I don’t know when you first dealt with the topic of death but mine must have been during my preteen years when a friend passed away in a drowning accident. Her family had gone for an outing and upon their return, they informed all the neighbours about the tragedy. I can’t really describe my emotions but something was definitely amiss. Obviously, due to cultural norms, the concept of death was not explained to us and I remember not understanding what was going on. I was too young to comprehend the whole issue and for so many months, I lived with an expectation that my friend would come back home.
Grief is a very personal journey and as Sandberg & Grant (2017) put it “.. a demanding companion”, it feels like you are always dragging grief with you everywhere you go. I have had my personal experiences with loss and grief with the loss of my loving parents, Samuel and Priscilla, and when it hits close to home then it hits to the core of one’s soul.
What have I learned over the years?
The pain and losses
- Not to be apologetic about feeling sad or feeling emotional about the what ifs. It is okay to mourn, to feel empty, or even have mixed emotions. It is okay not to be okay.
- I think the greatest challenge for me was to learn to take the time to grieve and not to be apologetic for not attending to my normal. There is time for everything and that includes taking time to go through that moment of anguish. You are only human.
- Grief comes with some loss of identity. For example, if you were a parent to someone, you lose that identity of being a parent, if you lost a parent you are no longer someone’s child. You have to learn to live with your new identity.
- That losing a loved one comes with other secondary losses/connections such as losing some family friends, acquaintances, or other supports. And that by itself is another life adjustment.
The strength of a support system
- Open up to life opportunities or other people – somebody must have been placed by the universe to meet a certain need that was initially played by the departed. It might not be the same package that you were accustomed to but the universe has sent this person your way, embrace it if you can.
- No man is an island so if need be, seek support from a loved one, clergy, or mental health professional. A person who is equipped to support you as you grieve.
- Connect with those who have gone through the same kind of loss. Sometimes it is easier to hear other people’s experiences and how they have overcome the highs and lows. You will need to draw strength from others.
Having a heart of full of gratitude
- It’s okay to have good memories and laugh about what was. Laughter is good for the soul.
- I have learned to have a heart full of gratitude for moments shared with the loved one. There are some beautiful memories that cannot be erased in one’s mind.
To sum it up, I have learned that this “demanding companion” is part of my life and every day comes with new lessons and feelings.
Death is something beyond our control. What we have control over is how we learn to respond to it.
In loving memory of my loving Parents Samuel and Priscilla, I always think of you. I miss your presence and your absence is quite visible.
By Brenda Ngure. Brenda is an Intersectional Health Promotion Specialist who is passionate about the integration of Health Psychology and Sexology. I have a BSc in Psychology and a Masters in Public Health. She has worked in the field of mental health and social services for over 20 years at different capacities. She works from an individualized and socially conscious perspective; and facilitates workshops on intersectional topics such as Mental Health, Race, Gender, and Sexuality. You can read her blog bnhealthmatters.com.