Byravan - 'Thoughts on the Untimely Loss of a Beloved Child'

by Byravan Viswanathan, M.D.

Byravan - 'Thoughts on the Untimely Loss of a Beloved Child'

Sri Viswanathan.

When a child as an infant, adolescent or adult passes away, the sadness, shock and anguish is indescribable. It is so unnatural an event that the parents' spirit is shattered. It is a pain over which there is no recovery; over the years the intensity abates but the smoldering sense of loss never disappears. Our beloved daughter Sri was exceptionally gifted, generous and with a sense of humor that neither of her parents had in a measure equal to her. Sri graduated with honors both in her undergraduate and graduate education. She attended American University in Washington, D.C., and George Washington University for her M.Ed. degree. She joined the teaching faculty of senior high schools in Arlington, Va., where she taught calculus to 11th and 12th graders. It was during her six years as teacher that her true abilities as a teacher, counselor and friend to her students became evident. She made the fearsome math curriculum fun for her class and inspired students to take up the subject enthusiastically.

Her competence was so great that she was profiled in two articles published in the Washington Post. Sri was so ebullient in her nature that she appeared far younger than her age and was sometimes mistaken for a student in the school. She had the supreme misfortune to be afflicted with bipolar disorder from about the age of 10 or 12, as it appears now to us. She suffered the horrific ups and downs in mood with this disease for 24 years, alone and with little support. On her own she sought psychiatric help. Lack of timely diagnosis and treatment gave her no relief from the tyrant in her thoughts until the last desperate act overcame her. She did not want to leave us but took the step towards her end.

Her untimely demise was profoundly sad for so many of her students, their parents and all the staff at the Arlington Public Schools Administration where she worked her final two years. The question was, how could this life of the office and the party be so sad to want to leave this world so suddenly. A most moving ceremony was held for her by all the staff at her office and many eulogies were spoken by her colleagues and friends. As a unique gesture, a small plot in the building grounds has been reserved in her name with her favorite yellow rose bush and a brass plaque honoring her. That little niche is for us, the bereaved, to visit and to nurture that rose whenever we feel we must communicate with her spirit.

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My personal feelings of guilt, being a doctor myself and missing the diagnosis and not being there to give any means of support, cannot be assuaged.

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My personal feelings of guilt, being a doctor myself and missing the diagnosis and not being there to give any means of support, cannot be assuaged. Her several cries for help went unrecognized, as we could not gauge their serious import. We do understand that the relentless nature of this illness, unless expertly handled by professionals, cannot usually be helped. However, it still does not erase the sense of hand-wringing guilt we now live with. Now, every child that struggles with depression, bipolar disease or adjustment disorder and who is potentially at risk for suicide, becomes our child and we feel we must do everything we can to help in whatever way we can. That is all we can do in memory of our daughter and perhaps every soul saved from suicide is a resurrection of a soul departed earlier.

Survivors must take some relief from the thought that all of us are spirit souls and do not just end our existence with death on this planet. That is a truth that all religions proclaim. I also feel firmly that departed souls, especially those of guileless children, do continue their existence in some place in this vast universe within its countless planets and galaxies. There, our standards of happiness and unhappiness do not exist. Instead there is everlasting and unimaginable bliss. We, the bereaved, must continue to exist after such a loss and the best way we can do so is to dedicate ourselves more and more for the welfare of all humanity. This will ensure a place for us by the side of our dear departed ones when we leave this world full of alternating pain and pleasure. Let me end my essay with the following very meaningful poem I read not long ago.

I AM FREE

Don't grieve for me now for I am free
I have followed the path that God laid for me
I took His hand when I heard Him call
I turned my back and left it all.

I could not stay another day
To laugh, to love to work or play
Tasks left undone must stay that way
I found that peace at the close of day.

If my parting has left a void
Then fill it with remembered joy
A friendship started, a laugh, a kiss
Oh yes, these things I too will miss.

Be not burdened with times of sorrow
I wish you the sunshine of tomorrow
My life's been full; I've savored much
Good friends, good times, a loved one's touch.

Perhaps my time seemed all too brief
Don't lengthen it now with undue grief
Lift up your heart and share with me.
God wanted me now; He set me free!

–Anonymous

Byravan lives in Gettysburg, Pa.