There’s no deadline for grief

…Meaning, it might take a while.

After years of keeping this blog, I have had the opportunity to speak with a number of ex-classmates, talk to people, and have real conversations about growing up in 3HO Sikh Dharma.

When I do take time out of ordinary life to reconnect or have a conversation, what usually follows is a familiar pattern and string of emotions. First, I experience a little bit of euphoria because I was able to reconnect with an old friend. But after that feeling wears off, I feel exhaustion, thirst and brain-fog. My emotional state is sapped, my thoughts become sort of non-verbal and I don’t possess enough brain-power to process my feelings. Then I go through a night (or two) of restless sleep and hypnagogic states of nervous internal dialogue. Still, I go about my day, telling myself This Too Shall Pass.

During this fog-brain state, I will experience a nervous energy and a feeling of true dread. There’s a heavy pit in my stomach and a churning pulse in my abdomen, neck and face. My vision starts to feel a little off, glassy sort of. What I am experiencing is a sludgy kind of anxiety, and I have come to recognize as a sign to get myself some self-care.
Even if I get care, sometimes I’ll ride the anxiety for a while, trying to process my feelings and sort them out in a coherent way. I might scour the internet for any sign that our story – the un-varnished one, that is – might be getting told by more people. That bit-by-bit we will come forward and speak our truth, discuss our experience, and process it like the fully-aware people that we are (right?).
It’s happening now, and I’m hoping more will follow. Sonofasikh is a blog written by one of my schoolmates as he processes his childhood by revisiting the place where it all went down. It’s funny, charming and nostalgic. And it is especially poignant. My goodness. His account of being tortured by Nanak Dev Singh–this singular moment among far too many–was nevertheless astonishing and horrifying. And it was heartbreaking. But it was revelatory too, because I found myself able to live inside his experience and fully be a part of it and empathize with it in a way I hadn’t done before. I must admit, I had become so familiar with my own family experiences of assault and battery that, well, they just take up more room in my consciousness. This shook me out of that myopia, and for that I am grateful.

But it also made me feel so much sorrow and so much loss.

***

Our experiences as 3HO children were both collective and individual at the same time. We each experienced and remember slightly varying versions of the same kinds of abuse. At the time, our only way of commingling those disparate forms of antagonism was to form a sibling-like bond, and forge ahead as best we could. But we had so little space to experience the full range of emotions that are so crucial in childhood development. Empathy was often sacrificed in our day-to-day coping. So much so, that it became nearly amputated from our lives. And our parents were cut off from it in their own cultic environment too.
Empathy. It’s not the same thing as compassion, love, forgiveness or acceptance (all important faculties). Empathy is the ability to validate another person’s feelings by acknowledging their experiences, even when you might have a different point of view. People like us–the indiakids–may not be aware that we might lack empathy. It was actively revoked from us, and we were not shown how to demonstrate it to one another. If we have developed it, we have had to take whatever kernel exists inside ourselves and grow it on our own… and probably as adults, and probably in a very flawed and messy way.

I don’t really have a way to end this post… I guess I’m still processing.

💗

One Reply to “There’s no deadline for grief”

  1. I stumbled upon your blog in some searches about GNFC school. I know someone who was likely your classmate & I’ve read the Son of a Sikh blog posts, too. I was hoping to comment more anonymously just as this blog is; alas, I can’t seem to sign out & sign in as another account (maybe this will resolve when I click “post comment”). No worries— it’s not that big of a deal. I just wanted to be in like kind.

    Ever since I became aware of what happened to kids in the 80s there at GNFC, I’ve been horrified, but also fascinated about how it is that people get caught up in cult systems and can do crap like send their kids away. Long story short: I have had my own experiences with brainwashing in religion, getting out, going through the undoing of the brainwashing, and still suffering PTSD because of crap that happened. Anyway, I find this blog really enlightening and wanted to thank you. I’ve not read too many posts, but a few. You describe so well what it is to deal with the aftermath of traumatic experiences. I’m glad you’ve used this forum to share. Thanks.

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