Grief. The word is synonymous with loss, death and sadness. We all have different views about grief and how to navigate it. We have preconceived notions about grief and sometimes even try to prepare ourselves for the grief when the blow of loss finally happens. In essence though, grief has no formula.
Some people believe that loss is bearable if you lose a loved one due to a long illness as opposed to a sudden death. Others believe that maybe if you knew the person for a short time it will not hurt as much as if you knew them your entire life. In reality, nothing prepares you for the blow that comes with loss. Whether you saw it coming or not, death still leaves you reeling.
2018 was ‘that year’ for me. I lost my friend to a road accident and my mom to breast cancer in a space of seven months. One I knew all my life and the other I only knew for a few years.
I met Mercy shortly after I moved to Nairobi in 2015. Mercy was so easy to love. She reminded me of my baby sister; they are so much alike. She was one of the people that made life in a new city bearable. Never would it occur to me that Mercy was living her last month the last time we saw each other. We talked about the future, plans for the upcoming year, boys, school and everything girls talk about when they link up. She knew my mum was ill and she prayed with me for her healing. We parted ways planning to meet after the festive season, once she was back in Nairobi and had settled in with her studies. That was never to happen. Her death was so sudden and unprecedented, something out of the 9pm news bulletin. When I got the call, it made no sense at all.
Fast forward to July and I lose my mum. She had battled metastatic breast cancer for eight years. Eight years of remissions and recurrence. Of hope and despair. Celebrating each time she was declared cancer free and grieving each time it came back. Through all this I grieved. Grieved when she was first diagnosed. Grieved when it recurred, grieved when the doctor confirmed that it had metastasized, and I googled (worst decision ever) what this meant and what it would mean for Mama apart from the little information the doctor had given us. I remember reading words like ‘palliative’, ‘final years’, ‘comfortable as possible’ and crying my eyes out. The curtain really was closing on my mama’s life.
I lost Mama slowly and I grieved bitterly throughout her illness yet when the final blow came, I still was not ready. I remember having a conversation with my brother and both of us voicing just how sudden Mama’s death was. It sounds silly because technically it was not a sudden death. She had a terminal disease and we knew what that meant. But still her passing felt sudden, and my reaction when I got the news was pretty much the same as when I heard that Mercy died in an accident. I was numb. It all made no sense.
There is no telling how you will navigate the grief of losing a loved one. You might follow the famous grief curve or not. Maybe it will be a straight line, maybe not. We should allow ourselves to grieve however we are grieving. Sometimes our pre-conceived notions box us in and cause us to wonder why we are grieving the way we are, or grieving for so long, or failing to have a pattern for our grief.
I for some reason was unable to cry when I lost my friend and my mum. The tears just would not flow no matter how much I willed myself to cry. I envied my siblings and friends whose shock and grief was able to flow freely down their cheeks. My heart was breaking yet I was numb. How is that possible? The other shoe would drop months later in both instances. On random days that should not even be triggers and on memorable days that were definitely triggers to the grief.
Grief is exhausting. Sometimes you cry, sometimes you don’t. Sometimes all I want to talk about is Mercy and my mom, sometimes I don’t. Some days I am filled with the hope and truth that I will see them again, some days the finality of death this side of heaven breaks my heart to pieces.
It has not been a straight line for me. I really wish it was. I wish I could go through the stages of grief neatly; at least then I would know what to expect with each step. But that is not how it works. I have come to learn that grief is not a straight line. It looks different for everyone. It looks different for each member of my family yet we lost the same person. It looks different for everyone who lost Mercy.
There is no manual on how to grieve. You just keep going, grief and all, and slowly God, not time, heals.
Yunia Kazibwe is the founder of Adulting Out Loud. She is a wife, and mother to an amazing little girl. When she is not writing for the blog or recording for the podcast, Yunia loves spending lazy days with family, watching movies and catching up on a good series. Though she doesn’t currently have one, she loves cats.
Yunia prefers texting to phone calls, enjoys taking walks, and her favourite snack is popcorn. She often plays pranks on people, and only stops laughing to catch a breath.