31 Mar 2023 | 10 min Read
Author | 1053 Articles
“While navigating life as a single parent. There was a choice to be made — either to hold on to the grief or find the resilience to move forward- I chose the latter” – Purva Kocher Bhandari
Losing a partner is never easy, but when you’re left alone to raise two kids, the burden can feel almost unbearable. Yet, somehow, you find a way to soldier on, one day at a time, especially when you have kids.
When you look at your kids’ faces, you know you have to keep going since they are counting on you, and you don’t want to let them down. That’s exactly what this single parent Purva Kocher Bhandari did after the loss of her husband Ramendra during COVID-19.
Even though every day has been a challenge ever since the loss, she has risen to the occasion time and again and learned to be both mum and dad for her two kids; 11-year-old Hrivaan Bhandari and 7-year-old Amaira Bhandari. She’s been there, standing strong to give her kids the love and support that they need. She’s also helping her family handle the family business after the death of her husband.
In a conversation with BabyChakra, single parent Purva Kocher Bhandari speaks about educating herself about grief to normalise her experience and find ways to cope for herself and her kids.
Two years this May 2023
While navigating life as a single parent. There was a choice to be made — either to hold on to the grief or find the resilience to move forward while keeping the memories of Ramendra alive for myself and the kids. I chose the latter.
After he left, I remember looking to the uncertain future with so much fear and overwhelm. So instead of focusing on all the things I still needed to do to get my life back on track, I focused on how I was already doing it!
How I was waking up every morning, getting ready, getting kids ready and somehow surviving. How I was educating myself about grief to normalise my experience and find ways to cope for myself and the kids.
Appreciating how I was blessed with an entire village of people who stood by me to help me get thru. How I was healing my broken heart as I helped others heal theirs.
Whether you are rebuilding your life after a loss, healing wounds from the past, or striving to reach that next business milestone, it’s easy to focus on all the ways you are already doing so.
So, I simply reflected on all the ways I was already doing it and everything that I already have. It’s ok to sometimes not think about what you need to do and sometimes accept that you will not have everything you want.
How can family and friends help someone who’s lost her/his partner and how much difference does that make?
Let me answer the second part first – A LOT! They can help by simply showing up. Keep showing up. Keep texting. Don’t be offended. Don’t stop. Offer tangible support (errands, groceries, meals, childcare). There’s nothing you can say to make this better. Just be there and keep being there.
When Ramendra died, I could barely function. If people asked me what they could do to help me, I couldn’t answer. I could barely get from moment to moment. I often didn’t even respond to texts in the initial days.
The key to good grief support isn’t what you say at all. Simply acknowledging how difficult the situation is, is what most grievers actually want to hear. I had a group of friends who took out an hour every day to attend an online Zoom Yoga Class just so that I’d move around a little. A friend once texted me and asked me “What do I not want for dinner?” Not “do you want dinner?”.
Others would just come home, sometimes leave without a word spoken, sometimes hear me howl, and sometimes just be there to ensure I don’t feel alone. It’s been almost two years now and I still need the check-ins with no expectation to respond. Because guess what? I’m still a widow and single parent and it’s still ridiculously hard.
I tell myself no two days are the same. A difficult day today will not be difficult tomorrow.
There is a choice I made when he left: I chose to always celebrate the short yet beautiful life he lived. The life we lived, the love we had, the love we have, a life well lived.
The one thing that keeps me going is honouring him and his life. And the best way to honour him is to come to fully live life on his behalf. Every day I vow to make a difference, share a smile, live, laugh and love. Now I live for both of us, so all I do, I do to honour him.
Faith and Hope. I think that faith might just be the ultimate display of human resilience. Over time, our resilience makes a place for hope.
It’s all about ensuring my children don’t lose faith in the divine and always has hope. After all, I can only offer them what I am abundant in which is my strong faith and hope. This is why I focus less on grief and more on being hopeful.
What people may see on the outside is a mom of two doing all the things. This is far from the truth. It’s a person who is tenderly loved and cared for by a tribe of friends and family who never lets her get away with hard times.
On many occasions I need help and I don’t even have to ask. They just show up and do things. The cue here is: it’s ok to ask for help. Do not shy from accepting help. Every little gap filled is important.
Yes, my son was 9 and my daughter was 5 years old, and life had already crushed their tiny spirits. They went to sleep, and come dawn their entire world changed forever. As I had to explain to them that their dad was never coming again, I watched it take a piece of their little souls. Their childish innocence was taken when they learned not every story has a happy ending.
To be honest, I was crude, raw and real. I told them doctors tried everything but he didn’t make it. Not even once did I intend to camouflage the word death. I still remember someone tried telling my daughter that her dad will return in the form of a child in the family. I discouraged that thought because that’s not what I wanted her to think.
A few days later we spoke about how we all have to leave one day and go on to the next journey planned by God for each one of us. During his final rites at Haridwar, my son while immersing in the ashes told him “We will miss you papa, but you got to keep moving ahead. Never look back and move on to the next journey planned by God.”
We make Ramendra a part of everyday conversation. Conversations in the household often sound like “papa would have said this…”, “let’s eat at papas favourite restaurant” or “am sure papa is partying up there with his friends”.
My daughter still leaves the first bite of any food she likes for her dad. She looks for me and gives me the “papa bite” and then eats. She leaves little notes about him everywhere. They make me laugh and cry at the same time.
As a parent, I want to protect my children from pain. But I can’t protect them from death, grief, or reality. I answer their questions honestly and truthfully.
There are times I resent that these conversations are part of parenting now. I wish so badly I could just have innocent conversations with my kids about what colour blue and yellow make, why the grass is green, etc.
We all want a more grief-accepting environment. Thankfully, we can do something about it: Talk. Talk to our kids honestly about death and grief and separation. When we use substitutes to explain the term death and grief we hold back important language our children need to process and express their pain.
We fortify that death and separation are something we need to ease or shy away from. It gets worse when we talk about religion and God and relate it to death and people leaving, but eventually, we need to use concrete language or else we make it even harder for them.
Doing so, helps children grasp the basics and creates the foundation for healthy current and future interactions with loss. When we use real words about death, separation and grief, we honour our children’s intelligence and insight, their resilience and compassion.
While the road ahead may still be long and challenging for Purva, we know that she’ll make it through. Because she has the strength and the love to carry her through any storm. To anyone else going through a similar loss, know that you are not alone. Take comfort in the love of those around you, and know that you too have the strength to overcome any obstacle.
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