’s asked to accept this notion and move on with a little alcohol and sad poetry. She’s rarely asked to expose him, confront him, and let her grief be known. Because tears are apparently for babies. She’s asked to keep forgiving and keep being the better person for someone who is nowhere near to being as good as her. Her grief, although sympathized with, is never transformed into strength. The results oven span across the extreme ends of the spectrum. She loses her will to live, fails to trust anybody. She’s assured that she deserves better. But she’s rarely asked to be more careful in the future. Her grief rots in futility instead of being the foundation of strength.
To see someone pass away is a pain that is never taught beforehand. It strikes all of a sudden, like a bolt of lightning from a clear blue sky, burning to ashes our peace of mind. We move on, get over it, but rarely do we derive strength from it. Depending on the cause, we change ourselves in order to not fall victims to the same fate. We reduce smoking, cut down on drinking, maintain a better lifestyle and thereby honour the person we lost. Sometimes we lose people in the blink of an eye. One moment they’re there and in the next, swept under a speeding vehicle. For grief to mean something in moments like these, seems farfetched. Sometimes all we can do is resigning to our fates. Or we can push ourselves to be in a position where we can make legislation and keep a check on speeding. Every successful man talks about failure. About his struggle with grief, about how after a bad experience, he turned his life around. He made sure his tears did not go in vain. He drew strength from his weakest state and remade himself. And so should we. Not always as a business tycoon or a social worker but sometimes merely as a stronger and better human being who is determined to not be hurt again. Grief is the medicine we try to run away from. It’s not the illness. It works most of the time. When it doesn’t, its fate. But to keep a distance from it is to not embrace your feelings. And to put up a wall inside oneself is the greatest danger we face.
We cannot understand the essence of sugar if we haven’t tasted salt. We cannot embrace light if we haven’t lived in darkness. We cannot know the strength of happiness unless we’ve experienced grief. Because remember, a baby spends his first nine month in the darkness of his mother’s womb. He is built out of struggle, out of hardships, out of sorrow and happiness and every conceivable emotion. And to finally breathe is to go through that journey, to embrace and learn from everything that comes your way; happiness for one and the more so from grief.