It is a curious thing, the death of a loved one. We all know that our time in this world is limited, and that eventually all of us will end up underneath some sheet, never to wake up. And yet it is always a surprise when it happens to someone we know. It is like walking up the stairs to your bedroom in the dark, and thinking there is one more stair than there is. Your foot falls down, through the air, and there is a sickly moment of dark surprise as you try and readjust the way you thought of things.
Life and death are two sides of the same coin. What is born will die some day - that is the universal truth. And yet, we are never prepared to deal with loss. In my life, I have witnessed and experienced up close and personal several people dealing with difficult situations on the news of demise.
What I've realized is that when you go, people usually remember you for the way your touched their lives, what you taught them, what you made them realize and the difference you made (through your silences, words, deeds) to them in the larger scheme of life.
Most times, one's world is turned upside down and only time can possibly heal and sometimes time can never really heal and one continues living with the memories.
In 2020, I have heard this news so many times than I have ever heard in my life. Here, I am sharing few important things which can be done on the news of demise. The intent is really to share the learning's from personal experiences.
One of the realities of today is that there are several patients dealing with chronic illness where organ transplantation is probably their only chance at leading a better quality of life. And the other fact is that there is always a dearth of organs for any kind of organ transplantation. Hence, cadaver organ donation is increasingly becoming an important source of organs like eyes, kidneys, etc. If one has already been registered to donate any organ (for e.g.: eyes), contact the corresponding agencies immediately to initiate this. There is only a specified time window up to which this is feasible and hence sooner the process is initiated the better! From my experience, most of these agencies are extremely efficient in their operations and ensure that they take immediate action.
However, in most cases this is not something which occurs to people in such situations and many people I know regret it later. An aunty of mine who is very dear to me lost her husband a few months ago. When we spoke , she told me that if someone had just suggested it to her, she would be definitely open to organ donation. She said "At least he will continue to live on in some way and that would mean a lot to me"
[PS: This one is not always possible, especially during the times of pandemic.]
Next and more important, inform people who need to know. This includes family, friends, people who cared about him / her, people whom he / she cared about. This is usually difficult to do because everyone wants to know "How it happened?", "When it happened?", "Why it happened?".. and that's not easy to repeat. The best way is to ask someone else in your inner network (uncle, aunt, cousin, close friend, etc.) to do it. If you can't do it immediately, then ensure you inform people over time. From my experience, generally such news spreads rapidly by word of mouth. So if you inform a few people in your inner network, they spread the message (even if you don't ask them). Creating a simple message which can be easily be re-shared digitally can be another medium to communicate to the world at large.
Everyone deserves to be given respect - and definitely during the last rites. The one thing which is important is to be "fully present" in those last moments because you will never really have a "physical" glimpse of them every again! And the best way to do this is to keep your mobiles switched off during this time.
At some funerals, people are talking on their mobiles, playing games, tweeting and even on FaceBook in the middle of such proceedings! I personally find this very disrespectful! I mean if you've come to pay your respects to someone, then focus on that! The games, Twitter, FaceBook, etc. can wait! I think its better to not go than to be disrespectful at a funeral!
This is the most important part of healing and coming to terms with life. The initial few days are usually filled with calls, people and things to do that somehow one does not get time to "truly mourn". But mourning is an important part of recovery. For some it is being alone. For some it is in donations. For some it is keeping themselves extremely busy. For some it is in writing. For some it is in social work. For some it is in teaching. For some it is in art. For some it is with children. For some it is in religious activities. For some it is in spirituality. Whatever be you preferred way to mourn, do it! And what I've realized is that it is also important for people to cry! - You can cry alone or with someone, in private or public. But ensure that the tears flow! There is something liberating about crying - especially when you are dealing with the loss of someone you deeply loved!
The reality is that people have to live life in spite of the loss. There are things to do, bills to be paid, stuff to be sorted, etc etc. - A zillion things come your way and suddenly everything gets so overwhelming. This is one time when most people usually need all the help in the world. And usually don't ask as emotions are high and mind is scattered.
If you are going through a phase when you need help, ask for it. More often than not, others will help. And if you see someone around you going through this phase, extend help in whatever way you can. Sometimes just listen. Sometimes just help with everyday chores. Sometimes just do things which need to be done like paying bills, Sometimes just keep quiet and don't offer your advice or opinions, etc. And if you need professional help, then explore it. Also, there are several online resources which can help in dealing with your emotions during this vulnerable phase. One good example is a site called Live with Loss run by Suraj Shah who is Bereavement support visitor in addition to a writer and speaker.
The period immediately after demise is the most painful for those who have been in the same living environment. Not only are the memories very strong, but the absence is immensely felt on a day to day basis for the simple everyday routine! And hence it is important to be amidst the company of others. Else, there is a high chance that you will end up feeling sad, depressed and miserable by the end of every day. There is something about "being physically alone" which triggers "loneliness - emotionally and mentally" and this can be terrifying, depressing and unnerving. So try not to be alone. Either stay with family or friends for a few days or ask someone to stay with you for a few days!
One of the most important aspects is to re-organize your finances. Take a stock of where things are. Plan for the financial security of the future. Initiate the process of insurance claims and transfer of assets, as applicable. For e.g.: Bank money transfers, Fixed Deposit transfers, Share transfers, Fixed asset transfer (like land, house, etc.).
If there is a will, this is a lot easier, Else you may need the help of a lawyer. The fact is that most of the financial transactions take time to complete, and hence the sooner you initiate the better. And in the mean time if you need financial assistance, don't hesitate to ask for help! Again, most people in your inner network will help even without asking. You don't need to deal with unnecessary issues during this phase at least!
1) Check your own personal nominee details for existing financial investments and ensure it is updated regularly. I know of several cases where the process of recovery and settlement of finances was very difficult simply because the nominee details were not updated or were incorrectly updated.
2) Create a will for yourself. Life is so much easier for those around you if there is a documented will.
Find ways to keep their memory alive. And while most of us focus on the memories and re-live them in many ways, what is also important is to celebrate the achievements and successes of those you lost and also be grateful for the big / small things they taught you (consciously / unconsciously).
Finally what one leaves back is a legacy. And while financial legacy is what most people focus on in their life, I honestly believe there are many aspects to your legacy worth thinking about. If you are interested to read more about personal legacy, click here.
On that note, I'll end stating that dealing with death is never easy. But time can possibly heal so life moves in.
Nischala is the Global Marketing Head at Wipro. She is a new age marketer who enjoys work which has a jazz and bass of logic, creativity and making a global impact. She is also an advisor / mentor with several global initiatives involving startups, technology consortia and #WomenAtWork communities. Her expertise is to craft and design high impact marketing strategies for emerging and high growth technology areas like blockchain, AI, next generation solutions. She believes the equation to marketing success is moving the dot from mind-share to market-share to profit-share. Her claim to fame is being among India's 2017 Top 100 Brand & Content Custodians, a TEDx talk, being among Twitterati and featuring in several global "Best in blogging" lists. Nischala holds an MBA from IIM Bangalore. You can follow her on Twitter @nimu9