I am intrigued with the grieving process. It is not some morbid fascination of mine. It’s just that I don’t recollect ever being able to grieve properly. I am never appropriately upset at the death of a loved one. I am too cold, distant or nonchalant or I am too affected – I become obsessed about the afterlife. I relate my closeness to the deceased and start to think I may be next.I feel ashamed most times when I receive news from home about the death of a relative. Sometimes I feel I am disappointing the news bearer when my statements go like, “Oh really…what a shame.” Problem is most times, I barely remember these people. So my grieving for them lasts approximately five minutes. When my grandmother died, I was hurting inside so bad, yet I found it hard to cry. We were close, my grandmother and I, yet I could not give her a tear. When I finally cried, it was the quiet regretful kind, that I never saw her again. Other than that, my thoughts went to how much I was financially responsible for her funeral. Back then, I did not give my strange behavior any thought. Then my elder brother died. He was the eldest of us all. His death enraged me because of the strange circumstances – as he was estranged from the family. No one knew where he was until the news came late. I was surprised at how angry I was, not sad – angry.
To my relief, lately I have come to find myself quite capable of grieving – I just do it in the most unusual way. Call it self-preservation if you like. When I watch sad movies, or see news broadcast of some fallen soldier in Iraq, or the latest atrocity in Darfur, I find myself moved to tears. Not the drip-drip-drip kind. The bawling- so- hard-my-eyes hurt-for-hours kind. The first few times this happened to me, I was shocked.I did not know any of these people, yet I hurt for them. I wondered how I could not grieve for an aunt or a brother, yet empathize with strangers. I felt I was a bad person.
Nigerians are well-known for our grieving prowess. We go as far as hiring professional grievers – an amusing tradition. We bury our loved ones with such pomp and pageantry that I have dreaded answering my phone for fear my bank account would be short a few thousands due to one person’s funeral costs or another. I honestly sometimes feel this makes me a bad person to thank God for my parents’ good health, as this will allow me not only to enjoy their presence for a while, but also puts me at financial ease – for now. Has life battered my psyche so much that I am incapable of putting my emotions where they belong? Has my being removed from my African upbringing uprooted my basic need to hang on to dear departed ones till they are put in the earth? Am I emotionally bankrupt?
In my search for the path to grieving, I found that certain kinds of music make me cry for no reason. It’s like whatever I have been holding in for so long comes out and I feel lighter afterwards. So a few times a month, when I feel my heart turning heavy with stress or fatigue, I pop me a good slit-your-wrist music and settle in for a good cry. It is a weird ritual. But it works. I am open to any one’s advice on their coping mechanism when it comes to grieving. I really need the help.