Dealing with Grief in a Pandemic

Written by on in My views

Namaste, Dear Music Lover,

While about 90%+ of this blog-site is devoted to singing, specifically for movie playback music in Bollywood, there are some off-topics that I simply cannot ignore, because for example, my heart 💜 is pulled in the direction of those dealing with the tragic consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic that has persistently troubled us, and often, people seek to lay blame and point at those they believe or imagine caused it.

My 💜 for our beloved India in crisis.
We will endure this, Dear Music Lover!

In the case of airborne viral infections, we know basically how to deal with them: arming ourselves with protective gear like face masks, we avoid close contact with large groups of those personally unknown to us, and though we are still in the early stages of giving everyone free vaccinations against the virus, we remain hard at work on multiple fronts in research, vaccine production and its local as well as global distribution.

Like those who’ve been so generous and impactful helping others, I genuinely want to help, even though my only role may be trying to help raise consciousness. We can all learn more and do better. Still, my reach/ability to help remains limited.

In such efforts (getting those willing to help involved), there’s usually a timeline (for conquering an epidemic/pandemic) that can proceed no faster than either vaccines are distributed or they’re administered. So like any complex problem, often a mixup or failure in one aspect can delay the overall planned outcome.

While it’s not up to me personally to declare such public health threats as severe or at any point under control, we do know that India has long been one of the key vaccine producers—for this virus, even India’s efforts in pioneering vaccine technology and its global production are being challenged beyond any formerly-challenging parameters.

Dear Music Lover, we must not seek to target any specific country or individuals for blame when considering a global pandemic of such a virtually unprecedented scope. No country or interest group (nor likely even a rogue/terrorist organization) could very readily put such a monstrous plan/threat into action. Therefore, seeking to lay blame is both as unproductive as it would be futile. Epidemics happen periodically, whether we can categorize them as “substantially similar” events or not.

We must focus on the practical matters at hand, and dispel the rumors and falsehoods that tend to fuel the strange dissent seeking to politicize simple safety precautions like face mask wearing, hand washing and social distancing (as well as viral immunology leading to novel coronavirus immunizations), as if some vast liberal conspiracy means to burden them—and cause people to suffer—when in reality, such safety precautions are neither difficult nor costly to implement; they are simply some commonsense daily practices that anyone can apply… and the bottom line is: doing them SAVES LIVES.

Drinking It All Away? (Nah: Too Temporary!!)

For the lattermost reason alone, I’m “down for the cause” and if we look around, so many high-profile people in Bollywood and in both the scientific and medical fields are stepping up to help!! Those who engage in so-called “vaccine hesitancy” aren’t helping anyone. It’s time for us all to do our parts, even if that only amounts to getting doses of the vaccines that we know are effective. PLEASE: Help yourself first in order to help everyone else in the end!

As I’ve noted here before, if we want to do what’s right, we can sensibly begin by trying to protect others from any viral matter that we could be carrying (unless we just exited a surgical scrub room spotlessly clean wearing fresh rubber gloves)! Then of course we also need to look after ourselves. But before I get into the main topic of coping with grief, let’s take a quick detour…

Let’s take a moment to see how several of our Bollywood movie heroes are making differences for the cause of our national public health and safety. If you watch some of the statements in videos, you’ll see that our leading actors also have the larger planet in view, because as Priyankaji notes, if even one of us is affected, we’re all affected.

At this juncture, I feel drawn [as perhaps an ‘emerging’ nascent ‘celebrity’] to point my gaze toward offering only the most supportive words and pictures I can share in order to be of some service to others. I will (actually, my web team will) add some links and images here that may help us to look more realistically at the situations we face. Talking about very serious problems is never itself the best/sole solution, but even the conventional take on problem solving contends that clearly stating the problem is a great initial step toward its resolution.

Until we know what we’re facing, it’s impossible to formulate any best-possible responses. Even once we’re armed with the knowledge of what we’re fighting, we’ll still need ongoing resolve from all quarters and followthrough on a host of individual matters that when carefully addressed by our most skilled experts, will still present some extremely unpleasant obstacles (and occasional dire outcomes that are often unpredictable, hence at times also largely unsolvable).

Thoughts can be helpful, worries are hurtful.

But even in this awful pandemic, scientists and health pros have led the charge to both develop medical treatments (like vaccines and other proven interventions—before or after people are infected) and to espouse the most effective practices like hand-washing and mask wearing for daily safety.

I want to note here that everyone has potential for a win-win. By taking the precautions advised by our health experts, we can be part of the processes that save lives of our fellow inhabitants and by so doing those arguably noble acts, we definitely also act on our own behalf to protect ourselves (as well as those nearest to us).

Let’s also take a moment to honor the stunning contributions of our dedicated healthcare people, stepping up to seemingly impossible odds and heroically moving forward for people to find the times, places and ways to heal! So whether you choose to see your role as reluctant cooperator or zealous true believer, my point is that if you’d rather be part of solutions instead of problems, the path to success is fairly straightforward, and in no part mysterious. There’s never been a better time to take part and follow through on not only safety precautions, but constructive, patient and helpful dialogues with those needing guidance.

Some people have made wild assertions that the entire viral threat was planned as a sort of dystopian scheme to reduce the planet’s population for the goal of better quality of life for the survivors. Or another crackpot conspiracy theory blames Microsoft founder/philanthropist Bill Gates in a scheme claiming the financial elites want to inject tracking devices embedded in the vaccines!

Dear Music Lover, each of us is already being logged and tracked almost constantly by our use of the global communications network we depend upon as well as security cameras in every direction. The downside of this is loss of privacy (in public places!); the upside is many criminals are readily apprehended.

Likewise, the proliferation of camera-enabled mobile devices lessens privacy; nevertheless it enables easy documentation of people acting badly or even criminally. Smartphone cameras also help music fans to capture glimpses of (or if abused, to pirate) live music performances. I may explore this conundrum in a future post.

I cannot categorically disprove or offer detailed debunking of anyone’s crackpot paranoid conspiracy theories, but I can tell you that many other better-informed experts in medicine and other sciences have pored over the literature from the last (1918 so-called “Spanish Flu epidemic”) pandemic, and no rational mind has given real weight to any such theory as this situation was wanted and planned by anyone (and whether any such presumedly-vulnerable people as us were targeted for extermination or not).

One fact I can share with you is this: if you choose to do nothing or to act defiantly and refuse to cooperate with those of us who want as many as possible to survive/avoid illness, you will not be helping, and likely may be contributing to our collective doom. Now, I’m not one prone to calling out bogey men and to pointing an accusing finger at this or that individual or agency or even multinational concern as responsible for the problem or solely to blame.

I have been conflated with a young woman who passed away in 2019 who was my namesake and reported on some government quarters’ malfeasance ‘torturing’ various victims and covering it up. In other words, old-style well-documented corruption/abuse. In other words, government as it’s been known for millennia.

While I may have been in accord with some of her reporting, had she completed it, the other Antara Mitra was never me, nor was I her. Mine is hardly the name Anita Patel, but there are more than one human with my name (more than a handful of us, though my dear Maa and Baba often noted that I was a sound-producing handful from my earliest years)!

That other Antara was a dear, civic-minded crusader who sadly lost her life to cancer. But her cause remains to her survivors. Heaven knows there is sufficient time and blame to be assigned as appropriate to whichever bad actors deserve investigative inquiries. But again, such finger pointing rarely has any good purpose or outcome, except to reach something like justice. May she rest in everlasting peace, and if her spirit is reincarnated, my gift-wish for her is a happy next life.

I’m also not telling you that I think we must acquiesce to all manner of oppressive measures in order to save a few lives—although surely every life has value (that is generally immeasurable, except to their loved ones, to whom their unplanned deaths often seem so unfair/unwarranted).

Another popular coping mechanism maintains that when one finds a chance, life is far too short not to engage in a bit of retail therapy. One can fantasize how Janhviji might dress for a fun social outing, when lively gatherings are back (and have a go at one’s most stylish look for the season)…

Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my full-length shot.

What I hope to be able to enunciate here is that each of us may find ways and means to instead of focusing on grief, pain and loss, focus on our gratitude for life thus far lived, with hope that our demise isn’t looming nearby due to some careless or misguided acts of those negatively predisposed against us.

In other words, how awful does it seem that people in XYZ industry or group chose to be irresponsible and to then ignore the health experts’ calls for sane practices like social distancing simply because they ‘can’t be bothered’! They subscribe to a no-evidence conspiracy theory? Well in Bollywood, most of us would say: not at all so much! Or is that naw tat tall (and sounds a bit tipsy to me)?

(I don’t know how many of our dear music-loving community feel compelled to take issue with minimal safety measures like mask wearing. I simply suspect that vaccine doubters or hesitaters in this industry are very few in number. Also, movie makers used to taking the lead on most social issues (health definitely being one thereof!). I don’t know when public health would become so politicised, but we regard health as a human rights issue common to all.

As I’ve said before here, I don’t do this blog to posit my personal views as if I’m the only person on the WWW with valid thoughts and hopes. Nor am I ready to micro-manage your daily activities. But seriously, friends: Trust the science; do the right things! This whole mess is actually going to be manageable, even though at times it all seems so hopeless in the midst of the pain & suffering.

Think flowers, get flowers. Think pain, get pain?

I have faith that we will work together to resolve any matters that tend to separate us based on theories like alleged conspiracies… and instead of falling prey to the negativity, we will instead muster our resolve and face our challenges head-on. Whether we can trust or rely on XYZ other country to have the most effective impact on our situation remains a rather moot matter. We remain global leaders in serum production and will need to remain same, even while boosting our efforts to the Nth (ultimate) degree.

But like life in general in more “normal” times, we’re faced with many choices as to unexpected issues, and I feel that gradually, as people continue to act responsibly and we stem the tide of this pandemic—both in India, and as we also continue to produce for global export, around the planet—we can all take comfort in the knowledge that rather than give up and succumb to our demise, we can rise and stand triumphant and as an example to our neighbors and future generations.

LOL, sorry for the prerun! This post was
written in stream-of-consciousness form.

We can defeat this virus—and many others that we had or hadn’t known (as well as new ones that may arise without warning). It’s not all as simple as a movie or TV show plot, nor will it all be behind us in a matter of 6-18 months. These viruses are already pervasive and they’re mutating and spreading in unpredictable ways.

Yes, some viral threats are predictable and readily manageable, but we have no reliable predictors from which to build reliable models for strategizing how to cope with the various problems they present. While many things are and will remain mysterious, fortunately some aspects of this predicament are both familiar and definitely manageable (not easy, but we have ways and means to deal effectively with them).

What I’m driving toward is the simple reality of how people deal with the stresses and issues brought on by pandemics. There’re many ways!

One pervasive problem in every pandemic is death. Sorry to state it so bluntly! It’s an unhappy but factual part of every life. However we do know how to deal with dead humans. Now, certainly not all who contracted Covid-19 have died. In fact, most people so afflicted easily survive (and are thought to then have sufficient immunity to avoid future similar suffering for some time).

The magnitude of the losses is staggering and far from over, and many who’ve contracted the virus have long term health impacts. Looking away won’t help them to recede or become invisible, nor will it heal anyone. ☹️

We don’t need to reinvent the wheel, so to speak. We simply have to use wheels as we already know how. We do have substantial literature and practical expertise in all facets of medical practice. Grief counseling is certainly a well-known activity that has evolved into a fairly effective set of measures intended to offer guidance and comfort to survivors. Many creatives throw themselves into their work to distract from their struggles. A few seem to get all the “lucky breaks”—but careers are built upon accomplishments more than raw talent, anyhow.

Partner Dance Is More Fun

The 7 Stages of Grief are well documented. I’m no expert in them, but I can attest to having seen people who have suffered losses of family members or friends learn how to process their emotions and move forward with their lives albeit without their recently dearly departed… and obviously, it’s not about overcoming the grief in one fell swoop. It IS about looking after ourselves, and I’ve made it a particular cause of mine to urge those who could benefit from it to GET HELP with their troubles in the form of a legitimate licensed pro therapist.

It’s more about learning to identify our feelings and instead of letting them defeat our hopes, we firm up our resolve to honor the lives now lost to us by applying our own actions in positive, hopeful and spirit-driven ways, leading to future moments of peace based in the knowledge that those we’ve loved will continue to remain with us in spirit somehow (in at least the sense that we were fortunate enough to meet and know them). Fond memories can be an ongoing font of moral support so key to moving forward even in their sudden absence.

While some could argue that we’re simply convincing ourselves that things are better than they really are, at any time and in any place, decisions are ours to make: whether we choose to remain stuck in grief, resentment for being dealt losses and enduring discomforting emotions like hopelessness that (left unchecked) could eventually swallow us up too… or we can choose to triumph. Note: grieving takes time. Give yourself all of the time you needit’s among the best ways (if not the only way) to real healing! Do you imagine yourself immune to grief? That’s easy: no one is!

How that triumph can be manifested will in every case play out over months and years. It’s perhaps a highly useful point to consider that however we decide to respond (or to hide from any sad reality) is pivotal to our ongoing happiness or sadness. Long-term sadness manifests in clinical depression. In most western countries, medicine has addressed depression with a widely prescribed pharmaceutical strategy—as if one or another pill can erase something as awful as the loss of a loved one.

Again, I’m not here to preach to you, Dear Music Lover. Just know this: if your body is bleeding, the next rational course of action is to stop the bleeding (preferably with a sterile bandage intended for that use). Or whichever similar analogy strikes your fancy. Just know that left unchecked, most problems are bound to be worsening rather than disappearing.

When all too many of our human counterparts are caught up in emotional turmoil resulting from grief, one traditional so-called remedy is to try to turn away and to thereby seek to remove (or at least block out) some of the emotional severity. But that has no long-term benefit while grief remains unaddressed. Instead, experts recommend dealing with grief like other afflictions.

First, being careful to avoid the blunders of clumsy joking as if to minimize the loss/grief. We don’t need to elevate our suffering as if there’s nothing else of importance in our lives. But if it’s hurting us as it is, we must at least acknowledge the situation and make some efforts to cope with and to eventually minimize or eliminate it from our everyday activities. (Not to pretend that the loss never occurred, nor that those we lost never lived.)

Also, not trying to unrealistically present their lives as more perfect than they were, but trying to face the facts of their departure from amidst us, and to resolve to go forward—as they surely would want us to do! We can’t bring them back from death, but we can go on with our lives and find balance and contentment without their exactly-former presence.

So, for those who’ve lost parents, siblings, or even (God forbid) children, there must be ways to continue to live with purpose and dignity and to avoid allowing ANY setbacks (no matter how disturbing) to rule our present and future lives. While they’re no guaranteed or proven formula for happiness, I hope that my simple statements of obvious facts here can at least help guide you to some better coping mechanisms, and in wrapping this message/blog post, I simply want to give you permission to love yourself and to give yourself sufficient room to breathe and to handle your emotions constructively rather than self-destructively. You can do it!!

In closing, I can assure of something important to remember: Your favorite creative teams in Bollywood are devoted in their firm resolve to give you movies that help us all to process grief and to have the moral fortitude to address the many issues ahead for us all. While this is (thanks, God!) NOT WAR, it is much like one in that we need abundant resources of all types to be researched, planned and properly executed to ensure our ongoing human existence.

Life brings disappointment, worry
and loss. No one is “too old to cry.”

Part of that overall effort is certainly dealing with loss and the grief it portends. Not to pretend it’s a quickly passing phase or inconvenience, but a set of inescapable realities that one must need to address for the rest of one’s life if one’s to thrive as a survivor. There are countless stories of people who faced the most horrendous situations and lived to tell the stories of how they overcame or at least handled those things as well as they could given their circumstances. I could elaborate about my own struggles or those of some of my friends and loved ones, but rather than load up this post with more words of intrigue and heated survival battles, I’ll close with some uplifting thoughts about reaching conclusions too hastily offered by a modern global sage and educator, Swami Mukundananda.

May you handle your struggles mightily and persevere much like my devoted manservant who insists that yes, I am pretty enough to please the love of my life without unnecessary drama. If you need help processing your grief: please get yourself some help!! No one could know your needs better than you yourself. In the end, you’ll be doing the work to lighten your emotional load.

Namaste,

♫ AM ♫

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