‘Jis tan laage so tan jaane.’ – this is a Punjabi phrase that means, “Only the one who suffers can know the suffering.”
Now I know what that means.
Now I know why support groups work. People who have had similar experiences can truly empathise with each other. I am sure others can ‘imagine’ how it must feel but they can’t know it. In fact, a frequent grievance amongst those bereaved through suicide is that even close friends and colleagues don’t understand what it is like. It is bewildering and isolating when that happens as quite often some of them are the ones we count on when things go wrong.
Why is it that some people can’t even extend their condolences for our loss? Irrespective of how our loved ones died, they did die. We lost someone dear to us forever. That surely is more important than how it happened. I think that often it is their own discomfort that stops them. May be they don’t want to upset us by bringing it up. I do not blame anyone for not understanding. They can’t. And similarly, I can’t understand what it is like for them to have someone like me around – recently bereaved.
Of course, I think it is ‘recent’. A friend who lost her child around the same time as I lost my son was told by a psychiatrist that she suffers from ‘Prolonged Grief Disorder (PGD).” It is defined by its symptoms, duration and intensity. The symptoms are yearning intensely for the person, identity confusion, difficulty accepting the loss, bitterness, emotional numbness, inability to trust others and feeling stuck in grief. These are present every day, cause significant distress and functional impairment and remain intense, frequent and disabling for six months or more after the death.
Isn’t this pure ‘medicalisation’ of the human condition?
I think I have PGD too. I belong to a community that does.
Through this painful experience, I have been very fortunate to experience overwhelming love and compassion from all around me. Despite the devastation of it, it has been life affirming. I shall always be grateful for that.
Firstly we don’t really know our own capacity for compassion.
Secondly, we can’t imagine the potential for our compassion to bring about transformation in our world.