Guest Editorial: Coping with the loss of your loved one Emotional acceptance is not easy

‘Grieving To Healing’—the book Vinita Deshmukh has penned after the untimely passing away of her husband Vishwas, is remarkable in the sense that it has genuine emotion, great literary eloquence in its essays, poems and comments and brings out both the pain of loss and the resilience involved in picking oneself up and carrying on

-By Dr Ganesh Natarajan

From left: Ganesh Natarajan, Chairman, 5F World, Amruta Fadnavis, Deputy Vice President, Axis Bank, Vinita Deshmukh, Dr Mohan Agashe and Vinita Kamte at the book release function of ‘Grieving To Healing’ which was held recently

There is a line in one of my all-time favourite Bollywood movies Sholay that is said by veteran actor Hangal after the dacoits murder his son, played by the young actor Sachin. Translated terribly from the very poetic line in Hindi, it goes “Do you know the biggest weight that one can bear? The weight of a son’s coffin on the shoulder of a father.” That line moved me tremendously as a child watching the Sippy magnum opus and even today, when one watches friends trying to cope—with the unexpected loss of a child or spouse or young friend and sometimes the anticipated loss of a parent or even a well-loved pet, it does seem to be an event that one can never be fully prepared for but have to bear with some level of fortitude and resilience.

Having lost my father when I was not yet thirty and my mother fifteen years later, the loss of loved ones has been up close and personal for me. In my father’s case, it probably helped that the immediate pain of the loss was blunted by the frenetic activity needed to get from Mumbai to Ranchi where he died, to see him after he had breathed his last and brave the winter cold of Bihar winter to light the funeral pyre. The ten-day rites that followed also subsumed the grief in the rituals and possibly prepared me for the later peaceful passing away of my mother. But one really needs to appreciate what it must take for a noble lady like our good friend Anu Aga to bear with the sequential losses of a dear husband and young son and still retain the love for humanity and life that she sustains to this day. Her wise counsel to us when my mother died is also something that we deeply appreciated and will remember forever.

It is in this context that I was honoured to be a guest at the launch of the book about a devastating loss written by this magazine’s consulting editor and one of my favourite people in Pune, Vinita Vishwas Deshmukh. The book she has penned after the untimely passing away of her husband Vishwas Deshmukh is remarkable in the sense that it has genuine emotion, great literary eloquence in its essays, poems and comments and brings out both the pain of loss and the resilience involved in picking oneself up and carrying on. And the event which featured Vinita and me with Amruta Fadnavis, Mohan Agashe and Vinita Kamte was truly memorable.

On the one hand, it was a story of vulnerability. Extreme vulnerability. It is rightly said that joys can be shared but sorrow has to be dealt with, alone. One could see how the travails of going through 24 hours each day, day after day, without her loved one, was Vinita’s cross to bear. There was no avoiding it. As Mohan Agashe put it, we come alone into life and we die alone, and in accepting this, we accept the transient nature of everything in between. Acceptance of this is key.

At the age of 70 plus, I have seen many couples and people involved in different activities. But Vishwas always was a myth to me. For, he never had any big dreams – he believed in just existing through his utter honesty and straightforwardness. Was that why this unusual human being, was such a pleasant personality - always cheerful, always respectful, always ready to smile? I always used to wonder at his spirit – his wife was an adventurist – he was the extreme opposite, treading his path with caution. Yet, both of them were inseparable

Tribute to Vishwas by Dr. Col. A. Balasubramanian in the book ‘Grieving To Healing’

Author Vinita Deshmukh handing over the copy of the book to Dr (Col.) A. Balasubramanian, Editor-In-Chief, Corporate Citizen

On the other hand, it was a story of courage. Extreme courage. To put oneself out there on paper, in the public domain, is to be exposed to comment, perhaps judgment, but also, it is hoped, to immense compassion and support. To recognise writing as a way of dealing with the pain and moving forward, and thence acting on it, is courageous. My heart went out to Vinita as she stood there, lonely but determined, scared yet resilient, crushed by the past but rising again to meet the future. And not just rising alone, but in her journey, reaching out to the rest of us for understanding and support. It is a brave person indeed who overcomes the natural tendency to curl up and withdraw, and reaches out to others in their darkest times.

Is there any advice that one can give to people, similar to the two Vinitas who have both borne the loss of a dear one in an untimely manner? The great bard, William Shakespeare said “Give sorrow words: the grief that does not speak knits up the o’er wrought heart and bids it break.” So true and a piece of advice that should be heeded by both the bereaved and their family and friends. Let them talk about the lost one and have an opportunity to share their thoughts and feelings. That is always the best catharsis!

In the modern world, we are all intellectually aware that there is no immortality and the elixir that will guarantee a never-ending life has not been invented yet. However, when it comes to our own loved ones, emotional acceptance is not as easy as rational understanding and every one of us has to find our own ways of getting through that period of loss. Long may your friends and family live and thrive!

Living without you

The death of a spouse, I now believe, through research and through talking to others in such a situation, is a completely different feeling. I think that’s because your relationship is entwined in one another

- By Vinita Deshmukh

Vimal Parmar

Death is a part of life—it is unarguably, the ultimate reality. Through the various rituals post death, we are told about the journey of the soul. To ensure its smooth journey, we are told that, if we mourn, the soul will not be set free. We are urged to get over grief as soon as possible. I was also a part of this belief and mindset. My parents and my in-laws who I was also close too, passed away. I accepted it as the natural process of birth and death. However, after Vishwas has passed away, it has been a totally different experience for me.

The death of a spouse, I now believe, through research and through talking to others in such situation, is a completely different feeling. I think that’s be cause your relationship is entwined in one another. You are with the spouse, not only in your outward journey but knowingly or unknowingly in your inward journey too. You become each other’s friend, parent, companion and consultant—your spouse is an integral part of your life, home, your mind, your heart and your children. And that’s why when your spouse dies, you are hit the hardest—you feel as if just a half of yourself is left in you.

Picking up the beads

I am just trying hard now. To pick up the strewn beads of life, That you had so beautifully amalgamated, Into a necklace of love, harmony and peace.

I am trying, with my fingers wavering, The beads slipping out of the finger tips. The eyes missing to thread them adroitly. My precious pendant, lost up the hill.

What will I make this necklace to be? One of garnets, pearls or emeralds? These precious gems have lost their sheen. My wavering fingers, for the pendant, searching.

My mind tells my fingers to search for Rosemary beads.

They don’t need no pendant; they go round, merrily. As my fingers twirl them, I can chant your name. But the monotony of these, unable to catch the spirit of thee.

The pendant is a star attraction in any necklace. It lines up all beads and keeps them in proper place. My precious pendant, ruthlessly snatched away by God.

My fingers are wavering; beads have lost the chord.

I lost Vishwas within a few minutes. Unexpectedly. However, whichever way and whichever age you lose your spouse, the grief I think is equally deep. So much so that, you suddenly realise your identity is not because of your professional acumen but because of your personal relationship. When you lose that, the vacuum is so huge that your achievements are no solace. I realised that grieving is a natural consequence of your loss and suppressing it is unnatural—we do so because we are socially conditioned to do. We are asked to get meditative, go into silence. For me anyway my home has become a silence zone, what more Vipassana should I seek? I realised tears are but the tip of the iceberg of sorrow.

For me, initially Vishwas’s death was such a shock that my mind kept walking, umpteen times a day to the spot where it happened. I kept reliving it all the time—so much so that it became my main corridor of my thought, 24x7. It was only when I returned from the USA, late June, where I, along with my daughter and her family, had gone to meet my son, that reality hit me hard. That’s when I realised, it was not just the way he died but that he himself is no more. Every corner of the house came alive with his presence and I was completely shattered from within. I didn’t know how to cope and definitely antidepressants were not for me as I usually avoid medication.

Sharing my sorrow with my children and dear ones was painful as it pained them and then I felt bad that I am making them feel bad. For relief, I took several sessions of acupuncture which helped me a lot and have got down to do some serious yoga. However, this was inadequate to overcome my loss.

I’ve always believed in following my heart in whatever I do, so I decided to go on an inward journey and find out the depth of my feelings. So, whenever I was overpowered with sorrow—I channelised it into penning a poetry, in the notepad of this Samsung Tablet. Sometimes I wrote two poems a day. There was no planning about which topic to choose, to write the poem. I just wrote when a particular thought overpowered me. I chose no time to write the poem. It would happen in the car while travelling for work, in a corner of my daughter’s house, sometimes waking up in the middle of the night.

Living without You

You have left behind such warmth and cheer Such joy of living in this serene atmosphere of our home and the environs around.

That you fill my heart and nurse my wound.

At the crack of dawn, the chirping of birds – Cuckoos, parrots, sparrows, crow, pheasants and others. Like little children, they hop from tree to tree. Sometimes, walk, fly and settle in our balcony

It is their time to play in the lush greenery that overlooks our home; never a moment dreary. Sweetheart, those bunch of parrots still appear. And squirrels still run around; oh what pleasure.

Now it’s monsoon magic; it is all glistening green. Bright colours of gulmohur and bougainville, missing. The grass has grown in abundance with nature’s care. Even the Brahmakamal has blossomed, in two pairs.

The Peepul Tree that stands tall, is a mute witness to our thirty eight years of togetherness. For like the ever-there peepul tree, you believed – Don’t get uprooted, bloom where you are rooted.

Your aura pervades like fragrance of the night jasmine. Your warmth, streaking in, through sun’s light. For leaving me behind in this Paradise, I thank you

It kind of tames the pain of living without you.

There is no logic to the poems I have written. Sometimes I question the very existence of Heaven, sometimes I term Vishwas as guardian angel. I have cursed the sunset as it happened at that time of the day. And so on.

As my poems progressed, there was somewhat a silver lining and I scripted a few optimistic ones, I think. I thought I would write five or six poems but they turned out to be 33 and after that I could write no more. My fingers just stopped. Then I thought I should give reference to these poems so I began scripting chapters in prose.

You are with the spouse, not only in your outward journey but knowingly or unknowingly in your inward journey too. You become each other’s friend, parent, companion and consultant— your spouse is an integral part of your life, home, your mind, your heart and your children

So, the book has just happened—as if it was self-constructing itself. Hence, ‘Grieving To Healing’ is a compilation of my raw emotions; stark outpourings of my heart. It is also about the healing process in the chapters which speak about that prescription. It is not intellectual, philosophical or logical. It is a sonography of grief and living with it. It is a glimpse of the emotions that rattle you, for anyone who is in this situation. I can safely say it has been a sort of catharsis for me. I hope, reading it will help those who have lost their dear ones, in some way or the other.

My Eyes

You said my eyes twinkled, even in the night. You said they effused joy, and were your radiant light.

Now that you are gone, they twinkle no more They have become the clouded sky ever ready to outpour.

Sometimes they delicately drizzle Sometimes they cloudburst Sometimes they wear a moist veil. Saddened at your breach of trust.

They wonder why, they can see you no more. When you had told them clearly you are here to stay, till they first go.

Only sometimes they say Thank God they saw you. For thirty-eight long years, Mesmerized, by the benevolent YOU.

Above all, this book is a token of eternal gratitude to Vishwas, who was my best friend and a wonderful human being. My near and dear ones tell me that Vishwas must a be blessing me from above but I think he must be embarrassed. He always used to tell me that I talk 19 to a dozen. Just when he thought he has silenced me, I’ve got back to my chatter, but through the book. Sorry, Vishwas, but I know you would have said with a smiling face, “Okay, fine if you want it this way.’’

(The book is available on Kindle and The link is: