By Nqobile ‘Billz’ Mkhatshwa
It’s just over a year since my beloved mother passed away and it’s still unbelievable as I write this, that I haven’t physically seen her, touched her and had a conversation with her for that long. I was never ever prepared for how losing her would feel and how it would change me. A lot of the time I sit in disbelief, struggling with the reality and tangibility of her absence.
The experience of losing a parent; from hearing the news, to preparing for the funeral and to the aftermath, is none that can be generalised. So I can’t even begin to tell you what happens when this situation befalls you and what you can expect. This loss was the first one for me, the first that hit home, the first that was personal, painful and hard.
A friend of mine, about two months after mama’s passing, shared an article from herzimbabwe.co.zw titled “Nobody Tells You How It Really Feels To Lose Your Mother” (I have been trying to click through to the website and it seems to be down, I, unfortunately, do not have the name of the author). And it’s true, nobody does and even if they did, there’s no guarantee that you’d ever be prepared for how your insides will flip and turn and twist to almost threaten your own existence. I was glad to have been sent the article, firstly because I was desperate for any and everything to help me survive each day. Secondly, the title was very specific to speak about losing a mother. Not a parent in general, but a mother and that was appropriate for me. Thirdly, the article was written by a woman which was comforting in so far as finding someone to relate to. Although much older than myself, as far as I can remember, and 3 years on, she was still feeling, dealing and healing – which wasn’t so comforting because I was in a space in which I didn’t want to feel and needed to just stop crying!
Perhaps it’s a good thing that I cannot access the article anymore because I was going to end up quoting the writer throughout this article and I’m still learning to express my thoughts and feelings with regards to my loss, even today, because often what I can muster, are plentiful of tears. So let me focus… I learnt of my mother’s passing through a text from my brother. It simply said, “Usishiyile make sisi” (“Sis, mother has left us”). 05 February 2018, 20:29, was when I received the text. I was watching TV with my housemate, also in conversation with her about boys probably and simultaneously on our phones. Having read the message I sensed my world spin and running short of breath I managed to whisper, “What? No”. Not noticing my crumbling world, my housemate repeated whatever she had said. I whispered ‘no’ again, and dropped my phone on the floor. I went after it, sat myself back on the couch and dialled my father. Whilst the line was connecting and noticing my housemate’s panicking face, I told her what the message said and added that I needed to confirm with my father. As soon as he said, “Hello sisi”, I shrieked, “Uphi make?” (“where is mom?”) and by the time I was asking him the second time, I let go. His fumbling for a response put a stamp on it. I wailed and wailed. I’d occasionally stop, disbelieving of my reality and off I’d go again. Calls kept coming in from relatives, nothing but crying over the phone. About two hours later, I messaged my brother and told him I’d be on my way home the next day (I live and work in South Africa, home is in Swaziland). I never slept that night, a friend of mine drove me home the next day.
Then the real work began. The week of preparing to lay my mother to rest was the most hectic week I have ever experienced in my life. No time has ever drained me physically, emotionally and mentally. I will go on forever if I dare tell you what each day presented as we prepared for the funeral. But all the while I was learning things and meeting people as though for the first time. The whole time I was learning how to manage feelings; functioning and grieving at the same time. Losing her initially broke me. I felt too much, I cried a lot, like, a whole lot! It threw me into new realities, into a space where I had to confront myself, my thoughts and everything that I knew and didn’t know. Which led me to the place and space I was left in, without her.
After the funeral, there is still life to be lived, so I learned, and that part has been the most difficult for me. If you are open to it, there is a lot of learning. The days after the funeral came with all sorts of realities and there are a couple of pointers, I’d like to share about my experience of dealing with losing my mother. Although I’m unable to quote anything from the article I mentioned, I do want to recognise it for its helpfulness in encouraging that I mourn and grieve in whatever way and for however long. My friend helped me too in sharing what she got from the piece and her hopes for my journey. I’ve since jotted down a couple of points that I hope you will find helpful as you grieve your beloved (mother), as you continue to exist and function among people. Your experience of ‘dealing’ may be completely different and that’s okay. Kindly share yours for someone else who may relate to them and find them helpful.
- People quickly move on and you can’t blame them. They have lives to live, purposes to fulfil and things to do. I mean, they don’t know any better and even if they did, how much more of themselves can they pour out, what are they to do for you, with you and for how long? Be strong baby, don’t be mad.
- You will withdraw from people, deliberately and consciously. You won’t be able to help it and even when you think you can, you won’t want to. Sometimes you will struggle to get your energies up to be with people.
- You will be an emotional wreck but you will keep it together. Everything will be a trigger and you will cry. You will cry about everything and sit in the pain of your loss. Sometimes, out of nowhere, you will cry and cry and cry.
- But with time, they say, and you will learn that it does get better. Learning to live without mom will be very hard, so allow for time to adjust.
- The pain will not always be as sharp, as acute, as raw and as devastating. It will get better.
- You will remember her at odd times as you do stuff but they’ll come a time when the memory will not take your breath away. It will still pang and maybe even make you tear up but eventually, it will also make you smile and feel loved.
- Memories will not feel like missiles assailing you but like hugs that remind you of her love but it may be years before you get there.
- And even as it gets better, you will have days where everything feels like it did the first time. Cry again. Breakdown. Let go. You will be fine, I promise.