An Ibadan Girl’s Guide to Grief

“The cruelest words

to say to the recently bereaved are

“Life goes on”.

True, life goes on.

But life tomorrow,

will never be what it was yesterday”

~ Oyinkan Adebimpe, circa 2016

Grief is such a deep, hard-to-fathom emotion.

I remember the first time I encountered grief. I was in primary school and was no older than seven at the time. A classmate had lost their father and we were all asked to observe a minute of silence for the dearly departed.

Grief is a strange emotion and rather uncontrollable in its strangeness. I remember, years later in University, when I lost a dear one and was told of his death unceremoniously and over the phone by a meddlesome family member who should have known better. I remember that my chest seemed to enlarge as the gravity of the news dawned on me. It seemed that a huge gaping chasm had formed in the very center of my being. I do not remember standing from the library desk where I sat and walking all the way to my hostel room. But I remember, I remember as I clambered on my bed and grabbed my pillow over my head. I screamed into my pillow, as though my tears could fill that hole in my soul.

I did not know then, of course, but I would go on to lose a friend barely two years later. In the years that have followed, friends have lost loved ones and the harshest truth is that there is no one way to mourn. Some, like me, will cry. Others will stare, unseeing, stunned into silence by loss so profound. Others, yet, will laugh, disbelieving that which they know to be true.

Not everyone will cry and that is okay. What is not okay is policing how people express their grief. It is also not okay to echo empty, hollow phrases like “God gives and God takes” or “Life goes on”. It is okay to ask them how they would like you to be there for them and to let them know that you are available if they need you. This is not a guide but I sure hope it helps.

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