On the day before what would have been his 34th birthday, and on the day considered the greatest celebration of love in the world – Valentine’s, I can’t help but wonder and reflect on life, love, death, grief. Before I begin, I want to say: LOVE MATTERS and I want to thank every single person that has shown me or injected love into my life. You know who you are, no need to mention names, am better because of you.
The last couple of years have been turbulent, filled with such memorable and traumatizing events, the Westgate Attack resonating as one of the most recently troubling to me. On September 21st, Nairobi was turned upside down, not for all but for many. This is to those families and all those who have suffered loss over the years…
It is said that there are 7 stages (or emotions) of grief: denial, anger, fear, guilt, depression & acceptance. It is also presumed that these stages can and are experienced indiscriminately. You may go through all 7 (ideally) or just a few. You may go through them in random order; some may last longer than others. But, it is also assumed (and strongly believed by me) that one must travel through these emotions, to eventually reach acceptance and ultimately be in a place to HEAL.
I don’t presume to be a psychologist, counsellor or even a psychiatrist. I don’t assume that you are in need of any of these services, but I do imagine and assume that if you have been through loss you are emotionally and maybe even physically drained.
For that reason alone, I allow myself to address you if only for a few minutes, because sometimes I feel like am becoming an expert at dealing [but nothing is further from the truth, we don’t become experts, we simply adapt each time it hits us].
Over the years, I have dealt with death and with grieving; and a little more than I would have hoped for over the last few months, weeks and days. To be honest, I think we encounter grief a lot in our lives – especially as we grow older. So these are my words, here is my healing, may you perhaps find comfort or be on the way to finding it.
“Grief is like an ocean; it is deep and dark and bigger than all of us. And pain is like a thief in the night: quiet, persistent, unfair”. No truer words have been spoken, and today once more they make so much sense to me. Most people have often wondered why I write about “grief” and why it sometimes seems so simple for me. Some people think it is insensitive, or that it is private, and sometimes they might be right, but I’ve come to learn that it is part of (my) healing and everything I do.
As I do often get personal, for those who know me, it is no secret that I lost a few dear people in the last couple of years. And each loss I have dealt with differently. However, death (which we all go through at some point in our lives) is never easy to overcome. It is a journey and we must take time to explore each emotion. On this day, thinking of my brother – am at peace. I have accepted, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t often feel angry or depressed. It’s an eternal cycle.
When I first encountered it on a very personal level, all I could do was muster a “WHY?” I kept repeating it, I was screaming it, writing it, crying it and asking it! I prayed and felt like answers would never come. I sat in front of my computer for hours on end; wondering, questioning, demanding… Yet all knowing the kind of answers I needed would not come. And when I came to that realization, I closed myself up and went to a dark solemn place. A place I couldn’t possibly recommend to most, a place where nothing made sense, and where no one mattered. It was a place where I didn’t care enough to care for myself. As so I began to plummet into emptiness.
But through it, I began to remember those gone and what they stood for. I realized I needed to “grieve” – I needed to let it go. I had been through my anger and depression before experiencing my denial, anger, fear and guilt. Guilt for me was the hardest, because I kept on asking the ‘what ifs’ and ‘why didn’t’ I questions. Then eventually I came back to the depression, the realization that I would finally have to accept what was going on. It took me months, but the love I shared with those gone guided me to the light at the end of the tunnel. The realization that those who remained behind (my family) needed me too, and that the only thing I could do was Love them like I had never done before. [The road travelled is different for most]
I came to realize that the kind of answers I wanted were not possible. If there are any words that I can share with you then hear this: evacuate what’s heavy on your hearts, what’s crazy in your minds and what’s not being said. Exteriorize those emotions deep inside. I found myself writing letters to my late brother, calling his voicemail just to hear his voice (until the line was eventually disconnected), I looked at pictures and I made plans to see him again. I often taught I was crazy for doing these things and for having conversations in the dark. I still do.
But what I had come to accept was that he was only gone physically, I still converse with him. I like to think he is my conscience. But my story cannot be like everybody’s and each must find that place where they feel comfortable and heal again. So deny it, then get angry, scream and shout. Don’t be scared to go through the fear of realizing that they will not be there anymore and certainly walk through the guilt (of perhaps not being there for them) or because it is tough to know that you can no longer say sorry for that silly fight. Eventually you will get to that place of depression, which I sincerely hope will bring you to finally accept. Finally accept. Because that love matters.
As far as the tragedy in Nairobi is concerned, I lost an old friend and some acquaintances. I can’t pretend to fathom what the families are going through, at my own little level, I must admit I am struggling a lot with the guilt and the denial. But I will work through my emotions, as I hope you will walk through yours too. Find someone to talk to, sing, write, cry, cry and cry if you must but get it out there.
I like to believe that those gone often look down on us and expect us to live the way they might have and spread the message of love they had to give; their missions here were complete and they left it to us to continue on their paths (until we meet again). The best homage we may pay them in that respect, is to keep their memories alive by celebrating their lives .
In 2008, while discussing what I was going through, the same friend said to me, ” Don’t worry Nie-Na (coz that’s how he called me) your brother loves you but he was just in a rush to get up there to the(real) party …” – And then he simply smiled (that particular smile of his). I guess you were in a hurry too? *Smiles*. I want to say to your friends and family, “He loves you, he was just in a rush to get to the party up there with his wife. Love, friendship are powerful things. While most now refer to you as the modern day Kenyan Romeo, we remember you as our “Boogie”. Rest well dear friend.
To all those lost, I wish eternal peace. To the families, victims, survivors, security forces, volunteers, heroes (unsung heroes) and the nation of Kenya, I say Love conquers all, trust in it, believe in it and find comfort in it. Rise Up! #WeAreOne