* G R I E F *
Sharing a Facebook memory from a year ago.
I vividly remember the feeling at that time. I felt like I had fallen into a deep dark abyss and I kept falling deeper and deeper with no end in sight. I felt very lonely. I had friends and family holding out their hands, yet I felt I couldn’t reach them and I was all alone in a very dark place. It’s a feeling I can’t describe in words.
I was born into small family of 4: my parents, my brother and I. I was always my dad’s ahladi “Ammuji”, till the very end. When I would visit my parents, I would still crawl into bed with them, my Dad would tell me stories with his arms around me, just like he did over 50 years ago. My mom would make sure my hair was well oiled and brushed (I hate putting oil in my hair). My brother and I would chat alone at the breakfast table before he would leave for work. That was our time to share feelings and stories and enjoy some alone time. Starting Sept 2017, within a span of 18 months, I first lost my brother. He looked after my parents, they lived together with my Bhabi, nephew and niece (8 and 17 at the time). 10 months later my Dad suddenly passed away in his sleep. 8 months later my mom suddenly died in my arms, while we were watching TV in bed. We were a family of 4 for 50+ years, and suddenly I was the only one left.
Returning to Toronto after my Mom’s death, I went back to work right away, as I had used up all my vacation and bereavement leave. I was struggling to stay afloat and continue with my “normal” life. Every single night I would be crying alone in my bedroom. I would be fine at work, then burst into tears on a crowded subway. I don’t mean shedding silent tears. I would be bawling. I couldn’t stop. I’m usually not a crier. I don’t think I shed any tears while I was in Dhaka after my mom passed. I would have horrible nightmares every single night. I had lots of pain in my body. I had severe headaches. I went to see my doctor, and he immediately sent me to a hospice for grief therapy. I was going through Post Traumatic Stress from Grief.
I’m eternally grateful to a local hospice for taking me under their nurturing wings, and the love and care they provided (and still provide through virtual sessions whenever I need them) that helped me cope with my grief and start living again. I’m specially grateful that being in Canada, all this was available to me free of charge. I could never have afforded all these services if I had to pay for them.
As part of my healing process, I had weekly grief counseling for about 8 months (there was no time limit, I continued as long as I needed, with an open invitation to continue any time). I also had weekly 1:1 art therapy and monthly group bereavement art therapy. I also went for meditation, restorative yoga, reiki, acupuncture and massage. Self care and wellness therapy is an important part of the healing process.
Experience and Learning:
A year ago I didn’t even know what a hospice was. I had never volunteered anywhere before. I had no idea what grief really meant and how it worked, although I had been living with it for 20 months at that point.
Now I can make sense of things that didn’t make sense to me a year ago, from excruciating physical pain to daily nightmares and bursts of intense emotions that would appear at the most awkward times. I still have them, just less frequently. And now I don’t panic when they appear. I just give myself permission to feel what I feel, knowing this is all part of my grief journey. And most importantly, I know I will be okay.
As soon as I was able to stand back on my feet, my husband and I signed up as volunteers at the hospice. I was also recruited as a volunteer Board member at a prestigious art centre. This is the most satisfying feeling in the world, to be able to give back.
Training and Helping Others:
My priorities in life have changed drastically over the past year. My goal now is to start helping others and give back to my community. I have been attending workshops and training sessions, and reading up more and more about grief, art therapy and palliative care.
– Earlier this year I completed an intensive 30 hours training as a certified palliative care volunteer.
– I received training as a certified Reiki healer.
– I signed up as a volunteer Reiki healer at the hospice (currently on hold).
– I attended a day long workshop on Senior Care.
– I’m looking for training and education in art therapy.
My advice to anyone that has experienced grief (the passing of a loved one, breakup of a relationship, job loss, sudden financial loss etc): Allow yourself to grieve, and please seek help.
Grief is very personal and unique to every individual. There is no universal rule, and no timeline. It can take days, it can take years or even decades.
If you or someone you know is grieving, please feel free to reach out to me. I’m not a professional by any means, but I feel I can offer sincere empathy, a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on.
Give yourself permission to feel what you feel. It’s OK to grieve. You are not alone.