So I spent the whole of yesterday at the hospital over some sort of medical emergency and at some point it seemed to me like too many people departed us yesterday. From my dear friend losing her baby sister to leukaemia, to my old school mate losing his very energetic father, to my doctor friend whose father equally passed, to news of a woman I admired so much, Ibidun Ighodalo and several other deaths I saw as I scrolled through the social media yesterday; mostly family members of people dear to me. It felt as though everyone chose yesterday for a reason. Who knows, heaven may have had a reason?
Having heard too many news of death for one day, seeing dead bodies, listening to the sounds of different mourning cries and lamentations, it was albeit remarkable to notice how people received news of the death of loved ones.
One striking thing I equally noticed yesterday was how different people in the same family reacted differently to the news of their loved ones passing. I watched a man walk confused, he was like a deranged person. I watched another woman in confusion walk to the deceased, calling him forth in faith and crying at the loss all in a split second, I watched another scream down the hospital, yet another looking on at the deceased man and sobbing in quiet tears. All of the same family. But the one I will not forget was the pretty young lady who was standing closest to the doctor when he pronounced the man dead, she had immediately rushed to the waiting tricycle that the deceased was rushed in and had quickly held on to his hands lovingly.
The man was lifeless, she knew somewhere in her subconscious state, she had just listened to the doctor say her relative was dead but she received two telephone calls moments later where she informed her callers how the hospital had just abandoned “brother” in front of the A&E and no one was willing to attend to them. She had angrily even ended the telephone call on her second caller with the words, “I dey tell you say them no wan attend to am you dey talk another thing for there.” I felt for her.
It was after that second telephone call that a ward staff gently told the lady to take courage and know that truly the man was gone. Then the lady looked at me and asked, “Is he really dead?” I held back my tears and managed to hold a deep stare as I could not even mutter an appropriate answer…oh the pain, the fright, the confusion, the lost expression on her face… how can I ever forget that scene or erase yesterday from my memory?
A few seconds passed before she let out a loud and deafening scream and then the following words, “I refuse to accept that he’s dead. Are they saying brother is dead?” At this point I let a tear escape and had to walk away from the scene. The rest members of her family had taken in the news earlier and found different ways they knew to express their pain, it had taken this lady a longer time to come to terms with what the doctor had said. Her pain was palpable.
I remember one time last year, my friend had just been bereaved. His two year old had died and he could not easily get over the pain. Many months later and he would still be in grief. Then we had a conversation. I had chatted him up that fine Monday morning and he said to me, “Povwe (that’s how he has chosen to call me forever), am I grieving too much? Do you think I am crazy?” My honest response was an emphatic “No, you are not!” I went further to state, “It’s okay to grieve Femi, I can only comfort you and help you find the healing you need, but by all means, if you feel pain, don’t beat yourself up about it.”
“Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.”— Matthew 5:4
Femi went on to share how the previous day, his older sister had called him an attention seeker for still grieving a “child” many months after death. He was told to shrug it off and go make another baby. His siblings by this time were all pissed at him for not “moving on.” For God’s sake. I did not blame him for feeling they were being insensitive. He had been reminded countlessly by family and friends that he was a man and men do not behave in the manner that he was behaving.
Heck! It is never easy dealing with grief and there is no one way to grieve. Oftentimes when we are dealt grief we react differently just as our pain and tolerance thresholds are totally different. Frankly, there is no too much or too little way to grieve. As much as we would love our loved ones to come out of grief, we cannot force that out of them. If we are concerned about how people deal with grief we can help them seek professional help but by all means, it is not in our place to judge or to condemn them. It is hard enough what they are going through. Plus it is totally unpleasant and distasteful to force or project our idea of grieving on others.
For starters we must accept that there are absolutely no timelines and it will take as long as it takes. If we try too much to force or project our ideas on a person passing through grief we may end up causing them to isolate. It is a process and for most, they will eventually adjust to their loss. As much as we can, we should allow them their own distinctive experience. It’s okay to just be silent when you’re at a loss for words. A simple hug, a kind message, a helping hand… Just be there for them, that is all that matter.
For some people, huge parts of them died when their loved ones did and so things may never be the same, a lot will change. We must never make them feel they are acting out of the ordinary simply because we believe we will act differently given the same circumstances. Let us respect the wishes of others especially when it is not really about us.
“Those who have suffered understand suffering and therefore extend their hand.”
– Patti Smith
Sadly too, for some people, reaching out to others in their moments of grief is not a culture that is well known to them. Some will even try to make the moment about them. You hear things like: “Don’t cry oh, when my own so and so died if you see cry,” “My dear thank God it was a child,” “Your own is even better, my time ehh…” Dear Lord! Let us learn to keep our losses or other people’s losses away when we are dealing with people passing through this phase. Bringing up our losses or the losses of others at a time when we should be comforting a grief survivor is certainly not going to help them feel better and it also does not show that you understand the situation.
This morning I saw a video making the rounds and a lot of bashing on Pastor Ituah Ighodalo. I know how much my post connects with it but frankly, it is not even the very reason for my post. However, I am glad that it coincides with it as it makes this post necessary on many levels. I would have the same opinion if a woman had lost her husband. As far as I know, Pastor Ituah may still be in denial phase, he may even have had a premonition and it prepared him for what was to come. It just could have been anything but what is for sure is that certainly the man is in grief.
At the end of the day, in dealing with situations like this, one thing is paramount: “some things are better left unsaid.”
May the souls of all the departed rest in peace. Amen.
© PY Zimughan-Ogunbajo