Thursday, November 26, 2009

Not waving, but drowning

Elizabeth Kuhbler-Ross theorized that grief is a continuum starting with denial, moving through anger and depression to finally, acceptance. But as anyone who has experienced it first hand will tell you, grief is a Sisyphean struggle. One swings between the stages, starting one day with anger ending with denial or another with acceptance funneling into depression...human nature trumps any effort to sequence or categorize it.

I have been watching the television programmes marking the first anniversary of the carnage in Mumbai on 26/11/2008. The media is speaking to ordinary people, survivors and those who have lost someone close. There is a commonality I have year on, there is a significant difference between those who have experienced a personal loss and those who have survived or have been mere observers of the Golgotha that was 26/11. There is a wet deadness in the eyes of those who are grieving. No Duchenne smiles, no tolerance for frivolous banter, an emotional distance...

Having met several people who have experienced similar losses in the past year, I have seen the same deadness in their eyes. They use the same words, in the same flat tone. "I look at people laughing and enjoying themselves and I wonder how they do it. I could do it before but I don't remember how. Wonder if I'll ever feel the same or anything, any more..." I feel the numbness they speak of. It is like my soul has disconnected from my physical body. I have become a functioning, living, breathing, eating third party emotional zombie...

The night Shekhar died, something broke in me. I don't know how to fix it. I have been told that over time the pointedness of the pain will wear off, acceptance will come to stay and resilience will out. But I know that even though the wound may heal, the scar will remain. The damage has been done...time will tell if it is reversible, if at all. In the interim, that person I see swimming in the sea of grief is me and...I am not waving, I am drowning...


Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning.
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning...

From Not Waving But Drowning by Stevie Smith

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