Grief – the bitter pill we all have to swallow at one point or the other.
Recall when you lost a high-value possession, a much deserved and sought-after proposal, or when a colleague wrongfully took credit for your work, and you had no idea what to do? From the mundane things to the weightier matters, we all have had to deal with one measure of grief or the other. When grief hits you, your grit or outlook doesn’t matter. What counts is that grief has come, and she is staying.
Like a mother, grief cloaks you with comfort. You feel safe in her cocoon and do not want to come out of your grieving zone. You cherish the solace you get from being on your own and reliving what might have been different.
It seems quite easy if you’re grieving a temporal loss. Your stolen iPod, or perhaps a what-I-ordered-versus-what-I-got outfit. But what happens when the grief extends to things that cannot be replaced? What then do you do? What if it is family, career, health, life, friendship, or love? How do you cope? What do you do when it seems your world has all come undone without a warning?
The first time grief hit me was at 5. I was five, naive, and full of life. Death came calling, and in its wake, grief trudged along, and I had no choice but to dance to her tune. It was a slow and painful 10-minute dance.
At 18, she struck again. I’d prepared so hard for a writing submission. Asked for help, cleaned out my bank account, crossed my t’s, dotted my i’s, and was ready (with a Capital R). Fast forward to submission time, and I couldn’t submit. The site requires a laptop which I do not have. I tried all the tricks in the book, but they all fell flat. There was no submission. That night, I lay on the floor with tears gradually soaking up the floor as I watched the clock tick by. I waited and counted the minute till the clock struck 12, and the deadline was over. Afterwards, I struggled to come to terms with the fact that I’d lost that opportunity forever. And trust me, it was a pretty big opportunity then.
By this time, I figured I’d weathered the storm and now had a bit of control over grief. Could I be more mistaken? Over and over again, I found myself relapsing into the waiting arms of grief. Was it the time I had to let go of my life’s ambition, the time I lost a family member, the time a close friend suddenly became a stranger or those moments nothing just made sense?
Time and time again, I’ve wondered if truly there is a way around grief . And guess what? I found my answer.
The first step is the informed realisation that life would not wait for me to recover. It was a huge slap on my face. A reawakening one. It brought me out of my lethargic space and added steel to my spine. It was the clear water that rubbed my face off its grogginess. The moment I realised this, my outlook on grief and, ultimately, my entire life changed. No matter how long or deep my grief was, life wouldn’t wait for me to recover before running her course. She didn’t bring me any plaque when I finally decided to let go of my garbs. So I did what I had to and pulled off the cloak, just like I had to fight against all odds to get a bus from Tanke during my undergraduate days, knowing that the lecturers wouldn’t wait for me. Even when the clock is ticking in grief, the world runs her entire course with or without you.
Now having realised how selfish life is, I had to rise to the occasion and not allow grief to rub me off the goodness of life. I had to do better than I’ve done the previous week, month, or year. I had to look beyond my present pain and create some magic.
For months after the submission saga, I couldn’t bring myself to write anything. I was so sated with grief. However, when I let go of those smelling garbs of grief, I discovered that one submission is not the ultimate. The inability to submit a writing project shouldn’t determine the course my career will take. I picked up my tools and commenced writing again. So far, I’ve published 8 books and contributed to an international anthology, among other milestones I’ve crossed in my career. So yes, I’ve cheated grief. Winks.
In my book, As my Mother’s Daughter , I mentioned that I wouldn’t wait till death came calling before I appreciated my mother. I made this resolve on the day death came calling with his entourages.
One thing that always makes grief so thick and impenetrable is guilt . You think of a million ways you could have done better and beat yourself over and over and over again. You keep sinking in the mire of grief, and that’s not good for anyone. In my case, I always thought about what could have been different. Would I have been a better daughter? Would I have even loved this way? Or would I have turned out this way? And so on.
One way I’ve learnt to combat this particular feeling is to be volitional in how I live. If life is well lived, words are well said, and actions are well taken, then there would be no room for regret. If I’m constantly checking up on my mother, then when she dies, I wouldn’t be beating myself for not speaking to her in decades. If I had helped when I could, I’d have no nagging feeling of remorse if anything went awry. I will be free.
To effectively do away with guilt and make it have nothing on you, Right from this minute, be intentional about your actions and inactions. Live your life to the fullest. Love to the hilt and be proud of your achievements. This way, you are already leading grief 1-0.
All these are, however, only achievable once you’ve agreed with your circumstances. I had to agree that the deed has been done, what is gone is gone and what is lost is lost. I wasn’t beating myself over and over on the situation, nor did I live in denial. I owned up to my circumstances, which helped me navigate the waters. Your vision becomes clearer when you see the circumstance for what it truly is. This will aid you to become better equipped to combat grief.
Indeed, grief is thick, but it’s not too thick to be conquered. It can be overwhelming, and all escape routes seem blocked. You just have to look beyond the pain and get a grip on yourself.
Be you an architect, an engineer, a creative writer, blogger, DJ, journalist, and what have you, you may not be able to have a smooth and rosy sail all through your life. There will be instances when your plans will fall flat and what will save you in those days is how best you can rescue yourself from the comforting grip of grief.
Grief is a cloak; just as you seek comfort from a cloak on a cold day, you are free to seek comfort from grief. Hardly does anyone wrap a cloak around themselves more than is necessary else they die of heat. Similarly, if you refuse to take off the cloak of grief, you may get smothered to death. And that, my friend, is not suitable for you or your career.