Life and grief comes to each of us in different ways. Often times something may not be hurting you directly. Someone you love may be going through, pain, suffering, agony and grief. Watching that person suffer, will force grief on to you! The situation gets amplified when it is someone very, very dear __ a spouse, a child, a parent, sibling or very close friend.
How do you handle a situation where someone else’s suffering is consuming you?
There is no easy or one way to do this. Even so, it is possible to avoid being consumed by someone else’s suffering. Surely, you can make a beginning by seeing the situation as an opportunity to train yourself to be detached.
Yesterday, a friend called to say that his teenage daughter, who often has been prone to depression over the past few years, confessed to him that she “had lost interest in Life”. My friend lamented over the phone that he couldn’t handle “her suffering” anymore. The girl had been under medical treatment and was receiving counseling regularly. Her parents, I know, had been the most understanding, despite their conservative background. I could understand and empathize with my friend’s sense of helplessness and grief. “I am suffering watching her suffer. I feel I will break down. I need a solution. I demand to know why my child is undergoing this turmoil and why we have to be put through this,”he exclaimed.
“Why” is the simplest and the most profound of all questions! Answering Life’s “Whys” eludes all of us uniformly. Well, if only we knew the answers to our “Whys”, Life will no longer be a mystery, right? So, think of such a situation, as the one my friend is facing, as an opportunity to understand Life itself, your role in it and to practice detachment.
Understand, first of all, that each one in Life has to bear her or his own cross. In India, actor Sanjay Dutt’s impending return to jail, over a folly he committed 20 years ago, is making headlines because of the Supreme Court awarding him the sentence finally. Most people know that Dutt is both guilty and repentant. But despite his huge fan following and his network of admirers and believers including the powerful in India, Dutt may still have to go back to jail. Unless of course the Governor of the state pardons him. I remember seeing pictures of Dutt’s father, Sunil Dutt, waiting outside the Arthur Road jail in Mumbai, for days on end, during his son’s frequent incarcerations there. Dutt Senior did his jail duty diligently as long as he was alive. I am sure he was pained. Maybe he even died with some of that pain and a sense of incompletion that he could not see his son’s name cleared. This is true of each of our lives__that each of us has to face and endure the Life given to us. Obviously, this includes what even your own child has to go through! Very simply, the moment we are born, our Life meter starts ticking and our Life’s screenplay starts unfolding. A good amount of that screenplay will have several episodes of pain. If we grieve for each of them, either our own or for others, we will end up spending an entire lifetime simply grieving. Not living.
Once you realize this truth about Life, accept that the painful experience someone is going through is for them to learn something. Pain is a great teacher. She teaches us to stop expecting Life to be painless. She also teaches us that suffering is a meaningless option, that we often end up choosing by default! Without pain, there would be no suffering. Unless you suffer, you will not realize that it is a completely wasted response to Life. So, if someone you know is suffering, believe that they are actually learning something. When your child is studying hard, staying up awake most nights, for a school or University examination, do you grieve? Don’t you admire your child for the focus and resilience? Then why do you grieve when your child is having to face a real Life examination? Well it may not be a child all the time, but know that whoever is facing Life’s tests is surely learning invaluable lessons too.
Finally, this person you grieve for is not going to be there forever. Death is bound to separate you. If not now, some day. So, let go! Detach from wanting for things to be different for that person. Accept the current reality and the eventual reality__of a physical separation__and practice detachment. This does not mean you should not feel or pray for the person. Of course you must if you can and want to. Just don’t grieve though. Because grief debilitates. It takes away your spirit. It draws you further out of your inner core of happiness and peace.
All of us grow in Life. Our families have grown. We have grown. Our assets and wealth may have also grown. That growth’s pointing to the physical, financial and biological aspects of Life. But there is another dimension. Growing intelligently. Using such trying situations as personal growth opportunities__to practice detachment__is about evolving, about growing intelligently in Life!