The unbearable sense of loss

My mom passed on over a month ago, and for all my wordsmithery, I was staring at a blank page for hours blinking back tears, when it came to writing her obituary.

Published: 23rd October 2022 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 21st October 2022 09:10 PM   |  A+A-

Candles, Death, RIP

Representational Image. (File Photo)

It is tough losing a parent, at any age. Been there?

It's a lesson that isn't taught anywhere. Not in journalism schools where we are trained to write obituaries of achievers well before they die in reality (sounds callous, doesn't it?), not when you come to know of people in your own age group dropping dead like sticks (the pandemic and its spin-offs made us experience this), not when you lose someone who feels like your parent by proxy (folks of friends). It just isn't the same as losing your own, a part of your own self.

My mom passed on over a month ago, and for all my wordsmithery, I was staring at a blank page for hours blinking back tears, when it came to writing her obituary. I have been wandering through the bereavement in many ways since. Trying to make peace with the permanent, mom-sized hole in my heart. Sure, there is never any instruction manual to cope with the loss of the primary influence in your life, but the enormity of the rough, unexpected disseverance refused to sink in initially. Then crept in multiple open expressions post the hazy daze. I have had tears streaking down my face in front of strangers, being unexpectedly reminded of my loss. It is as if I am in autopilot mode at work, wincing silently on the inside even in the throes of assignments, dealing with the immeasurable rip in my fundamental bond, grappling with a sense of unreality round the clock. There isn't an Undo button on this file, unfortunately.

It feels as if a limb has been yanked off. Being a parent myself, I felt disenfranchised to grieve fluidly, openly. Weighed under the unspoken expectation that I would be able to deal with the sudden blow, naturally. Slowly, I gave in processing my loss, hesitatingly, for my own well-being. There isn't any right or wrong way to grieve, but dealing with personal grief is tiring and traumatic. A cathartic run, sometimes through the emotionally charged crests and troughs, now and then. The angst was initially latent, bubbling underneath in a hissing pot of emotions, as acceptance slowly took over.

The pain wanes slightly over time, but the sadness will always be there. I have found solace in picking ways in which I can keep mom alive in me. In deepening sibling bonds, carrying on family traditions, trying to reset my ability to focus again through a renewed sense of discipline -- something she always proudly commended in me. It is like schooling my senses in small doses, subtly, one day at a time. The feeling is still raw, as I find meaning in my loss -- threaded to the rush of the Ganga in spate as I finally immersed her flowers. It is called slowly pulling energy from your loss and ploughing it back into life. It feels like the biggest challenge of my life, and I can't put a deadline to it, this time around.

Shilpi Madan is a Mumbai-based journalist and editor. She can be reached at



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