By: Stella Mpisi
Dealing with the death of someone you love is never easy, so much so that many people consider the loss of a loved-one as a “biggest fear”. As much as we dread to say goodbye to people we love dearly, death is a natural phenomenon that we simply cannot escape from. The best thing we can do is to learn how to deal with it.
Personally, I have had to deal with the loss of two very important people in my life from a young age: my parents. My parents died simultaneously in a car accident when I was just ten years old and I had to learn how to deal with both losses quite quickly in order to move forward. Different people of different ages, religious beliefs and upbringing deal with death in different ways. However, in my opinion, the pain never really stops; we simply learn how to live with it.
Death is a bizarre concept. You can be talking to a person over the phone the one moment and the next moment you find out that the person has given up ghost. Hence, many people, including myself, find it difficult to grasp the meaning of death beyond the simple fact that it is the end of physical life. Nevertheless, I find that the most difficult thing when it comes to dealing with the death of a loved-one is not defining death, but rather living your life and realising that a special person is permanently no longer a physical part of it. Your mind knows that the person is no longer there, but your heart has trouble catching up with reality. This, in my opinion, is the most difficult part.
The very first thing you need to do when dealing with the loss of a loved-one is just that: deal with it! Denying the truth of a confirmed death or trying to go on with your life as if nothing happened is not healthy both emotionally and physically. In order to move forward, you need to face the sad reality that a person is no longer alive and that life won’t be the same. This doesn’t mean that you need to become a pessimist and live the rest of your life in melancholy, but it simply means that you need to acknowledge the truth in order to allow yourself to move forward.
Secondly, you need to allow yourself to grieve and to bear in mind that it is okay to cry no matter your age, gender, role or social position. Even if you are a parent, caregiver, or older sibling and you feel the need to be strong in order to protect those who are under your care, it is important never to neglect your own feelings. Being the middle child, when I lost my parents I felt the need to protect my younger sister, who was only six years old at the time, from the reality of what was going on. However, I later learnt that even though in front of her I tried to be as strong as possible, it was imperative for me to find the time to truly grieve. Not doing so is not only detrimental to your own wellbeing, but in turn poses a threat to the wellbeing of those you are trying to protect.
Lastly, you need to avoid withdrawal and solitude. In my case, I was relatively young when my parents passed on, but that didn’t protect me from the harsh realities of dealing with death. In fact, because I had never truly dealt with it, it followed me into my adult life. This is why I strongly believe that it is crucial, no matter the age, to have a reliable support structure. Of course you may need some time alone to process what has happened, but in my opinion nothing good comes out of prolonged solitude and withdrawal. It is important to seek someone to talk to. At times you will realise that all you need is for a person to listen to you, even if they don’t talk back.
In conclusion, dealing with the death of a loved-one is never easy and many deal with it in different ways. No matter how you choose to deal with it, don’t forget that you need to allow yourself to grieve and you should avoid prolonged solitude and withdrawal. Even if it seems like life cannot go on without a specific person, life does go on if you allow it to. The power to do so lies in your own hands.
Stella Mpisi, a Congolese-born (Democratic Republic of Congo) South African woman, is a writer, poet, blogger, songwriter, motivational speaker and colourism activist.