“Love someone enough, to let them go.”
It’s a phrase all of us have heard and even tried to implement at various stages of our lives, be it a messy breakup or the loss of a loved someone. What we do not hear is how to process the pain after we finally let them go. How do we look at the world the same way, without hurting in their absence? How do we finally forget someone when they mean the entire goddamn universe to us?
Ever since I can remember, I have always despised the process of adjusting to a new environment. I have always hated the feeling of unfamiliarity seeping into my bones. Moving back to India from the States, at merely seven years of age was a daunting experience. Yet it was nothing close to being daunting, because of one person, my grandmother.
Strong, fearless, high spirited, and enthusiastic are a few of the words that come close to describing my grandmother. We had always been close, but our bond grew stronger after I moved back. As I struggled to make new friends and found it hard to cope with school work, my grandmother stood by me, like a beacon of hope and warmth. She would teach me, read me stories, engage me in every way possible, cheer me up whenever I was annoyed by the slightest of inconveniences and at times when I felt like I had no one, she became my confidante and my best friend.
The reason for our abrupt return was my grandmother’s dwindling health. It was stage IV Brain Cancer and she was on chemotherapy, fighting for each breath and making it seem so effortlessly easy. She would never complain and constantly had a bright smile on her face. She would make me laugh until there were tears in my eyes, all the while herself wanting to cry out loud in pain. Now that I think back on it, I wonder how a person going through so much, looked so bright and jovial. How a person in so much distress, still managed to make the ones around her so happy.
After a year, it got worse and she was admitted to the hospital. She never let me visit her; she wanted the last memory I had of her to be a happy one. Probably one where we spent hours reading comics or watching movies rather than one where she was attached to several tubes, barely able to speak, writhing in agony. My mother would spend hours at the hospital and I would spend my time at my uncle’s place, hoping that my grandmother would come back home soon.
In September 2009, my grandmother passed away. I was completely oblivious, having full faith in the fact that she was going to be alright, which is why when my mother broke the news to me, I thought she was joking at first. She looked at me in pity and her fingers gently smoothened my curls. I was going through a whirlwind of emotions. It was as though I was on a rollercoaster of feelings that I never agreed to be on in the first place, accompanied by crippling nausea at every toss and turn. At first, I felt seething rage. Why did she have to be taken away from me? Why?
After the anger came a wave of sadness that nearly drowned me. I felt empty, like a piece of me was missing. It was as though an irreplaceable part of me, a part of me that I loved most, was now lost in the abyss of despair. Every day would be a reminder of her absence. I kept her scarf and when I would miss her a little too much, I would hold it close, hoping that somehow miraculously, her arms would appear around me.
I loved my grandmother. I loved her to the ends of the world. I loved her infinitely, and I found it impossible to let her go. Every moment without her would cause a dull ache to radiate through my heart. Every memory of her, no matter how wonderful, would still fill my heart with grief. I thought this pain would be constant and never-ending.
Slowly, however, with time dragging its feet through the mud of memories, things began to change. I began to hurt a little less. Things got better.
11 years later when I think about my grandmother, all I feel is an unbearably vast amount of love and happiness accompanied by only an infinitesimal amount of pain. An 8-year-old might not truly understand the concept of grief, but as a 19-year-old, I realize now that there is no perfect way to deal with grief, there are no set rules or guidelines. We all try our best to let go of the immense sadness in our hearts and that is all we can do.
I have made peace with the fact that the loss of my grandmother did create a void in me that maybe, I might never be able to fill. The time I had with her has shaped me as a person, and for that I am grateful. My mother would always tell me as a child, that our ancestors are up in the stars, beaming down upon us.
So when I miss my grandmother a little more than usual, I simply look up at the star shining the brightest, and smile.
Written by Medha Somayaji for MTTN
Edited by Mihika Antonia Dean for MTTN
Featured Image by Jamie Tran
Artwork by @sudeepshaw204