Pain Sharing & Duality of the Human Being

COVID, a high-profile and highly politicised passing of an actor, social distance and social media. These are some of the ingredients that we seem to have found ourselves in as we all individually and collectively try to navigate this inundation of our senses with external information, and the information within our bodies and minds as they try to process, assimilate and integrate simultaneously.

That is hard. Whatever be one’s situation, it is a very challenging reality that everyone lives in. The difference perhaps lies in not just how one may cope (or not cope), but also in how physically variable different factors may be in their life.

All of this is happening while connection is becoming increasingly virtual. I mentioned COVID not merely for dramatic or logistic impact, but to add that all of this is happening along with the larger idea and experience of grief. Based on where someone may stand on their understanding, perception, comfort of death and dying, and the life altering grief that it brings, we are in a way, forced to face and question some of these bigger concepts of our lives which lay comfortably stowed away at the back of the file cabinet.

Grieving is a very private process for many because of the sheer internal nature of its assimilation within the human being. However, grief has a public and shared experience too, not just in the way of social media posts with the customary #RIP but also historically performed through grief circles, community grieving groups, rudalis and so on.

One question that I had struggled with all my life was the idea of sharing without the pressures of performance that is, how does one share grief with another without feeling the need to either pretend that one is over it or to sink within it so much as to not be able to stop oneself from inundating the other with their grief as well, irrespective of the fact if the other here had the capacity or the desire to hold space for the grieving person.

The cover image is what I drew as panels on what grief is thought of, versus what it really is experienced as. I ended up drawing these as a representation of what I feel is the way to go forward in the aloneness of our grief while finding solace in connection.

When grieving, with the hyper focus on one’s loss, we learn to perceive pain and sharing of pain in intimate trust as a unidirectional, one-dimensional activity wherein there's one person with a perceived sunny disposition because there's the other living under a cloud of grief. A lot of armchair psychology and social media conversation around it also makes it seem this way - from one person's perspective, usually the one whose grief is more active and present, frozen in that one moment as a point of conversation shared.

While it is true that sometimes when we are down in the dumps, in the tight grip of loss and pain, intimacy with someone known or even a stranger sharing something on the internet somehow connects with our hearts and allows us to find healing or some sort of peace to step out of the shadow of the cloud, even if for a moment. But thats not the only scene that grief exists in, it's never this 2D or even a one time thing. Grief exists in multiple forms and in everyone; conscious and active or buried and forgotten.

To close this brief nugget of thought on grief and sharing, I think it is important to remember the wholeness of grief and pain, to allow it to have it's own life without deflating it and reducing it into a one time "happily ever after" capture of sharing and unburdening. It robs one from seeing the fullness of loss and pain, while disallowing a more rounded perspective on looking at the humanity of those who lend us an ear or a shoulder, as well as our own. With time, grief is rapidly changing shape and becoming more verbal and visible, it can't be shoved under the carpet anymore. It ought not to be. But, with that, I hope that one is able to see the wholeness of it, facing it squarely with other fuller people.

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