I was at a point in my life where everything was moving faster than I could understand, my greatest and most breathtaking task was to keep pace with the happenings in my life. I was pursuing my master’s degree which I had intended to complete by December 2020. Thankfully, I had also been awarded a yearlong Health Equity Fellowship in year 2020 at the George Washington University, Washington DC by the Atlantic Fellows for Health Equity Program. In the middle of all these career development, I was raising my son who was only one and a half years old at the time. I was very optimistic and determined to pull through the bits and pieces in order to hit these important milestones, of course basing my strength on the support system that I was privilege to have at the time.
I remember vividly, when we were travelling back home in February 2020 after completing our first convening as Atlantic Fellows for Health Equity in Washington DC, some Fellows experienced flight cancellations on the basis of what was termed as influenza infection that was spreading rapidly in China through human contact and extending to the rest of the world. This was later confirmed to be a global pandemic by the World Health Organization in March 11, 2020.The Coronavirus disease pushed the world to a historic moment where almost every system was put to test and humans had no other way but to adapt to compulsory changes. The world came to a sudden halt with sporadic changes in work, education, social activities, health, transport, cultural, communication among other systems. Stories of school closure for seven months, social distancing, and travel restrictions, uptake of remote work, curfews and quarantine are memories that we still carry to date.
Our African culture was deeply challenged, we couldn’t just understand how we were going to live without handshakes and hugs, how we were going to bury our loved ones within hours of being declared dead without the opportunity of performing the African dirges in funerals or offering what we would otherwise call “befitting sendoff to our loved ones” for example. On July 7, 2020 I received the most devastating news from one of my loved ones which meant that life had taken a sharp twist! I knew it was the beginning of tough times, since then life has never been the same. This is someone I could speak to several times in a day, someone with whom we could discuss both sorrows and joy without any fear. The one I held in high regard, the one I confided to and shed tears uncontrollably, had intimate conversations and even laughed immeasurably knowing that someone got me! All these moments went on mute without prior warning, no one prepared me that this was coming, I didn’t know what I was supposed to do to ensure a smooth closure. Sadly, everyone was going through a tough situation; some people had lost jobs, others were infected by COVID every time there was a wave, we were not allowed enough time to mourn our losses, neither did we have adequate spaces to debrief.
Three years later, I have learnt so much from my experiences. Managing the pain of loss of our loved ones whom we treasure more often do not come with a manual or a guideline on how to go through each phase , here are some three tips that have kept me going;
a) Acknowledge your feelings:
Coming to the realization that I was hurting, was actually the beginning of walking through my journey of loss. I urge anyone going through the same not to feel compelled to keep strong when they feel vulnerable, There are those moments that one would want to cry, review the past photographic or video graphic memories captured .This is absolutely okay and the surest path to healing.
b) Seek Support:
There were always those moments that I felt overwhelmed with emotions, these are the times that I felt I could not manage the pain alone! Talking to someone that is close to me and in solidarity with me, sharing how I felt, expressing my emotions helped me a great deal. Through these debrief moments always got back on my feet and soldier on.
c) Engage more in your hobbies/Interests:
Finding an activity that I pride in doing, that hobby that gives me joy and pleasure and indulging in it effectively was very instrumental. This helped me to keep off negative emotions and feelings of hopelessness that could impact my wellness and supported me in managing my stress levels. I will encourage anyone experiencing deep loss to try it out.
Change is inevitable and the only permanent thing in our life! At some point we must go through some remarkable experiences which are often associated with transitions. The bottom line is that nothing lasts forever and there is always that opportunity to thrive in turbulence and relive our life again!