The Catharsis

A heavy downpour of rain started quite suddenly, and the evening sky was turning darker due to the dense cloudy overcast. The boys at the football ground started rushing towards the sheltered places.

Oblivious of getting drenched, 14-year-old Aron packed his sports bag and started running towards his street. As he ran desperately, his panting covered his sobs, and the rains buried his tears. At least, for once he could cry freely. He took a longer than usual way to his house, which was no longer a home for him. He is still figuring out what might have happened within those 15 days when he last met his mother.

That day, as any other day, his mother had packed his lunch box and school bag in the morning. Although unwell, his mother got him ready for the school and the class test with every detail possible. She wished him luck and bade him bye with a very soothing and loving smile. Aron hugged her and boarded the van, packed with other children, to school. He could see through the rearview mirror his mother watching the van for long till it took a final turn out of the colony gate. Aron did not know that it would be the last sight of his dear mom.

Aron was the only child of his parents. His father was a hard-working man and worked for a pharmaceutical company. Although very caring, he was quite serious and talked very little. They lived in a small joint family with Aron’s old and affectionate grandmother staying with them. Aron’s mother was a homemaker and took care of every member very well. She was Aron’s best friend too. He could talk about everyone and everything with her. She would also know about his moods, likes and dislikes.

That day, after school, Aron was excited to tell his mother that he wrote his class test very well. There were other stories to be shared too, about teachers and friends and a lot many things. But that day, his mausi (maternal aunt), from the other end of the city, came to pick him up directly from the school. She told him that his parents and grandmother had to go suddenly to a distant relative’s place for a few days and until then Aron would be staying with her.

Aron was used to living with his mausi, mausa and two cousins oft and on. But often his mother accompanied him and if not, she used to prepare him with sufficient reasons. This time it was very unusual of his mother not to call or connect with him in any way for such a long separation. He asked his mausi and mausa but never got a clear answer. His father called him up once and told him that everything was fine. His mausi dropped and picked him up from school daily for the next two weeks, and 15 days passed in such abnormal normalcy.

On the 16th day, Aron’s father came to take him home. Aron was very excited to go back to his home and especially to his mother. Again, there were many many stories and incidents and definitely complaints to share. He had decided that he would not talk to his mother and express unhappiness over such a long separation.

As Aron reached home, he went straight to his room, hoping his mother would come coaxing and cajoling him. But more than 30 min passed, and no one called him. He started looking for his mother and found that none of her clothes or belongings were there. He asked his father if she had gone somewhere. Just then he noticed the cold eyes of his father looking towards the photograph of his mother on the wall with garlands all around.

Aron was shocked and his mind went blank. His grandmother hugged him and told him that his mother had gone to the heavenly abode. His father and grandmother assured him that everything would be fine and as normal as ever. He was told to be strong and mature to help and care for his father and ailing grandmother. They also insisted that he should continue going to school and visiting his friends as before.

With so many questions, emotions and tears blocked in his head, the child posed to live as ordinary as possible. But the closed box of emotions kept bombarding and turned into constant migraines. For three consecutive years, the child went through various kinds of medications and tests, but nothing eased his pain. It was then that he was referred to a psychologist.

After a few sessions for getting the grip of the situation and understanding the boy, he was made to vent out all his grief. With the help of psychotherapies, he was taken to the past situation and was set free to cry and express his anguish. All his suppressed questions and concerns were answered in subsequent sessions with his father.

Aron’s mother was ill with a terminal disease. This fact was concealed from him. He could have been aware of the illness systematically. He was full of remorse, guilt and anger towards his father. He could have made his mother’s days happier, at least he would not have troubled her for small things. He never got the opportunity to serve his mother well. He could then talk and cry freely with his father in the counsellor’s office. Soon the migraines were cured, and the boy started handling all situations very bravely and maturely.

One more important aspect was overlooked in the parenting approach above. It is about our religious processes, especially the ones related to the last rites. Almost all religions have their processes and rituals to deal with emotions steadily. The rituals take us through a systematic process that may even extend up to a complete year.

During the initial 10 to 15 days, a collective expression of grief with all other relatives and friends creates acceptance for the loss. This prepares the affected persons to carry on with their lives, duties and responsibilities. The process holds a very significant role, emotionally. From grief that adults usually take more than a month to come to normalcy, how can we expect a child to forget and easily move on?

It is very natural for parents to save their children from every pain and grief, especially when it comes to a close person’s demise. But how long can one avoid such exposure? After all, children will be facing the facts and the world one day and most probably without the shelter of their parents. Is it not safe for them to confront the world with care and guidance? But the question is are the parents or guardians themselves strong enough to handle such losses and also deal with their children’s distress? Well, if parents won’t find out positive ways, no one else will.

I still remember the day, when in my childhood we lost a close relative. My father told me to seek ‘darshan’ of the departed soul as he had merged with the Divine. (Darshan may be defined as looking at someone or something with reverence). Obviously, that was followed by a series of questions from me, but my father answered all of them with patience, and to the best of his awareness and knowledge. The knowledge might not have been relevant or correct, but the discussion itself gave me a lot of hope and emotional space for catharsis.

Jai Shri Hari 🙂