Things people shouldn’t say under the guise of “spirituality”
Spirituality means different things to different people. To me, spirituality is faith in something beyond and bigger than oneself. It’s about connecting with others, developing empathy, experiencing interconnectedness, desiring to make the world a better place, wanting to be kind and compassionate, asking deeper questions about life and death, seeking meaning, and finding purpose.
I am an optimist and like to believe that most people mean well even if they don’t know how to articulate their emotions. What annoys me is that a large majority don’t understand the true essence of spirituality, but they say insipid things under its guise.
It happened for a reason
We can tell ourselves all the wise tales…we can whisper stories, so we can finally sleep. Trust me; losing a loved one and finding a reason for it is nearly impossible. We convince ourselves, so we can find closure. But how can we reason and find logical explanations for the permanent absence of someone we love? For example, a colleague lost her son on his birthday—he died while taking his new car (a birthday gift) for a spin. What spiritual reason could you use to explain this horrific story?
Look on the brighter side
There is no brighter side to losing both your parents. There is no optimism in becoming an orphan even before you turn fifty. There is no silver lining in seeing your relationship with your homeland, India, transform as you no longer have a home. I would once again become a caregiver, in a heartbeat for my dad, and travel back to India every few months. The busyness in my day-to-day life is also because I am trying to navigate empty nest syndrome. My parents didn’t hold me back in my career or hobbies. What bright side are we talking about?
At least you got to say goodbye
A friend recently said to me, “You are lucky; you got to say bye to your dad.” I took a deep breath, “Loss and luck don’t belong in the same sentence.” Her father passed away during COVID, so she couldn’t travel back to India and had to attend his last rites on Zoom. That’s awful! But we must stop comparing grief and suffering. I am grateful that we were able to meet with my father and father-in-law before they passed away in May 2023. But they died unexpectedly in their 70s. We had seen them a month before their sudden demise. We shouldn’t have been saying goodbyes. I had tickets to be in India for my father’s birthday in August 2023. Both my father and father-in-law were excited about my PhD graduation. Cremating them also burned so many hopes and dreams.
She lived a good life
My mother died unexpectedly in her 60s. She and my father were on their way to vacation when she suddenly fell sick. The number of people who reiterated that she lived a good life was overwhelming. I unpacked my mother’s suitcase—the one she was planning to bring with her to Kashmir with Dad. There were new clothes and new footwear for Srinagar. My mother lived well, but that’s no reason we can justify her untimely demise.
Past life karma
A very close friend of mine lost her son to a road accident. One of the condolence visitors—in her effort to say something spiritual—rubbed my friend’s back and whispered, “It must be some past life karma.” My friend dissolved into a puddle of tears. I was very shaken up by her loss, so I reached out to a few people who I thought would have answers. One person’s spiritual take was, “Your friend must have hurt her son in his previous life. In this birth, he chose to be born to her and died early to remind her what past life karma feels like.” I haven’t shared this heartless reasoning with my friend. What boggles my mind is how people can even think like this. Instead of showing up for a grieving mother, they are blaming her for something she had no control over.
It was destiny
I was in college … a freshman … when a friend’s older sister took her life. The room was filled with so many cruel remarks and gossip because a young woman had chosen to end her life by suicide. And people didn’t know the why. What really hit me hard was when one of the neighborhood aunties called this horrific incident “Kismet ka khael” or destiny. I don’t know what she meant. This bright, young, beautiful girl was on a promising career path. Something went wrong somewhere, and she felt that ending her life would be better than seeking help or talking to a trusted family member. Imagine the agony within her. This older aunty dismissed it as destiny. I am sorry but how can we say someone is destined to die at 18?
In our culture, we haven’t been trained to ask people what they need or how they are doing; we make assumptions and base our offerings on that. We don’t realize that silence is a strong form of support if you are unsure of what to say. We refuse to accept that being on the spiritual path means kindness before anything.
“Saying nothing sometimes says the most.”
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