image credit: tactile matter (IG.)
if it will keep my heart soft.
break my heart everyday”
I started writing this post last year. It was a gloomy day and I had chosen to stay in. I chose to not do lectures that day, because I was overwhelmed and felt very defeated. I took a nap, hoping I’d wake up feeling some sort of better. But instead, I woke up in a sweat and panicked. Tears were trickling down my face and there was a deep feeling of fear. I woke up from a bad dream – a dream that started off as good, I saw my mom and she was dressed in white, smiling at me. I was happy to see her, because I am always happy to see my mom in my dreams. But this time it was different, I couldn’t hear her, she was speaking but I couldn’t hear her. It was as if my brain couldn’t give this face a voice. My brain felt like it was trying its best to sift through every memory I had, looking for a voice for this face, but it failed dismally.
I felt my body growing cold and this was odd, because I was asleep, but I felt the coldness. I woke up panicked and scared. The sadness instantly washed over my whole body. My brain retelling me, “You had a dream Nwabisa and you forgot our own Mothers voice. You forgot the voice of someone who raised you for 16 years, how?’. And this was how I went into a deep and sad spiral of grief, again. It was like the unexplainable void in my heart got bigger. Four years after my mother’s death and the grief felt brand new, again.
After that day, I promised myself to write about the grief. To try and make sense of it in my head through these words. To try and locate where the healing starts and where it stops. To try and make sense of all this never-ending grief.
I think at that point, I was adamant that the grief would end. I would personally, make sure it ended. I had a sense of determination, a sense of rebirth, that today was the day I make sure the grief departs. Today is the day I make sure I never experience grief again.
Man, was I wrong. It was as if the grief was standing in the corner listening to me chant all these words, and it was laughing. Because, it knew. And that was my biggest lesson about grief and sadness, it knows. It knows how you hide or where you hide. It knows when you try avoiding it and it knows how to make sure you notice it. It knows how to stop you in the tracks of your busy life and demand to be acknowledged, demand to be felt. Grief isn’t pretty, it isn’t cute, it doesn’t parade as beautiful thing that captures your heart and leaves you swooning. Instead, it’s the coldness that hits you, after everyone leaves you alone and goes back to their lives. It’s the tear stained pillows at midnight. It’s the pain that comes when you must confront the fact that a certain face will never smile your way ever again. Or the sudden breakdown that comes when you hear a song, and it leads to a memory and it leads to you on the floor crying for the fourth night in a row. It’s also fear, because suddenly your brain can’t remember every memory, your brain starts forgetting, because new memories must be made. It’s also the realization that all these new memories that will be made, don’t have that person. They will just be memories post their existence.
I always describe my existence as a pre-mom’s death and post-mom’s death. These are two segments that exist. They are both me. If you ask me, who were you before your mom departed from this planet, I will tell you I was a teenager battling teenage problems. I had just moved to a new school and I was existing in newness. And I was navigating this newness and life with my mother by my side. She was there by my side, when I started the new school.
If you ask me what my life is post my mom’s departure, I will tell you… that I am just here, doing my best to not sink. Doing my best to stay above the water, despite the waves getting stronger.
But I do know that grief came with lessons on life and breathing…
And what I have learnt is this…
- You must keep breathing deeply, centring yourself every time the waves of grief wash over your cold body. Keep steady, you will not sink. You must not sink.
- The first few months will be spent trying to get your feet to stay on the ground and not your knees. Because sometimes your knees fail you…
- You will be forced to live post-death, pack light. You will have to face the world, despite all the grief feeling brand new in your body. Despite it feeling debilitating. So pack light, this journey is a never ending one.
- “Memories don’t live like people do” – as cliche as this sounds, they don’t. forgive yourself and your body for pushing out old memories in trade for new ones.
- Forgive yourself, because some days you will be so above water, you will feel like you can never ever sink again. Until you do. Then you get mad at the momentary happiness and how it had you believing you were healed.
- Healing has never been and will never be linear. Your body will sometimes choose to sink to the ground and not participate in life. It will take your brain with it. You will watch yourself welcome the sadness all over again, but do not despair. The better days will come and they will compensate for the lost ones.
- Grief never departs. It will hide in corners. It will fold itself into the hems and stiches of your life. It will make no sound. It will convince you it’s gone and that you will never see it again. Till one day, when you suddenly hear a song or you smell a fragrance or you hear a voice. The grief suddenly returns as if it never left, give it space. Give it time.
- Finally, be gentle with yourself. No one’s body ever prepares or expects trauma. Especially the type that comes with losing a loved one. So, you have to hold immense space for gentleness, you have to offer it to yourself consistently. Especially because the world will not do that for you. The world will be hard, it will be tough, it will try break you. but you, you must always remain in your gentleness. That’s where the healing will begin.