Recently, I have had to deal with the death of my wife after 57 years of marriage. Family, friends, colleagues, neighbours and acquaintances rallied to give me support and comfort during this lacerating time. I thank them for their love, concern and care.
But my column is not about death. It is about grief in its most palpable form.
It is the immediate pain one feels at the loss of a loved one.
There are other levels and intensities of grief.
I realise that we often fall short on strategies to deal with it.
Among my mentors who tried to comfort me was an ex-high school teacher who said to me: Alex, I lost my wife 14 years ago, and I still haven’t got over the grief.
People deal with their grief in various ways.
The aphorisms tell us about “different strokes for different folks”, or “different courses for different horses”.
There is religious counselling.
There are periods of mourning which are designed to help one reshape the shards of one’s life into something meaningful. They help one from the first moment of desolation through the interminable hours and days when the feeling of helplessness is unbearably overwhelming.
It is my hope that my musings will help those who struggle with grief to rebuild their lives in a way I hope to rebuild mine.
We cannot remove the pain, but we can avoid bearing it alone.
Human acts of kindness like talking, sharing a tear, sending a message, just being with people, keep back the uncontrollable surges of hopelessness that make one feel so desperately alone even in a crowd.
During the many moments of sadness, we found time for levity.
I actually told a friend I would cope with my grief the way I cope with unwanted petrol price increases, or flawed education systems for which no one seems to have an answer, or intransigent governments that function by denial.
Healing can only come if we identify the pain.
It is like going to a doctor. You have to say what is wrong.
Only then can he help you.
If your car breaks down, you have to tell the mechanic what it is that the car is doing or not doing before he can set you down and explain why he is going to take you to the cleaners for the repairs.
Healing is not a product.
It is a process.
It requires the involvement of like-minded people.
One speaks to those who have been there and done that.
Then we strategise for improvement.
This way I know I will be able to heal and carry on with my life in a meaningful way.
I recommend the strategy as a possible solution for the grief caused by the present government.