17 August 2011

Reality of Loss

Weddings and funerals have atleast one thing in common. Especially in the African context. Both have a lot of people. The bride and groom are surrounded by a large number of friends, family and acquaintances all celebrating with them. And yet in the hours that will ensue, they will be alone. The impact of this sudden change from being with so many people and then suddenly being alone, is something that is not felt and infact is actually 'oddly' desired. This makes sense, after all the couple can't wait to finally be alone for the first time ever, as husband and wife.

This, almost identical, impact is not cushioned when it comes to a funeral, however. The bereaved family during the days that lead up to the burial, is surrounded by so many people who lovingly mourn with and care for them. They do not have to worry about the cooking or cleaning. The burden of organizing for the whole solemn event is borne by so many that it is not felt so much by the grieving family. Hugs and tears surround those closest to the deceased and their pain subsides somewhat. A day or two after the burial however, everyone leaves. The bereaved must now face the reality of loss alone. After having more comforters than they could ever need, the bereaved family/individual is left with no one. The burial is done. Everyone leaves and moves on with their lives. Apart from the occasional call here and visit there, the overwhelming support experienced before is no longer there. It is then that the depression sets in and the reality of loss is really felt.

I could see this in the faces of my cousins who lost their mother, my aunt. Having gotten some days off work, I returned the day after the burial. When I got home from work, the once crowded and busy house was now empty and quiet. All the furniture was back in its place. The fires had been put out and the tents brought down. I went to the room at the end of the corridor and found my three cousins together. I had not seen them together like that since they all got home. I could tell, they were sad. And it made perfect sense. The arms that had carried them the past few days, had now gone. It was time to face this sad reality on their own. Fortunately for them, and I hope they realise this -at the very least, they had and still have each other.