Train your mind to overcome grief

The mind of the one grieving should realise that they should not magnify the problem and accept the fact that their problem is infinitesimal compared to the suffering of the world, writes Ravi Valluri.

The doctor was an early riser. Upon waking he hit the gym. He remained fit, in proper shape by maintaining this regimen. The medico was a noted paediatrician, his wife an eminent cardiologist. The couple were known for their effervescence, charity and hail-fellow-well-met attitude.

The spring of hope in their lives was a beautiful and innocent seven-year daughter. Unfortunately, she suffered from a compromised heart condition. The cardiologist mother detected that it was congenital.

Indeed, an ironical situation – parents, a paediatrician and a cardiologist and their angel suffering with a heart ailment. The paediatrician father made it a point to drop his daughter to school, while his wife attended to calls, advising patients, paramedics, and attending to the domestic chores.

The trio had attended a party the previous evening. It was time to drop the daughter to school and the father knocked at the door of the light of their lives. The cherubic girl invariably responded. But it was not to be…The father tip-toed into the room and shrieked in anguish. The little girl was ashen faced and insensate.

His wife was absolutely devastated. Tragedy had struck the family and a pall of gloom descended.

A few weeks back an old aunt had kicked the bucket. It was a double whammy for the family and they were inconsolable.

Misfortunes come in pairs mused a neighbour while commiserating with the distraught family. The traumatised family gave a quite burial to the angel. There was a heavy downpour and it appeared the elements too were subsumed with grief.

Several centuries ago in the time of Buddha, a woman lost her only child to the cruel hands of fate. Wailing and in an anguished state she implored the enlightened one to resuscitate the dead child. Buddha the compassionate agreed to perform the miracle.

He asked the lady to collect mustard seeds from all the houses of the village which had never seen death or grief. The woman knocked the doors of all the houses in the village, but returned empty handed. It is then that wisdom dawned on her that life and death are inseparable part of nature. Buddha, the repository of knowledge and wisdom used his acumen skilfully to counsel the emotionally deranged woman.

Handling of grief is a challenging task and only skilful minds and hands can undertake this responsibility. An individual encompassed with these negative emotions invariably becomes depressed, distraught, a mental wreck, which could lead to confusion in the mind and even dysfunctional behaviour. The doctor couple who could not save their precious child were subsumed into a cesspool of anger, guilt, sadness, anxiety, pangs of loneliness, numbness and a yearning for their beloved one. The estimable doctors, during the course of their career and profession had saved several lives, hearts and children. However, it was ironical that the life of their own child was snuffed out.

In order to overcome their grief and desolation, the husband a moderate drinker became a quotidian one and his spouse began administering herself sedatives. Their lives were wrecked by the tragedy resulting in erratic work schedules and regressive performance. Once rated outstanding within their fraternity, they became the subject of scorn, ridicule and sympathy. Several eminent psychologist’s like Parker, Arewill and Worden have zeroed in on the point that those suffering from grief, need to move on from feeling of numbness, pining, depression, a feeling of shock, and despair to the process of recovery.

It is important for the grieving to accept the reality of the loss, experience the pain of the departed one, adjust to the environment of living without the deceased person and withdraw all the antipathetic thoughts to efficacious ones by serving the society.

The mind of the one grieving should realise that they should not magnify the problem and accept the fact that their problem is infinitesimal compared to the suffering of the world. Medical science has made rapid advancements such that proper diagnosis, therapy and counselling along with proper medication can trigger the change agent in the wrecked mind.

Alternatively, there are techniques like hypnosis and even providing even ECT (in the worst case scenario) to address the problem. Mahatma Gandhi, if alive today, would have perhaps recommended adoption of another child and plunge headlong into their medical profession; and make an attempt to save every life, see the image of their daughter in every patient.

He may have even recalled the macabre and barbaric event of school children killed by terror attacks, only to drive home the point that wanton killings snuffed out innocent lives. The Theravidan Buddhist traditions have dealt with the subject of handling grief in a dynamic manner.

The human mind by the process of strong internal resolution can overcome this vicissitude in life by mindfulness. The process is called Satipatthana. Sati denotes awareness and Patthana stands for keeping the mind in the present moment.

The emotionally wrought can find solace and succour by becoming aware of the reality about impermanence of events, happenings and people. The mind should become strong to accept the reality and look ahead.

There are breathing techniques like Vipassana and Sudarshan Kriya which have proven ability to transfigure the mind from a depressed state to a positive one. Both the techniques have been validated by medical science as alternative therapies and have the propensity and power to alter the thought process bringing it to the present moment.

Several grieving souls adopt holistic measures like the breathing techniques mentioned, meditation, pranayama, yoga, chanting of mantras, being in communion with nature or seva to overcome their grief and restore normalcy in their lives. It is the recalcitrant human mind which acts as a deterrent and needs to be tamed.

“Grief is in two parts. The first is loss. The second is remaking of life,” writes Anne Roiphe.

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