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  • Raghav Sand

Hyper-polite Obituaries, but Bitter Otherwise

Death is inevitable. As human beings we have a finite life, and how the curtain falls is uncertain. Decent people never speak ill of the dead, while everyone writes and speaks well in obituaries and remembrance meets, respectively. Once the soul has left for the heavenly abode, we can witness an outpouring of kind words. Sadly, it took the death of a person to bring a sense of closure to hostilities and ill will. What if those involved in a dysfunctional and resentful association, would have made peace earlier?

Overwhelm is a feeling we all have from time to time. With the state of our world right now, it’s no wonder that more of us are experiencing the pain, confusion, and panic that can come with so much uncertainty. Death is not graph or number – it is cessation of life. It results in inevitable modification to the lives of surviving family members and friends.

Obituaries: Then and Now

Prior to the industrial revolution and advent of modern transport and communication networks, an individual was known and remembered within their community or town. A couple of centuries ago, only public figures found mention in obituaries. Men were remembered as brave, hard-working, and disciplined, while women were portrayed as gentle, kind and pious.

With the passage of time, as the world became flat, people’s innovation began to create an impact across continents. When such distinguished individuals died, tributes transcended international borders. Capitalism modified the tone of obituaries. People were now paid respect for their wealth and associations. Very few women found mention in obituaries and this trend has continued since time immemorial.

Words and phrases like, could have, should have, could not have, and should not have, are consciously avoided in obituaries. This unwritten code of conduct helps in healing all sorts of wounds. In current times, newspaper pages are filled with obituaries and remembrance notes. Condolence meet is held online and a designated link for the Zoom meeting is shared for family members, friends and acquaintances.

Social media has completely revised the mourning code. Someone from the social circle of the deceased starts a post or thread and others pay their respect through comments or replies. Some try to use this platform to cleanse their conscience and finally let go. They believe that the phrase ‘better late than never’ applies to their situation, though such an action is a feel-good exercise. Using decorative words or pasting a copied template for obituaries is disrespectful and inhuman. Try to keep it personal and precise. The regret of not making any effort to reconcile, can fill such a person with regret.

Healing in Isolation

Trauma needs healing. It is important for the surviving well-wishers of the departed soul. We are not in a position to organize or attend a prayer meet at the present moment. Family members are not able to console each other with a hug and the absence of human touch has made ‘letting go’ tougher than ever before. The Covid-19 virus has made it impossible to be at loved one’s bedside. Family and friends of the terminally ill can only witness the suffering through a glass and in the unfortunate event of death, they don’t even get the opportunity to cremate or bury one of their own.

When someone from our family is battling organ failure due to age related issues or is dying because of a road mishap or cancer, they at least get a compassionate sending off. Though, when it comes to death from viruses like Covid-19, the corpse is stuffed in a bag and all the rituals and formalities are done by local health and municipal personnel. At this point of time, a handful of people who knew the deceased may feel hollow. Do you hold a grudge against someone? Are you waiting for their demise to forgive them and move on? You may choose to forgive and not tell them about it. As soon as possible, initiate the process of forgiveness, internally.

Explore New Opportunities

Holding back does more harm to you than anyone else. You can keep your distance, both physical and emotional, from certain people, and still coexist peacefully. If letting go is a conscious decision, so is holding a grudge.

Forgiveness is a two-way street and it is not necessary for the parties to make the move at the same time. Getting another person to change his or her actions, behaviour or words isn’t the point of forgiveness. Think of forgiveness more about how it can change your life — by bringing you peace, happiness, and emotional healing.

Forgiveness can take away the power the other person continues to wield in your life. Remember, however, you can’t force someone to forgive you. Others need to move to forgiveness in their own time. Whatever happens, commit to treating others with compassion, empathy and respect.

We all fall prey to the sunk-cost bias from time to time, which is when we sink more time / money / effort into a losing proposition because we’ve already spent so much time / money / effort on the project at hand and we can’t bear to cut our losses. We keep investing more time / money / effort in the hopes that things will turn around for the better, not realizing it doesn’t matter how much more energy we invest, this is a sinking ship.

Forgiving does not mean that you will not do what is needed. It is very important that you never forget the sweetest and the bitterest moments in your life. You must always remember them. To forgive means you do not carry any bitterness in you, because it destroys your life. Forgetting means you have poor memory – that is not a virtue.

Letting go is a difficult concept in business and in life. Part of you feels like you’re losing or failing at something. The other side, though, is you’re opening yourself up to new possibilities. The concept of letting go matters because you can’t hold on to and stay open to new possibilities at the same time. You have to choose.

What if You Need Forgiveness?

The first step is to honestly assess and acknowledge the wrongs you’ve done and how they have affected others. Avoid judging yourself too harshly. If you’re truly sorry for something you’ve said or done, consider admitting it to those you’ve harmed. Speak of your sincere sorrow or regret, and ask for forgiveness — without making excuses.

Surround Yourself With Positivity

This simple yet powerful tip can help carry you through a lot of hurt. We can’t do life alone, and we can’t expect ourselves to get through our hurts alone, either. If none of the above appeals to you, then you might want to take the advice of Oscar Wilde: “Always forgive your enemies. Nothing annoys them so much.” Relieve yourself and your alleged adversaries and don’t let the surviving person spend the remainder of their time with guilt and regret.

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