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A Discussion on Coping with Grief

Last week I had the honor to be featured on Grace Tahir‘s Iso-Late Show Episode 30 with Grace Tahir and Intania Fajar from Janda Becanda (The Widow Jokes) Podcast. It was a rainy afternoon with bad internet on my part. The discussion on coping with grief was solid though. I didn’t know Tania (Intania’s nickname), and she didn’t know me, but we connected through our mutual experiences.

So many people have experienced losses recently. Thus I share some of our key takeaways with the hope that it will help readers who are processing grief.

Key Takeaway 1. Instinct before sudden death.

Some people have an instinct that their loved one is about to die. This was the case with Tania. She was in Manila, and Joel (her husband) was in Hong Kong about to fly to Manila when he got into an accident. He died in the Hong Kong airport. Tania was with her mother-in-law, and at that exact moment, she had an urge to call Joel.

This was not the case with me and Oky’s death. Oky crossed a road (on foot), got hit by a motorcycle going 90km/hour, and died there. It came as an absolute shock to everyone.

Key Takeaway 2. Five stages of grief.

The five stages of grief according to Kübler-Ross model are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I didn’t go through the five stages of grief (mainly because I didn’t know what they were at the time). But I knew I was ANGRY. Even now, I’m still angry because the whole situation involved irresponsible people and corrupt authorities.

Tania believes strongly in destiny. “The good die young-Joel was as good as good can be, so he went young,” she said. Tania was very sad but there was no denying it. Joel died end of 2008, so it will be 12 years by the end of this year. And the feelings are still coming and going.

“The good die young-Joel was as good as good can be, so he went young,” she said.

Intania Fajar, Janda becanda podcast

Key Takeaway 3. Loneliness.

For Tania, that’s one of the main themes in Janda Becanda Podcast: that feeling lonely is not an experience exclusive to widowhood. We’re in quarantine now so many people feel lonely at this time. It’s always good to know how to cope with feeling lonely.

For me, there were two moments in which I felt utterly alone. I just felt an absolute darkness and I did not even know what to think. This mainly had to do with the circumstances surrounding Oky’s death with the crime and corrupted police and law officials of Bandung. At that time I reached out to some mentors and they helped me with frameworks of thought.

Key takeaway 4. Annoying messages from people.

For me, it was tiring because so many people continuously asked what happened. However, I would rather have people asking than telling me how to react. Many people told me to “forgive”, or “move on”. That was incredibly annoying because they said those words without any idea of what I was going through.

For Tania, there were some fundamentally rude questions that people asked her. She refused to even repeat it because it was so unsympathetic. Some people that didn’t even know her or her husband started asking questions simply because they wanted gossip material.

Key Takeaway 5. Support systems.

Tania had a very strong support system. The moment her family found out, they dropped everything and flew from Jakarta to Manila. By maghrib (evening prayers) that day, they were already able to be with her. They showed the same support during her divorce from her second husband.

I stayed tactfully silent because this is at the heart of my issue with my parents. (Look forward to future writings…)

Key Takeaway 6. Ways to cope.

Journaling was one of the ways I coped with everything that happened. From my journaling habit, the exhibition and book Sketches and Regrets was born. Not to mention this blog, my poems, short stories, and hopefully more books to come! A practical tip from me includes a breathing technique called box breathing to help stay calm in extremely stressful situations. Another tip is to be committed to taking care of your body: drink a lot of water, go on walks or routine exercise, get enough sleep, and eat well.

For Tania, it is important to have other aspects of life to be able to focus on. Career, work, and other creative projects. Her late husband was an amazing person and she honors it, but life has to go on, especially because at the time she was responsible for a 1,5-year-old baby. There are also many resources out there including the Janda Becanda community that she created.

The complete interview is available on Grace’s Instagram channel (it’s mostly in Indonesian, with English sentences here and there). I hope this article helps to make the contents of our conversation accessible to more people.

With special thanks to Grace Tahir.