A lot has been said and written, over centuries of human existence, about dealing with the death of a loved one. And while these words can at times be comforting, they almost always only provide a temporary relief from the excruciating sense of loss a bereaved person experiences on a daily basis.
The emptiness and desolation one feels when someone extremely close to you has passed away is impossible to put into words or analyse. The process of dealing with grief can run into days, months, years and even a lifetime.
The recent death in India of a beloved aunt due to Covid complications, left me bereft. An initial sense of shock gave way to a feeling of numb acceptance; and yet, I expected somehow that her daily WhatsApp text would pop up anytime, wishing me a good morning, sending me an inspirational quote or a picture to brighten up my day.
Scrolling through old messages in sadness, I recalled conversations we would have over the phone; thanks to the convenience of modern communication, distance only seemed to bring us closer together even though we hadn’t met physically in over three years.
But when the pandemic unleashes a personal tragedy, distance is our worst enemy. I wish I could have been there in person to comfort her loved ones, my uncle and their two daughters; I wish I could have done something more than read out a message in a virtual prayer meeting. If I had been able to give my family members a hug of reassurance, no words would have been required. And I would have been comforted too, at least for a while.
In countless instances of loss across the world since the pandemic struck, the departed have been bid a quiet farewell, with virus restrictions not allowing for funerals or last rites on a scale that existed in the pre-Covid era. Once we bid farewell to our loved ones, the question arises, how do we — the living — comfort each other?
In a technologically advanced world where distance once brought people closer, it now feels like we are being pulled further and further apart. The sense of isolation brought on by the pandemic is only magnified when a personal tragedy occurs. We feel helpless, and lost. A few days after my aunt’s death, I messaged one of my cousins and conveyed to her that she could always reach out to me whenever she needed to talk.
She reciprocated with a ‘heart’ emoji. I thought about how I’d attended her birthday parties years ago, the big wide-eyed blond haired doll she used to play with, her cute antics as a kid, with auntie fussing over her small family and secure in the blessings she had sought from life. I knew these were just a few of the many old memories that would continue to linger as I processed this latest loss, and tried my best to move on.
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