by Baljit Kaur, University of Sussex
April 28th. 21 days since she passed away. 21 days of grieving. It’s never easy, it’s never painless. It’s almost unimaginable in these conditions, not being able to hold your loved ones, not being held by friends and family. Everything is reduced to 2 metres apart.
I’ve been drawing on the things that bring me the most comfort: desi chai, the aroma and taste always reminds me of home, and tea was never tea unless it was brewed in a pot, not a kettle. Prayers. The last day I spent with her was spent in the company of prayers, prayers were everything. The same prayers playing through her yellow stereo are the same prayers that I listened to at the Gurdwara as a child, sat next to her, legs crossed, hands together and my hair neatly contained under a scarf. The same prayers I’ve listened to every morning or every night since she left us. ‘It’s okay, you can go now’, I keep whispering into the air, puddles of tears reduce day by day. A small teddy, probably decades old. A watch; from her left wrist to mine, probably decades old. Memories of her, memories of her home, my home, decades old. The bed she put me to sleep in, the nightmares she nursed. The bath she bathed me in. The sofa I poured two bowls of daal behind; I lied and told her I ate it, she never told me off. My plaits she braided with semi-oily hands, the plants that were always tended to, the fairy lights pinned to the ceiling, the pictures of Gurus hung on the wall, the incessant expletives, always in Punjabi. Her skin, soft, so soft, it’s got to be that ‘simple’ soap. I’m holding together pieces of a broken heart with the reminder that sheer luck, spirituality, a calling, whatever you want to call it, urged me out of my chair, away from my desk and to her home where she lay on her bed on the day she died. I sat with her, brushing soft strokes with my fingers against her arms, hands, neck and hair. Thin, grey and messy, not the neatly combed bun secured with an unnecessary number of pins that I was used to seeing. I got to hear her call me ‘puth’, one last time. The merging of countless memories, I’m flicking through them one by one as I lay on my bed attempting to put words to paper.
I’ve been wondering why I haven’t felt content despite embracing the aforementioned comforts; it’s an indescribable feeling. I’m wondering what else I need to do, what more I could do, apart from allowing time to do the healing. The penny drops as I’m lying in bed trying to untangle this irritable feeling I simply can’t contain: It’s not just grief, it’s trauma too. How do we grieve the loss of loved ones who have also caused pain, suffering, conflict and have perpetuated cycles of abuse through mere complicity? How do we grieve toxicity? How does one even begin to absolve feelings of guilt for grieving, for loving so intensely despite the trauma of poor decisions and destructible actions. It has to be said that trauma overcomplicates the grief process. The feeling of wholeness seems further and further distant and achievable when you are both trauma and grief stricken. Perhaps the process will never offer clarity or a resolution unless it is confronted with the truth.
Earlier today a friend told me: death does not necessarily mean a relationship is over with them, it’s just different. Perhaps the truth starts here. Truth in how we choose to move forward with intention, integrity and responsibility. Truth in that the legacy of those we grieve can live on in the way we choose to unlearn rather than romanticising the things we’ve been taught and learn from those we’ve lost. Truth in knowing better and with that, not failing to do better. Truth in rejecting the complicity in silence and rather celebrating an openness in communication with those with us, and those who aren’t. Maybe there is a gem in these ramblings, maybe there isn’t. I have only just begun to scratch the surface of a journey that is impending, a process of healing everyone is worthy of investing in, in order to invite closure to the unwelcome concoction of grief and trauma.
This is the fifth in our Feminist Everyday Lockdown Blog Series. Lockdown is a feminist issue, and sharing stories is a feminist practice. We are calling for further contributions to the CHASE Feminist Network blog on everyday feminism and lockdown. This includes creative, political, and personal reflections! Full details here
Read more on performance in lockdown with Imaginary Songs from the Feminist Future: Unlocking Creativity in Lockdown by @heat_mcknight and HOW ARE YOU? HOW ARE YOU FEELING RIGHT NOW? Wrestling with Wellbeing when All the World’s a Screen by @elly_clarke reinjecting meaning into asking ‘How are you?’
Catch up on other Feminist Everyday Lockdown Blogs: Flat, Flat, Flat by @marianasra who we thank for sharing her story of waiting, being and uncertainty in lockdown, and Finding Rest During Covid-19 Lockdown: Rejecting Capitalistic Productivity by @dr_ogbemudia good advice on “spending” time, and finding time to ‘be’!
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