Grief and Mantras
Until I lost my mother suddenly in the summer of 2014, I took life for granted.
As I saw her body in the morgue—I didn’t even get the chance to say a goodbye because she died while I was on my way to New Delhi—it hit me that I never once paused to think about life or the people in it or my habits and motivations.
Yes, life is beautiful and a gift…but it is also sudden and has a mind of its own.
My life, after my mom’s death, unintentionally got divided into before and after. Who I was and what I did before she died…who I became after her death. I almost didn’t recognize the person I used to be.
Mom’s heart betrayed us so suddenly that my heart changed.
Honestly, it took me a long time to heal. I went through different stages of grieving and the Type A New Yorker in me lingered on the “angry” phase for so long. Why? I had expectations. I secretly feared losing other loved ones.
I felt suffocated with the baggage of being an Indian American woman—where you are expected to do your duty and disregard your pride irrespective of how others treat you.
Despite being a writer, I was unable to give my own feelings a voice. I justified my status quo by over-victimizing myself. The truth is that the anger didn’t hurt anyone else but me. No one else lost sleep or peace of mind. No one else’s health deteriorated.
No one else was told by their doctor, “If you don’t change your ways, you might give yourself a cardiac arrest. Heart troubles run in your family. You are too young to die.”
A Change in Values
“The most fundamental aggression to ourselves, the most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves, is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently.” ~ Pema Chödrön
That’s when I realized that I had to do something. My mother did a lot extraordinary things for others. Hundreds of people showed up to her funeral and said the same thing:
“She did so much for me. She cooked all my favorite foods.”
So much of Mom’s life was about doing things for others and keeping them happy, but she sacrificed her own needs in the process.
I had subconsciously imbibed my Mom’s values.
1. Gratitude Prayer
Instead of wasting my time thinking about the pain of who didn’t show up during my family’s critical moments, I started focusing on those who were around.
People went out of their way to support my family and me.
By focusing on the positive and bowing my head with gratitude, my life started to feel fuller and enriched.
2. Adjust Your Attitude & Expectations
Truth is: people will disappoint.
Truth is: we have all disappointed someone.
Truth is: when we do things for others, we shouldn’t have expectations attached to them. You can’t change people but you can change your attitude.
3. Learn to Say No
If others take us for granted, we have allowed them to do so.
I grew up in a giving and nurturing family.
Over-extending and ignoring my own needs, and that’s the way I knew how to love and give attention. Being able to say “no” in the right situation can be empowering.
You start to respect yourself more.
4. Practice Self-care
It’s important to ask yourself what you need. I need 7 hours of sleep and some alone time every day to reflect. I am a better and more compassionate person.
Also, I don’t like wasting my time with dishonest and self-centered relationships.
Because I am passionate and authenticity is extremely important to me, the negative conversations stay with me.
So, to the extent possible, I remain mindful of whom I surround myself with.
5. Build Boundaries
We don’t always get to pick who stays in our life. Also, a lot of us are uncomfortable with being mean.
But, we always have the option of not allowing certain people into our inner space.
Add some distance. You have to protect yourself and your magic.
6. Practice Forgiveness
The Yoga Sutras say that to deal with difficult people, you needn’t accept their behavior.
But by forgiving and detaching from them, we stop obsessing about their behavior.
Doing so creates space for you in your life.
Think of it, why should any of us waste our precious life thinking about those who hurt us?
7. Let Go
Some relationships are not meant to be. Stop chasing people.
Stop trying to win the affection of those who emotionally exhaust you. Stop adding intention to other people’s actions.
Once you let go, you automatically start to acknowledge all the good in your life. So much of what we become is what our mind tells us, right?
8. Stop Victimizing Yourself
We are responsible for our lives. Don’t blame others when things go wrong. Don’t assume the world owes you anything.
Look inward for strength and you’ll be amazed.
We are a lot stronger and more capable than we allow ourselves to believe.
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