Kind words with a prospect of hope,
Subtle conversations evoking normality,
Empty smiles plastered on consoling souls,
I refuse them all!
I prefer my sadness, my pungent truth;
I prefer that sudden ache nestled deep within;
The gush of despair that clenches my heart tightly;
That slow rip that tears my spirit into a million pieces;
Those choking thoughts that render me breathless;
That emptiness that further pushes me into a vacuum;
Those burning tears that flow so furiously;
I prefer to be sad!
I prefer to grieve!
I prefer to stay with you!
I prefer to remain connected to you!
I remain humbled by this harrowing torment;
That allows me to contain the boundless idea of the end;
That permits me to surrender and anguish;
To levitate in the tempest of the past;
When you were with me, even though I was already gone;
Gone to the future without you;
To prepare for what’s to come.
While you were staying put to find me;
You kept suffering to reach me;
You were waiting for me to come back to you;
You were hoping to see ME one last time before the end;
And yet I was too scared to say goodbye;
I kept running away from you, further and further away.
Until there was no point of return.
My sorrow is my tribute to you,
and the person I could have been.
So, I don’t want to be consoled
I just want to be with you in the chasm of eternity.
During these complex times of chronic politicization of violence, death and trauma, mourning is neglected from those who’ve lost a dear one. Violent outbreaks and atrocities have sadly come to define our everyday reality. Sorrow, pain, mourning are discombobulated into a pit of dangerous rhetoric and narratives of victimization, and swept under a rug of indifference. Nonetheless, mourning is an essential component of the human experience which cannot be deprived. On this blog I would like to share my conception bereavement as a humble attempt to recognize the harrowing pain caused by grief which presides in mothers, sisters, children, fathers, brothers, uncles, aunts….. all over Ethiopia.
Grief is one of the most authentic sentiments I have even encountered. When it presented itself to me, it was naked and unadorned, stripped of any false pretexts to lure my spirit and soul. Grief does not limit itself to the human notion of time and space. It demands full presence and introspection. I slowly learned to acknowledge that bereavement is raw mourning process, universally connecting but individually peculiar, lacking temporal constraints. In fact, my attempts to control grief through the clasp of time, with constant rumination were futile as it morphed into a reality that unfolded though everyday experiences which never betrayed or misled me. A sudden myriad of emotions engulf me—from despair to desolation—continuously reaffirming my vulnerability. I realized vulnerability is a useful tool to inhabit the realm of a human existence and accept the embedded conflicts and contradictions required to appease my notion of reality.
When I lost my sole anchor of existence, I dived into an abyss of despair and sorrow, which was an intentional act to latch onto the memories of my loved one by wallowing into a void of sadness. I felt betrayed by myself and the higher power I believe in. I was living in a desert of sorrow with a growing thirst to understand the reason behind this punishment. I held God hostage with this give and take notion of spirituality, which induced me to feel betrayed and disregarded. And yet, the mirage of hope was seducing my inhibition to unclench my limiting interpretation of loss.
Grief does not comply with the simplistic laws of rationality; it does not dissipate out of sheer will nor the violent intensity of pain. The sorrow that lingers within me is to retain the mist of spiritual depth that exists to forge meaning on everyday experiences. This force validates my human experience by slowly neutralizing my defence mechanisms and revealing the honesty of the contradictions within my realm of reality. This is a complex journey in which resistance can flourish, through shields of anger and regret, caused by ruminating on thoughts of “would haves,” “could haves,” and “should haves.” Resistance can also be veiled by a newfound “wisdom” which entitled me to belittle my former actions and behaviours and consider them unduly and inferior. But grief is repelled by self-detrimental thoughts and finds ways to break itself—along with those of us who misinterpret it—free.
The main message I would like to convey is the sheer uniqueness of grief. At some point in time, all of us will be immersed into the abyss of loss, but the experience is unique and cannot be compared. Mourning will always be foreign. That emptiness felt when we first encounter loss, which leaves us suspended in a vertigo of nothingness before the flood of agonizing pain suffocates us. And yet we prevail and continue to have faith. We see, we feel, we persevere. We continue to smile and cry not in spite of the pain and sorrow, but with it. We learn how to befriend our pain and accept it. We build a nest within our soul to accommodate all the polarized emotions, stripping them of any hierarchical value, positive and negative associations nor preferences. We embrace the human experience of keeping faith on the unseen and unknown to lead our way in every direction.
This blog is not meant to analyse ways of processing loss, grief and sorrow but to share my experience and the humility birthed within me. This blog is in memoriam of those who have lost their lives and those left to suffer in the solitude of grief. I cannot pretend to understand but I can only hope that WE grieve together.
By Zula Afawork
Image source: TIZTA BERHANU ETHIOPIAN, B. 1991