Kenya : Love Conquers All #WeAreOne. September 21st 2013. 11am. Nairobi. Kenya. A nation was turned upside down. The time to heal has come…
It is said that there are 7 stages (emotions) of grief: denial, anger, fear, guilt, depression & acceptance. It is also presumed that these stages can and are experienced indiscriminately. You may go through all 7 (ideally) or just a few. You may go through them in random order, some may last longer than others. But, it is also assumed that one must travel through these emotions, and eventually reach acceptance. This ultimately leads HEALING.
I don’t presume to be a psychologist, counselor or even a psychiatrist. I don’t assume that you are in need of any of these services, but I do imagine and assume that if you have been in Nairobi in the last few days you have been emotionally and maybe even physically drained. The #WestGate Attack was certainly an unexpected horrific and traumatizing event, and that is putting it very lightly in my opinion.
And for that reason alone, I allow myself to address you if only for a few minutes.
I can’t pretend to have lived through such a trauma in my life before, so I do suggest that if you can, you seek help (if deemed necessary and in whatever manner) as quickly as possible. I have however dealt with death over the years, and with grieving over the last few months, weeks and days leading to this attack. To be honest, I think we encounter grief a lot in our lives. So these are my words, perhaps not meant for anything other than my own personal healing, but if you find comfort in them, I say thank God
“Grief is like an ocean; it is deep and dark and bigger than all of us. And pain is like a thief in the night: quiet, persistent, unfair”. No truer words have been spoken, and today once more they make so much sense to me. Most people have often wondered why I write about “grief” and why it sometimes seems so simple for me. Some people think it is insensitive, or that it is private, and sometimes they might be right, but I’ve come to learn that it is part of (my) healing.
As I do often get personal, for those who know me, it is no secret that I lost a few dear people in the last couple of years. And each loss I have dealt with differently. However, death (which we all go through at some point in our lives) is never easy to overcome. It is a journey and we must take time to explore each emotion.
When I first encountered it on a very personal level, all I could do was muster a “WHY?” I kept repeating it, I was screaming it, writing it, crying it and asking it! I prayed and felt like answers would never come. I sat in front of my computer for hours on end; wondering, questioning, demanding… Yet all knowing the kind of answers I needed would not come. And when I came to that realization, I closed myself up and went to a dark solemn place. A place I couldn’t possibly recommend to most, a place where nothing made sense, and where no one mattered. It was a place where I didn’t care enough to care for myself. As so I began to plummet into emptiness.
But through it, I began to remember those gone and what they stood for. I realized I needed to “grieve” – I needed to let it go. I had been through my anger and depression before experiencing my denial, anger, fear and guilt. Guilt for me was the hardest , because I kept on asking the ‘what ifs’ and ‘why didn’t’ I questions. Then eventually I came back to the depression, the realization that I would finally have to accept what was going on. It took me months, but the love I shared with those gone guided me to the light at the end of the tunnel. [The road traveled is different for most]
I came to realize that the kind of answers I wanted were not possible. If there are any words that I can share with you then hear this: evacuate what’s heavy on your hearts, what’s crazy in your minds and what’s not being said. Exteriorize those emotions deep inside. I found myself writing letters to my late brother, calling his voice mail just to hear his voice (until the line was eventually disconnected), I looked at pictures and I made plans to see him again. I often thought I was crazy for doing these things and for having conversations in the dark.
But what I had come to realize was that he was only gone physically, I still converse with him. I like think he is my conscience. But my story can not be like everybody’s and each must find that place where they feel comfortable and heal again. So deny it, then get angry, scream and shout. Don’t be scared to go through the fear of realizing that they will not be there any more and certainly walk through the guilt (of perhaps not being there for them) or because it is tough to know that you can no longer say sorry for that silly fight. Eventually you will get to that place of depression , which I sincerely hope will bring you to finally accept.
As far as the tragedy in Nairobi is concerned, I lost an old friend and some acquaintances. I can’t pretend to fathom what the families are going through, at my own little level, I must admit I am struggling a lot with the guilt and the denial. But I will work through my emotions, as I hope you will walk through yours too. Find someone to talk to, sing, write, cry, cry and cry if you must but get it out there.
I like to believe that those gone often look down on us and expect us to live the way they might have and spread the message of love they had to give; their missions here were complete and they left it to us to continue on their paths (until we meet again). The best homage we may pay them in that respect, is to keep their memories alive by celebrating their lives.
In 2008, while discussing what I was going through , the same friend said to me, ” Don’t worry Nie-Na (coz that’s how he called me) your brother was just in a rush to get up there to the(real) party …” – And then he simply smiled (that particular smile of his). I guess you were in a hurry too? *Smiles*. Rest well dear friend.
To all those lost in this senseless violence, I wish eternal peace.
Just like any deep wound, the healing will take time and the scars will remain with us, but I say to the families, victims, survivors, security forces, volunteers, heroes (unsung heroes) and the nation of Kenya, let those scars remind us of what we have come through, & know that Love conquers all, trust in it, believe in it and find comfort in it. Rise Up! #WeAreOne