Sowbhagya arrived with Dosa for her breakfast. The dining table was converted to one of my four workstations but she managed to find space. She was trapped but I blame her. She did show interest. So I launched into the synopsis of Manjula and my story, written for Anita.
SB was immediately engaged and liked it. We both enthusiastically remembered Manjula: her character, her kindness, her fun. SB could see connections with her and other women’s experiences but also how she was especially adventurous, strong and independent in the face of so many challenges.
Last Saturday was the first session of Anita’s Attic. A programme for writers — yes, that’s me, officially a writer, of sorts — over the next twelve weeks.
There’s ten of us in the online group: taught, facilitated and mentored by Anita Nair.
Anita is a famous writer of English novels, here in India. My own favourite is Ladies Coupe and I hope that our story will feature similar expansive characters to help us discover more of India and wonderful people I’ve been fortunate to meet.
I have been part of an online therapeutic group with two young women and a therapist, for the past few weekends.
At our final session we were asked to creatively reflect on our journey and how the group has helped. Here’s my feeble effort.
The detail in this rich picture will be shared by the end of our story. Yes, I’m writing and it’s far from complete but it is progressing: at the pace of a snail slithering along on the shell of a tortoise that’s travelling backwards.
Please do feel free to guess what the different images represent. There maybe a prize.
The group been an incredible support and very productive to help me swim along the grief gravy river and keep my head above liquid.
Monisha Srichand, the group therapist is a skilled facilitator. She got the balance just right, providing enough structure, guidance and professional input so everyone felt comfortable and confident to share their own challenges whilst enabling us to provide insightful support to other members of the group. Highly recommended.
I’ve also posted details of the empty chair technique used in one of the sessions where you will also find contact details for Monashi and a network of therapists.
If you or anyone you know is dealing with grief and need help. I can recommend books, have a chat or recommend the therapist who facilitated our group.
“The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to.” ― Elizabeth Kubler-Ross
In my pursuit of new experiences and to help deal with my unwelcome friend: ‘grief’, I’ve joined an online therapeutic group.
In the group there’s four of us and we meet for two hours at a time. It’s been a great personal support, we’ve gained insights from each other and it’s helped us realise we’re not alone
It’s confidential so I’m not able to share any of the content but I want to compliment the therapist/facilitator and tell you about one of the techniques.
It’s called empty chair, and involves me talking to Manjula and then swopping chairs to talk to myself, as if I’m Manjula.
It is, but handled sensitively it’s powerful. I shift backwards and forwards in a continuing conversation ably facilitated, with gentle directions and questions. At the end, I reflect and everyone is able to chip-in.
So what’s the outcome?
I feel more positive through being able to chat with Manj. I understand better and realise how lucky we were to find each other.
It’s helped me articulate and continue to deal with my guilt. I’ve explained to Manjula what I failed to share before she died, to understand what she probably thought and create a narrative for dealing with the trauma and it’s aftermath.
She knows I am always there for her, understands I was stressed-out and unable to accept she was dying which limited my ability to be understanding and supportive or even know what to do.
I feel that I let her down and regret we didn’t say goodbye. It has however helped me recognise that I did what I could and have to accept what is.
I’ll improve my learning in this new discomfort zone and value Manjula in more ways, share her smile and kindness with others and give it to myself.
I’ve been able to hear from Manjula that she’s with me, loves and forgives. I recognise her strength and positive attitude and take that on board to guide me.
We are both able to go on with each others support, recall more of the positive, to accept what is, be there for each other, joke, recognise the wonderful life we had together and share our love.
I intend that we’ll meet again.
I feel less alone and commit to finishing our story.
The facilitator is the founder and Director of a countrywide network helping match counsellors to those in need. Do check it out. Please see below.
What does it make you think of? Where might it be from? Made of what?
My very good friend Jill, from England, emailed me today.
“I have been decluttering my ‘office’ now a junk room and found this among my treasures. It was in a box with my mother’s velvet evening bag”
“But what was even more surprising was what I saw when I turned it over and read what was underneath. How extraordinary! Who would have thought all that time ago – a link to somewhere that was to become so significant in your life.”
Jill and I used to work for a local council, in England, jointly managing part of social services. It was a great time in my life. There’s more info here
This was in the early 1990’s and we used all sorts of different techniques to help us innovate and develop a responsive service. I think this elephant was one of the awards we gave to thank our staff for their tremendous work. Jill and I had dressed up as a ringmaster and clown to give out the awards. No prizes for guessing who was who….
The significance of the elephant is the analogy we used and delivered in a workshop to all our staff. ‘Teaching the Elephant to Dance’ was about change and being sensitive to the individual needs of those who used our services.
There wasn’t any connection with India and it would be another fifteen years before I first visited the country and twenty before I moved here to live in Mysore.
A little bird told us that we might get a children’s and gym play area. To replace this mess. My initial thoughts are shock horror and against losing our quiet, relaxing natural park. I’ll be waiting a long time for the corporation’s consultation. Ha ha.
This annual Hindu event known in Mexico as the ‘day of the dead’ but of course, quite different, is known as Mahalaya Amavasya. We remember our loved ones and provide help and support for their journey to the next place. In our case to Manjula’s reincarnation.
Thank you to Sowbaghya, Satish and Vasanth for your loving kindness to Manjula. You made it very special.