In living through the loss of my father, my mother, my three uncles, my three aunties, my son, my daughter in law, my two elder brothers, my sister, my countless cousins and, recently, my brother’s wife, I have discovered something to say to someone who suffered the loss of someone they loved.
Facing and grappling with the pain is better than forgetting.
Dont believe the hype that ‘time heals,’ or that you will find ‘closure’ and must move on.
It is 25 years since my father died at 68 in 1995. He is still with me, at least.
My mother died 12 years in 2008. She was later at 84.
She, too, is with me.
My first born son, 31, and his wife were killed 5 years ago in January 2015.
The live in my shadow.
The pain has not become softened or lessened. It has become familiar, a part of my life.
It is like when you suffer from the pain of growing a wisdom tooth.
The pain can be agonizing, excruciating. You can still feel it after it has been extracted.
The pain may be in your mind, even fading. But it is there.
Yes, the dearly departed are there. They will always be a part of your life.
There will be moments, long after the burial, when there will be unexpected moments of sorrow, of pain.
Grief will cover you like clothes.
Life will remind you of the death in strange ways.
The birthday. The death day. Festive season. Christmas or New Year.
Even those lazy days when you asked them to bring you a drink.
There is no protection from remembering. Memory is not to forget.
To not forget will demand that you embrace the pain.
You soon realize, you learn that death is part of life.
You accept that life will ultimately end in death. And you adapt to be at peace with what you cannot control.
The dead are spirits. They always are around us.
In fact, they are shadows.
Diepkloof poet the late-living Matsemela Manaka captured it well in this passage:
“We are the Living link
the African heritage
We do not fear death
we celebrate life
The fear of death is
the fear of life
Thus the dead
are not dead”
They are our shadows