Shilpa Kulkarni: A story of loss and resilience
Breakups. Divorce. Separation. Time.
We have all lost someone to one of these. Relationships that didn’t work out. Friends who got lost in the mist of time.
But nothing comes close to the pain of losing someone to death. And when it’s your child, the pain is infinitely more.
Shilpa Kulkarni is one of those heartbroken mothers whose son Shiv died by suicide when he was just 14 years old.
This episode of the MyndStories Minis was specially curated to mark World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10th, where Smitha has a heartfelt conversation with Shilpa about her walk through life after Shiv. In honor of Shiv’s memory, Shilpa founded “Shiv’s Third Eye”, a non-profit organization in New Jersey, in the US where she lives. The organization is dedicated to promoting youth mental health and Shilpa is also an active LGBTQI+ advocate.
The conversation starts by acknowledging the painful truth of Shiv’s absence but focuses on celebrating the 14 years of joy that Shiv brought into this world, emphasizing that life can be celebrated even in the face of loss.
Who was Shiv?
Shiv was a miracle child who came along after 12 miscarriages. Both Shilpa and her husband, Vishwas, were, what she describes as “intentional parents.”
Shiv was a cheerful, intelligent child, an ambivert who made friends easily. He was good at academics and an accomplished card player. He also loved board games with his favorite being Monopoly. He loved dancing, played volleyball and table tennis, and was also a good piano player.
“Don’t think that just because your child looks perfect, everything is fine, and they don’t need anything,” Shilpa says at one point, a stark reminder that it’s crucial to pay attention to the emotional well-being of our loved ones, especially children.
“Resilience is the strength of mind, strength to overcome challenges, strength to overcome stressors.”
Shilpa places great importance on building resilience in young individuals. Life’s challenges are inevitable, and while we need to stay strong, the more crucial step is to equip our children with the skills, the inner strength to navigate them.
Shilpa’s advocacy work through “Shiv’s Third Eye” focuses on providing resources and support systems to help young people develop this strength to overcome adversity.
Mental health should begin young
“We never spoke about mental hygiene, mental illness, mental wellness with our kids. We spoke about everything in the world but we didn’t speak about that.”
Shilpa stresses on early intervention in mental health, saying that mental health education and support should begin at a young age. Just as we teach children about physical health and hygiene, it’s important to also educate them about their emotional well-being. This would empower children to recognize their emotions, seek help when needed, and build resilience for the future.
Shilpa’s vulnerability is a reminder that no one is perfect. We can only learn from our experiences and hope to do better.