DABDA – an Understanding of Anguish, Tragedies and Grief
Jennifer Ashraf Kashmi
Grief – it's a common emotion, one that we're all familiar with. All of us have, at one stage or other in our lives, experienced some form of trauma which we have had to deal with. It's never easy to deal with heartache and anguish, but often the support we receive from our extended families and well-wishers is also not enough.
Tragedies demand more than just an initial helping hand and consolation. It's easy to say 'Just remember I'm always here anytime you need it', but it's much harder to follow through. Culturally, it is accepted that anyone who cannot 'deal' with grief after a specified amount of time (say one week) is not considered to be a strong individual; their grief is then seen as a sign of 'weakness'. It's apparent that we, as Bangladeshis, are a proud nation, and would much prefer to succumb to silent suffering rather than ask for help. Thus, to actually effectively help acquaintances, family and friends in their true time of need, it's important for each of us to gain an understanding of what the many aspects of grief entails.
Photo: Zahedul I Khan
Supposedly, the most common guide to aid with understanding grief is referred to as the 'Kübler-Ross Model'1, which is more commonly recognised as the 'Five Stages of Grief'. The Kübler-Ross Model outlines Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance as the five main phases that a person would have to go through, in order to adequately deal with grief, loss, anguish and any tragedy that life may bring. Denial is commonly found in parents who are suddenly informed about their child suddenly missing. The anguish of a parent over a missing child is probably the worst feeling one can experience, but one fact is constant – a mother will never stop waiting for a missing child to return, be it months, years or decades after the child's disappearance. Whilst consoling such a parent may not be the easiest task, pointing out that it may be time to 'move on' is probably the most tactless thing and should be avoided at all costs. While many guidebooks and such ask their readers to empathise and put themselves in the other person's shoes, this is not practical advice. It is impossible to know and feel what someone else might be going through, even if you might have gone through the same situation yourself. No two circumstances are ever the same.
Anger is the next step in this logical process. While parents of a kidnapped child may direct their anger towards security, police and kidnappers, a terminally ill patient may direct it towards their doctors or their peers, and bereaved families may direct it at causes or the persons responsible in cases of accidents, all these victims eventually and usually find a common all-encompassing entity to direct their anger at – God. “Why me? Surely I don't deserve this” is a typical reaction, and many will even aim to seek to assign blame to other recipients. This is a delicate time. Trying to console someone at this stage by saying “Oh, this is fate and God's will” is inadvisable, it may negatively amplify the victims' anger and result in adverse consequences. After Anger comes the stage of Bargaining. Although not much can be said about this stage, it is somehow inherently ingrained in almost all of us. Every act of kindness on our part, no matter how innocently done, somehow gives us the reinforced idea that it'll return to us in the form of karma. Whilst the rule of Karma is still not scientifically proven, kindness is always an admirable trait and should always be encouraged.
After Bargaining, what follows is Depression. Individuals experiencing the aftermath of a divorce or suffering from a drug addiction are more prone to suffering from depression than the rest of us. In our current Bangladeshi society depression, although a serious medical condition in its own right, is rarely given the acknowledgement it deserves. Psychological studies conducted here have further determined that depression is more commonly addressed as 'chinta rog' (worry illness). Even individuals suffering from this chinta rog2 are often ridiculed and said to 'take it easy'. Such approaches are ill-advised and should be avoided at all costs. In addition to being unhelpful, it may also be perceived as being downright insulting to victims of depression and may provoke aggressive attitudes in return.
The final result is Acceptance. This is when an individual will finally be able to wholly accept the situation as applicable to them, and commence truly living again. It should also be pointed out that these five stages do not always follow this chronological order as illustrated. Additionally not all grieving individuals will also follow every single one of these steps. A drug addict may not experience Bargaining, a divorcee may not be in Denial after a long battle in court, and parents of a missing child may never achieve Acceptance. What's important is that for those of us who wish to truly lend a helping hand, we need to familiarise ourselves with these steps on dealing with grief and just do the best that we can. Sometimes our mere presence and by virtue of just 'being there', we do more than we realise and ultimately that is all that is needed.
1) “On Death and Dying”, by Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, 1969.
2) “Cultural Dimensions of Depression in Bangladesh: A Qualitative Study in Two Villages of Matlab”, by Nasima Selim, Journal of Health, Population, & Nutrition, February 2010.