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To Be Happy, Learn How To Be Sad

26/02/2015 8:15 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:24 AM IST
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Photofusion via Getty Images
Card showing faces 'very happy' to 'very sad' so child can realte an expression to how they are feeling. (Photo by: Photofusion/UIG via Getty Images)

During one of the lowest phases of my life, when I was battling depression, I consulted a psychologist at a hospital in New Delhi. That was seven years ago. That visit taught me more than my 19 years of hard-earned education did. I had gone through a very bad heartbreak, which at that point I thought I would never get over. It broke all that I was - my self-image, my confidence and, most importantly, my self- worth. The world seemed to evaporate into thin air, with me as a lone bystander. Asking for help was one of the best decisions I ever took.

Throughout the session, my psychologist pinpointed that more than heartbreak I was dealing with feelings of abandonment. We traced these feelings back to my childhood, back to the death of my father. My psychologist said, "You never mourned the death of your father. You felt abandoned due to his sudden death. And now that this guy suddenly left you, your old feelings are triggered."

Now at 30, when I am more aware and evolved about life, I look back at myself the day my father expired. I was just over 10 years old. I remember vividly how every adult told us that things were going to be okay, that we had to be strong and study hard to make our dad proud. The thing with children is that they trust adults. And that's what we did. We studied and worked hard. But deep within, nothing felt the same. It hurt. We were sad, angry, frightened, abandoned and mostly we missed our dad, whom we loved. Personally, I missed the man whose presence made my world go round. I learned to deny that loss and years passed by living in denial. I became an escapist. I ran from anything and everything that could make deeper emotions surface. In a way, I was a mess inside. There were too many emotions within that I could not understand. My family thought I was a rebel, my friends thought I was cool and my teachers thought I needed to work hard. The only person who could not think of who I was, was myself. I repressed every feeling that hurt until I hit rock bottom. It took me years to sort out myself.

This is where our society fails us. One generation fails the other. No one tells us honestly that it will take time. No one tells us that things will never be the same again but that it's still going to be okay after that. No one accepts that we are going to be broken. And it's okay, some things break us terribly, but we grow out of it. The problem with our society is that everyone lives in denial about the need to grieve.

When my best friend left me for a different group of friends after school, I was told that she was not worth my friendship and I should not even think of her. I acted the same. But I missed her so much. In fact I felt deep within that I was not worthy of that love and friendship. I chose to be aggressive. Once I wrote a poem for her and someone laughed saying that I indulged in unnecessary pursuits, crying over people who were useless. But deep within, I felt undeserving. The saga continued. Later in life, no matter how "cool" I looked from outside, I carried that feeling of unworthiness and abandonment within. This is what escapism does. I tried escaping each and every hurt until it took me to the edge.

We all age, but few grow up. We are all children walking as adults in this world. We are led to believe that growing up is to be strong and not feel too much. As a society, we love to escape. We love happy faces, we love happily-ever-after stories, so we want to do away with anything that is sad. We tell friends that it's going to be fine. No one is okay with grieving and breaking down. But when we do not grieve after any form of loss, that grief is not transformed - it is transferred to something else. Most of the time, we transfer it in our relationships. If we do not heal our hurts, even with the best of our intentions, we will manifest them in another way, which will trigger them even more. Until we accept and heal, we will create more and more violence out in the world. The day I broke down and cried and accepted my loss after almost 20 years, I stopped being aggressive. I stopped waiting for acceptance. This is what mourning does. It takes away the broken shreds within us. Tears cleanse us from within.

Our society teaches us to celebrate victory, but very rarely teaches us to grieve loss. As a society we need to accept that grieving is as important as rejoicing and there is a time for both.

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