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It’s those little things that make me remember.

During bed-time with my children reading Enid Blyton stories that she read to me or watching my silly dance moves on Abba songs. The sweet and tangy memories of her mango pickle – the recipe which she strictly guarded and joked about as the only legacy she wasn’t ready to leave behind! Maybe the precious diamond earrings she gave me when I got engaged. Something will trigger a memory and send a tiny yet strong little sting straight to your heart. I’m not ready to accept that my Grandma – she’s never coming back.

2020 or shall I say Covid-19 has robbed us all of many things…kissing my Grandma one last goodbye, not being able to see her rest in peace and hugs from family nearly 5000 miles away was one among them.

And I know I’m not the only one with this experience.

But you know it’s tough to get over losing someone you love, continue to try and learn how to live with it; live with the guilt of not being able to see them -one last time just to say the final goodbyes.

For me, it was my first experience of losing a loved one in my adult life and my Grandma was the only grandparent I knew for most of my adult life. Did that make it harder?

Flashback to the 80s and 90s in a time before iPhones and Netflix and Peppa Pig, my summer holidays revolved around everything my grandparents did – playing at my grandfather’s clinic with his stethoscope pretending to be a doc or trying on my grandmas’ old platform heels from the 70s. It was all really fascinating.

I was fascinated by the stories that my late grandfather and grandmother would tell me -stories of the time they arrived from India to the UK during the early 50s, of the time my grandfather studied for his FRCS in Edinburgh, of the decision to return back to India after completing his studies to take up a surgeon’s job that was ‘more suited’ to his merits (things were different in the 50s !). Somehow I think that it is because of them that life has gone around a full circle for me. I still remember jumping in absolute joy at the opportunity when I was selected for an international secondment to the UK nearly 15 years back- and I’m still here with a successful career!

It’s been four months but I often catch myself now and then looking through my phone’s photo album for the last picture memories with my Grandma and shutting it down or sometimes picking up the phone to call her and quickly realizing I can’t.

It’s also nearly the festive season. It’s also a time when days are colder, darker and bleaker – and we’re meant to be cheering ourselves up with festive, family rituals. Soon there’ll be glinting lights peering through the drapes of the hall and the aroma of freshly made cakes and cookies wafting in from the kitchen often reminding us of the good times with our family and friends.

And compounded with Covid-19 and local lockdowns for many of us, not being able to meet friends and families, it will be a time for feelings of grief to creep up and remind us of loved ones who are no longer around.

Grief has been a universal feature this year. But it’s not often that we’ve all felt it the same way and all at the same time.

I’m not an expert, but here are some ideas that are top of my list. Hope they’ll help you cope if this time of year is difficult for you. Of course, grief is not always about losing a loved one. There could be many other reasons this year why you may not feel as merry this festive season – whether you’re celebrating Diwali or Christmas or like my multi-faith family –  both!

  1. Use social media thoughtfully : Don’t allow perfectionism to wear you down: Remember that the glowing portrayals on social media don’t necessarily represent reality. Many people will find these festivals and holidays difficult, even if they aren’t sharing those feelings openly on social media.
  2. Ask for help: Don’t be afraid to reach out. It’s important to  have someone to speak to, share your feelings with. Don’t think you’re on your own
  3. Help others: Wherever you’re spending the festive season/holidays, helping someone can give you a sense of meaning. Buying presents for those who aren’t able to afford this year or make a donation in the name of your loved-one (all can be done online if you’re not able to do so in person).
  4. It’s okay to enjoy this time: You might find it difficult to celebrate when you’re missing someone you love or those you simply cannot meet because of travel restrictions. You might experience a whole range of emotions. Getting together within your social bubbles (virtually or physically!) may be a chance to remember the good times and to laugh.
  5. Remember that this is not forever and you’re not alone: I read somewhere that grief is like a bruise that slowly disappears with time. Although things are hard at the moment, it won’t always be like this.

I’ll be remembering what my Grandma always said to me – Count yourself as blessed and be grateful for the things you have. So, just remember to be gentle to yourself, be kind to others and do what feels best for you.

Tomorrow will be brighter!