Telling StoriesTiti Olajide Cole
After Ayomide’s death that fateful day, it felt like the weight of the world came crashing down on me. I couldn’t cry, I was numb. In fact I was so numb that I asked my husband to take me to the agent that I usually import goods to Nigeria with, as I was scheduled to pick up some goods from him the same friday that I lost my daughter. People came to commiserate with us and were visibly uncomfortable because I was the one consoling them, rather than the other way around. After about two weeks, the crowd of family and friends visiting the house dwindled and I could breathe a sigh of relief. The truth was, as much as I knew they meant well, I still resented their presence. I felt choked by all the tears and care being shown me. At the time, I was in denial and being a social worker trained in grief counselling, I knew this for a fact but refused to acknowledge it.
People often talked about how strong I was about handling the loss, therefore I resolved to stay ‘strong’. This I was able to pretend to achieve by repressing my emotions, forgetting that repression is a wall that could crumble anytime and I only prolonged the inevitable. I was numb but rather than process the sad event, i began to distance myself from my husband, family and friends. I had a Kiddies store where i sold everything used by children (except edibles). I gradually lost interest in the business, i couldn’t stomach the store most days and so I left the store to be run by my assistant. Quite a number of women I have counselled over the years told me that they even distanced themselves from their surviving children at this stage of grief. I often wondered how in the world I would be able to go on and still ‘keep it together’. The thing is, whenever death occur, especially that of a child, there is self blame and regret from the parents of the child. Things that ought to have been done a particular way or otherwise. Although the impact of the loss is often felt immediately, the effects of how it is handled could have lifetime repercussions if not properly managed. Human reactions to grief varies, so does the ‘coping skills ‘ adopted. Some cry, while others exhibit anger at themselves and at God that did nothing to prevent the loss. The fact remains that whether we exhibit a visible reaction or not, there is a fallout and this is a natural human reaction to grief. When anger is directed at God (believe me, I have been there), you wonder where to go for answers when you can’t seem to get an answer from the one place you know to go for answer. I had asked God the ‘Why’ question several times and I was angry at God at a point. I needed answers but got none. I was so full of repressed anger that i would often get depressed. All these while, I was counselling others, still doing my ‘job’ while ‘bleeding out internally’.