Thoughts while grieving

He came to me in my dreams last night.
He was different in my dreams than he was in those last few days of his life.
His skin was no longer covered in burns.
His wounds were not weeping.
His body was no longer racked with infection.
His eyes were filled with peace.
He had been reborn.
He had been restored.
He came to me in my dreams.
But as quickly as he came
He left.
And I guess that is how it has to be.


I don't know what it is like to suddenly have an empty spot next to you as you fall asleep every night.
A spot that had been your husband's for years. I can't even begin to understand the feeling. I imagine it as a deep abyss. An indescribable hole. An absence so heavy that you feel like a sinking stone. It must be a darkness that needs every bit of light we can spare.


It's been 3 days since he left them for the ground. The family keeps calling and saying his wife is crying. They keep asking us to come be with her. She is grieving we say. And the truth is, I am too. Grieving and cleansing and trying to process the first 48 hours of my week. You know what, I feel like I need to be with her too. The first time we met in the slum after he was buried, we just held each other. Her arms around my waist, mine around her shoulders our heads pressed together. There is a connection that can not be broken when you share the experience of helping someone die. Trains whistled and passed by. Men told her not to cry, we said cry all you want. The women of the community slowly gathered around. We talked about taking care of each other. We talked about grief and making sure she was eating and drinking. We talked about how it was everyone's responsibility to carry her through this until she can stand again on her own two feet. Her son clung to her leg. I asked where her daughter was. She said she was at school. My eyes welled with tears and I looked at her and told her I was proud. I told her to keep her daughter in school, that it is the best thing she can do for the future of her family. And for the first time since Sunday, a smile creeped across her face. And at least in that fleeting moment, we felt okay.


 I had woken them from a deep sleep that last night they got to lay next to one another. He, his wife and two kids were all under one small mosquito net on concrete slabs. She pulled the mosquito net off and peeled the dirtied saree off his burnt skin to show me the extent of his injuries. More than half of his body was covered in severe burns. He had spent 2 days at a government hospital before being discharged and sent back to the slum due to lack of family funds to cover the cost of his treatment. Not knowing what else to do, she kept vigil at his side day in and out. Feeding him by hand, turning him, applying creams, fanning off flies, emptying the urinary catheter he still had inserted. She lay next to him as he's body became overwhelmed with infection, as he became confused, dehydrated, feverish night after feverish night she did everything she felt she could.

I have never seen a love like that.


It must be so scary, the process of dying. 

We had gone home for dinner and just sat down when the hospital called asking us to come back to be with the wife. Her husband was not doing well. We immediately headed back and when I walked in the room, his wife was sleeping on the small bed next to him. He was working hard to breath, when he opened his eyes he looked terrified. I walked back out and told my friend that death was coming. His suffering was tangible. There was no denying it. So we woke the wife, called the medical team and worked towards making him comfortable. I felt useless and stunned so I called my friend, a Nurse Practitioner, who quickly came to be with us and help me advocate for him. His wife and I took turns holding his hands and stroking his head. We explained to her that she should talk to him and let him know she is there. I told him it's okay to let go. His head was so hot with fever, his eyes were so scared. He was slipping in and out of consciousness but when he would come to, he would always lock his gaze on who ever was with him. And maybe it's my human need to comfort myself, but I believe he knew we were there. We gave him what he deserved, the opportunity to be treated for pain and to die with dignity and privacy, surrounded with people who genuinely cared. No, we couldn't erase the suffering of the last week of his life but dammit, we tried.


He was the one who would come after all the meals had been passed. He showed up with an empty 2 litre water bottle, the top cut off. He always took the remaining dal after all the kids had eaten. I assumed in the beginning that he kept it for himself. But the thing about assumptions is that they often prove you wrong. I walked down to the area where he lived one Sunday and as I approached I saw him call his daughter over. He handed her the bottle of dal and she hunkered down and drank every last drop. That is the kind of father he was. That's when I knew he was different. And these are the memories I will hold. 


  1. Wow Kristin, I am so sorry. This kind of thing will stay with you forever. Thanks for sharing an extremely tough and intimate time. <3

  2. Sending lots of love your way. You have a heart of gold Kristin <3

  3. How painful, but beautifully written.

  4. I stumbled upon your blog many years ago. I think of you often and the work you are doing. Please know I am grateful for you. Just that you exist in such a beautiful way and help people so deeply. Thank you.