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Grief is Selfish

By: Viji Venkatesh
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Grieving for a loved one is a self-serving process.

It is all about what the loss means to you and how your life changes and all that you will miss now that the person who meant so much to you is no longer there.

The process of grieving is left to you to work out in all its complexities.

I don’t think one can ever get over the shock of losing a loved one. It’s like a gash on your arm that may heal over a period of time with new tissues manufactured with one’s own set of coping mechanisms but the damage is done. Your once flawless, smooth skin bears the unmistakable and indelible mark of the trauma.  It’s ugly, painful and a constant reminder of the loss and of what once was.

In my line of work I lose people that I have grown to love and care for.  More than is good for me or for them; or so the text books say. But what do those text books know. I have reveled and blossomed in the love my patients have given me so unconditionally and I know for a fact so have they. We live in a very special world that allows this unconditional love. For I am no one to them. Not a lover, not a parent nor child; not a sibling not aunt or uncle or anything that can be defined. I am to each one of them only what they want me to be to them. But to me they are my life, my work and my whole world.  They may know it or they may not. It makes no difference for the love I have for them serves me in a way that helps me help them. When they want it.  And how they want it.

It is a love that has allowed me to give and in giving there is so much joy and such rewards.

I call it Qualified Love. And that charmed circle is peopled with little toddlers I held in my arms who are happy teenagers today; teenagers whom I have seen growing up into awesome young adults; young adults becoming householders and making a life with their loved ones , proud parents become happy grandparents and then I have held the hands of many as they move on to find meaning in their “senior years” so to say.

And because I am no one to them in their established hierarchy of family and friends I become, like many of my ilk (counselors, therapists, treating physician too) an anonymous safe-keeper of many secrets, longings, confessions, fears and more.   And I am like a sponge, that very anonymity allowing me to absorb and retain without losing my own dimensions.

And then comes Death to take them away forever. Life interrupted. Forever.

And I am left the sole custodian of shared dreams and hopes and conversations.

I am asked, by many, how do I cope with the loss of my patients? When they die? How do I indeed? I honestly don’t know. Each death, each loss hits me anew.

And then life takes over once again and it goes on. And lessons learnt help me serve and care in a better, wiser fashion than before.

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