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AnuOluwapo Adelakun: Too Soon For a Widow to Move On… Says Who?

AnuOluwapo Adelakun

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I have seen the ugly the face of death and how it can make mockery of a lively soul. One never prays to get slapped in the face with the acute reality of the death of a loved one, especially a spouse. It is never an easy pill to swallow, yet some humans make it a point of duty to ensure that one not only goes through such a dark hour painfully but come out of it worse off. I am talking about the plight of widows- the ones faced with the repugnant stench of some African cultural practices.

The ones who suddenly become bald because some others thought it respectful to uproot every strand of their hair because their Knights rode away into eternity. The ones who must have a cocktail of the bath water of their husband’s remains.  The ones who must marry their husband’s sibling because tradition requires them to. The ones who get stripped of every little dream they worked hard to materialize because  “it’s our brother’s property”. The ones that are left with the dreamy eyes of their children looking up to them pregnant with many hows and whys and whens.

My neighbor lost her husband last November to a strange illness. Her husband left her with a little cubicle to live in with her two young daughters. Three months down the lane, she has completed the 40 days of compulsory mourning and gnashing of teeth, she’s back on her feet. There are little black curls on her hair blossoming into a shy Afro. She is back to her business of hair dressing. Her daughters (who think their dad traveled) are back in school. She is taking each day as it comes. On this fateful Saturday, she takes her daughters out to a birthday party dressed very nicely and all hell seems to let loose! “She moved on too fast, maybe  she killed him”  “she even wore make up and dressed so nice, shouldn’t she bury her head somewhere and grieve?” “Whore! She was probably having an affair before her husband’s demise. Now she is free to hop from bed to bed” “This woman better face her children and stop making yanga everywhere”

People, how long must a woman mourn the loss of her husband? Why are men allowed to move on quickly but women expected to be miserable for the rest of their lives? We quickly tell widowers to remarry so someone can take care of their needs, especially if they are clerics so that they are “less distracted”. However, when a widow remarries, she is a whore!  Widows are human beings NOT victims. Since when did overcoming challenges and moving on become a crime? My neighbor is now the evil whore who killed her husband because she moved on. Even though I have tried to educate her accusers, they say it is “that particular tradition”. I wonder who Mrs “that particular tradition” thinks she is walking into the corridors our lives on her high horse from no where and dictating how we live, even if it means being miserable for the rest of our lives? I would love for her to take several seats of unfairness or better still, walk out of our lives like the uninvited guest that she is.

My neighbor deserves a new chance at life, so does every widow. The loss of one’s spouse shouldn’t be the end of the world. There are too many widows in the world (remarried or not) who dusted themselves from the tribulation of losing their spouses and are better off. Don’t step all over that widow, help her get up instead.

What is good for the goose is good for the gander!

Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Curaphotography 

AnuOluwapo Adelakun is a Women & Girls rights advocate, Journalist and Documentary Filmmaker working on issues affecting marginalized girls and women in Nigeria. She's a UNICEF Voices of Youth alumni, Carrington Youth Fellow of the US Consulate in Nigeria, US Consul General Award Recipient, UN WOMEN/Empower Women Global Champion for Change and UK Chevening Alumna. She's also an ardent reader of African literature and an unrepentant fan of the BBC series 'Call the Midwife'.

48 Comments

  1. BlueEyed

    March 16, 2015 at 1:22 pm

    Whoever faults a widow or widower for puting a good front and moving on (physically and emotionally) after the loss of a loved one should please take a sit in an empty stadium. The pain of losing a loved one is not in the actual loss, it exists years after in the memories that existed. The only issue I have here when it comes to moving on is when other relationships are formed, for both widows and widowers, I believe both men and women should respect the memory of a loved one and not jump right back on the bandwagon. I personally don’t respect those clerics or religious heads that not up to a year after the loss of a loved one, they are shacking with up some new person, I mean what happened to self control ?

  2. Kole

    March 16, 2015 at 1:26 pm

    Tell them, the way women are put down in this society is just abominable, we work and toil and break our backs, while the men gallivant around. How many men shave hair when their wife dies, or mourn for 40 days or drink the dead woman’s last menstrual water to prove he didn’t kill her, GTFOH abeg.

  3. jefka

    March 16, 2015 at 1:32 pm

    my dear, i am always left astonished whenever i have this arguement especially with women….
    women ohhhhh not men.
    who are the people who shave the widows hair? women
    who stays around to make sure she drinks the cocktail drink of the dead man’s remains? women
    who sings and chants witch songs for the widow? women
    i will keep saying this, women are the architects of women’s problems.
    we say forget your past and move on, when your spouse dies is that not in the past?
    am not saying widows shouldnt mourn their dead husbands, i am saying lts nt make life more difficult than it already is for these women.
    the umu nne and umu nna community should be scrapped, those people constitute more evil than good.

    • Miss_Flygerian

      March 17, 2015 at 8:49 am

      Umuada and umunna. Tufiakwa for these group of people. They are a cult of demonic individuals. Especially the umuada group. We don’t give them any shred of attention in my family.

  4. Moyo

    March 16, 2015 at 1:34 pm

    i agree

  5. Ijeoma

    March 16, 2015 at 1:39 pm

    AnuOluwapo Adelakun:Thank you so much for this post.I am a widow.I lost my husband 6 years ago’ I went through same ordeal That your neighbour went through,It takes the grace of God and a strong woman to move on.This post just changed lot of things in me today.Now i am strong,moving on!!!!!!!!!!

    • Nahum

      March 16, 2015 at 2:06 pm

      God bless you for your strength and may you continue to find happiness all the days of your life in Jesus Name.

    • ada nnewi

      March 16, 2015 at 2:07 pm

      Move on nne’m! You did not kill your husband so you will not follow him to go anytime soon. Go and find your happiness and your peace, even if you have to go to another country, do so…

  6. Nahum

    March 16, 2015 at 2:05 pm

    Mehn, this article touched me. We are so quick to demonize women in Nigeria. Even a poor widow that has lost her husband is put through hell because the first thing people question is her innocence. The truth is, things will never change until women start standing up for themselves. You neighbor should be encouraged to go out and enjoy herself, even in the eyes of the Almighty, she is a free woman so who are we to judge? And anyone who does not like it, can go and die…literally.

  7. gint

    March 16, 2015 at 2:48 pm

    i agree totally. many things are wrong with how women are perceived and treated. people will rather be joyful over a widow’s “moping around and gloomy look” than when she’s making something of her life. when i lost my mum, everybody encouraged my dad to remarry/start dating someone else by the next month.. this is no exaggeration, i was alarmed. when i wanted to have a birthday get-together the following year, these same people raised their voices, shouted, there was nothing they didn’t do. do i even need to mention that a few months after my mum dies, my family threw a big birthday party for my grandma(dad’s mum)..lol, i think about it now and i just smile, i shake my head at their ignorance.
    People will always be like that till the end of time, it’s important for the person involved to make sure she does the right thing and if the right thing offends anyone, that’s their business. she doesn’t owe anyone any explanation, afterall, will they feed her children if she decides to stay back at home and not go to work?
    it’s only a matter of time… this too sall pass

  8. Ada

    March 16, 2015 at 2:56 pm

    Thank you AnuOluwapo Adelakun. Women have suffered in silence for too long!. Its quite unfortunate that women are actually part of this (forcing their fellow women to drink concoctions etc)

    • orange

      March 20, 2015 at 8:07 am

      D funniest tin z dt d pple hu make dese women”s life terrible were d same hu were overdancing on d wedding day!!!!!!!!

  9. Ebun

    March 16, 2015 at 3:34 pm

    Truth is, people will always talk. whether you move on or stay miserable. If you are a widow out there and all you do is mope, then you are not helping yourself especially when you have children. Guess what, the bills will not stop coming because you lost your husband. If you live in a rented apartment and you don’t look for ways to help yourself pay the bills, then you are not helping your life either. I lost my husband few months into our marriage and it didn’t stop the bills from coming. None of his family members asked me for once ”how are you coping?” ”how can we help?”. The ones that offered to help, till tomorrow, not a dime from them. You can never forget your spouse so mourn in your room when you have to, cry your eyes out in your room if you have to but while doing that, know that there are bills to pay and you have to stay strong and if moving on is an answer to your problem, please do. Its ”till death do us part”. Do not let people’s opinion determine how you live as long as your conscience is clear. You alone can understand, no one else will.

  10. Omolara

    March 16, 2015 at 3:37 pm

    Thanks for this post! I was still discussing this with a friend yesterday night! Why should the yardstick for women be different! A man is allowed to remarry even before the first anniversary of the death of his wife and society frowns at a woman that is strong enough to move on with her life.. I am a strong advocate of equality what is good for the man is good for the woman too! It’s good to grieve the loss of a husband! But please know when to stop the grieving and continue to live your life, the marriage vows says ’till death do us part’

  11. hafsat-imamlawal

    March 16, 2015 at 3:37 pm

    Hmmmm………sometimes behind those beautiful makeup and elegant attires is a treacherous pain,an open wound in the heart,caused by the death of a loved one.
    our beauty as a person lies in our individuality,as such we mourn our loss differently.moving on shortly after the loss of a loved one does not in any way diminish the pain associated with it.

  12. Mz Socially Awkward...

    March 16, 2015 at 3:40 pm

    Anu, I truly enjoy the way that you write. 🙂

    That said… *draws up a stool and perches comfortably on it*… Nne. Nne….. Hmmmmmm. This mata, ehn? E deserve real exposition because the unfairness of it all just slays me, every damn time. A man loses his wife and before the gravel has even been set down upon the unfortunately deceased woman’s coffin, members of his own family (need I clarify them as “female members of his own family”?) are already lining up her replacement because in their opinion, “it is not good for a man who has tasted of married life to be bereft of it for any length of time”. You know, now, he has needs…. mmmmmmmmmmm, yes oh. NEEDS.

    Woman wey don mourn finish, scrape head, tie black wrapper reach nearly 2 months, her own lot is very different. Her life, as many deem it, is over so how dare she even look like she’s enjoying any part of it, mere months after the tragedy? Talk less of being ready to even start to notice attention from men again after a year has passed – scandal.

    So many double standards, you no even know where you wan begin vex from…

  13. papermoon

    March 16, 2015 at 3:46 pm

    “She moved on too fast” says her fellow women…… but the community is soon falling over its self to find a new wife for the widower……… and often the search party is led by the women!!!!

    • gint

      March 16, 2015 at 3:59 pm

      exactly. someone once said “women are the worst oppressors of women”. You’ve been through all sorts and you want your fellow woman to go through it too, you think “why should her own be different, does she have two heads?” even though you know deep down its wrong. i really think women should be spoken to. when women are educated about all these as they should, it will reduce radically. men don’t have such power, we are the ones doing ourselves

    • papermoon

      March 16, 2015 at 8:14 pm

      The hammer right on de nail oooo

  14. mz_daniels

    March 16, 2015 at 4:27 pm

    When I lost my dad, my mum said to us. Go shopping, apply your makeup, and look good. You cannot attract pity and respect at the same time, so choose to attract respect. I remember the office gossip of people saying I’d moved on since my dad died. My mum nko, after crying, she took over popsie’s business and is enjoying her life and the fruits of her labor. The peeps in the estate and villa started saying my mum probably wished my dad dead all along ( my parents were so close, my mum still misses him badly) but someone; a newly married woman told my mum last year ‘you are an inspiration and when I remember you, I know I can face whatever comes along as a woman and come out tops’. My mum was happy that day and said to me ‘I’ll teach women through my life that you can succeed and be fulfilled, break traditions that hold you back even as a widow’

    Yep, you guessed; my mum’s a strong woman.

    • tina

      March 16, 2015 at 11:39 pm

      I wish that all women can be like your mum instead of crying and sitting down for their heads to be shaved or opening their mouths to drink the water used in bathing their late husband’s. If we had more women like your mum these useless traditions will end automatically

    • Que

      March 17, 2015 at 1:22 pm

      If my siblings read this they’d suspect it was me typing my mum’s attitude in the same circumstance…. my mum would laugh and gist then crrrryyyy in the same breathe……I’d never seen such cocktail of emotions b4….. she made sure to laugh when she could manage it cos she was conscious of us watching her…..we all tried to lace our grief with some cheer cos thats what you do to give your mum, brothers or sisters hope in such times…..cos all the strangers believing they can teach u how to grief only end up multiplying your depression… she cut her hair cos she wanted to (even though my dad had said not to) ….i guess she felt it in some way it was the loyal thing to do for herself….but woe betide anyone that even suggested it for me or the boys, and she came for you in all her rage! It was my mum that thought me that in mourning you cry with open eyes….cos predators prey when you’re most vulnerable. Such losses, you will most likely mourn for the rest of your life, so muster as much strength as u can in the early days, to make it a good life.

      She suffered serious depression annually around the anniversary of his death, for at least 5yrs after he passed., Each year for over a week she would fall into it, sometimes for about 2weeks at a stretch….she would disconnect from the world, into her shell….it was our in-house struggle…But any oversabi looking from the outside saw a lively, hardworking successful business woman, who just moved on! Cos she managed to keep living, shed lots of weight, look great and ensure all her kids went to world class universities to enable them a chance at global competition….

      Outsiders always see your challenges through rose coloured glasses…. what they didnt see was that she was just another woman trying to fulfill dreams held by her lost love! 10years on and every time we celebrate an achievement, big or small….her sentiments are always ‘your father should be here to see this…’ I have been begging her to remarry….she said she’s not interested in any man coming to lounge on what her husband sowed for years…. she dates but thats it… I guess in her time she’ll decide….#mamaknowsbest!

      Thank God for women who manage to discern wisely according to what suits the real loved ones left behind. She, apart from God, is my yardstick for handling challenges……with as much grace as you can muster!

  15. Na wa for una

    March 16, 2015 at 5:10 pm

    The very same thing happened to my grandpa’s last wife. The age difference between them was about 30 yrs or so. When he passed ,my dad’s siblings (female siblings) were mad at her for moving on. They kept going to her house to fight with her. I told them off.

    She was a relatively young woman with 3 young kids. What was she supposed to do? Follow him to his grave. It got me sooo flipping mad at the injustice of the whole situation.

  16. Genny

    March 16, 2015 at 5:22 pm

    I lost my husband 6 months after our wedding at the age of 29 and seriously my being alive today is jus by God’s grace , though i shaved my hair and wore mourning cloth but seriously the mourning is not physical but very deep inside and that is what most inlaws and people do not know , i stopped wearing them and start making up on the after 3months because of my pregnancy yet alot of people are talking though my mother inlaw warned me never to mourn her son in my condition cos its abomination for a pregnant woman to do so yet my hubby’s uncle wont let be, i dont wish my dog to experience what i went through, am thankful today cos its four months now dat my hubby left me but i have a mother inlaw that is always there for me and my family and frnds have been very helpful, am stronger evryday and i strongly believe that my best is yet to come. to other widows out there especially young ones believe me we are not widows cos God has a perfect plan and future for us.

    • McKay

      March 16, 2015 at 5:58 pm

      Oh my!! May God be with you at all times my dear. I can’t find the words to console you other than to urge you to find strength in God and continue the legacy your husband left you in your child. Talk with your family and his but develop a thick skin and block your ears to the negativity which will come your way. I pray that at the right time, God will slip into your life another man who will love you and your child.

    • bukimaiya

      March 16, 2015 at 6:49 pm

      God will show you His mercy and support. My heart really goes out to you. It is well with you in Jesus name amen.

    • Didi

      March 16, 2015 at 10:38 pm

      Wow!! You are an amazing person! God will never abandon his own! He will see you through and you and your child will find the happiness you both truly deserve. Do not listen to anyone! Do you! If you are happy and at peace, do only what makes you happy. God will see you through and I wish you a safe delivery. Most of all, I wish you the very best in life. God bless you Genny, GOD BLESS YOU!!!

    • Shopperoflife

      March 16, 2015 at 11:17 pm

      @genny, bless u, bless ur mother-in-law. What a gem! As for dat uncle, u know am? Next time he comes near ya, o geh look through d Gaddem man and waka pass. D most important person na d mother-in-law who by d way also suffered a loss! Any other person, l no send.

    • PD Young Billionaire

      March 17, 2015 at 12:20 am

      @Genny…..May God continue to uphold n strengthen you.It is well.

    • oy

      March 17, 2015 at 9:04 am

      amen darling. my heart cries out to you. all will be well.

    • Nahum

      March 17, 2015 at 3:43 pm

      Wow!! You became a widow 6 months after marriage and you were pregnant. Kai my dear, may God Almighty restore your joy and hope in Jesus Name. God bless you dear

    • tina

      March 17, 2015 at 5:28 pm

      Take heart, thank God u survived. God will protect u from those people that do not want to see you happy and from those who seek your downfall

    • aleesha

      March 18, 2015 at 10:48 am

      My dear, God will continue to be your strength. I wish you all the love and happiness your heart can hold, and then some. Do take care of yourself and be happy because you deserve to be, and you have your whole life ahead of you. *big e-hug*

  17. Saint L

    March 16, 2015 at 5:44 pm

    This maltreatment and scourge is carried out by fellow women. It’s not the men that scrape the widows hair or ask her to wear one cloth for one year or the case may be . This is actually evil women do to fellow women. I am a woman and this practices will change when the women starts the change. Everyone has right to happiness so move on and find happiness. Mourning is in the heart not a show.

  18. BBZ

    March 16, 2015 at 5:50 pm

    @ Genny. the Lord will continue to strengthen you even as he sees you through this phase.

  19. Calabar Gal

    March 16, 2015 at 6:36 pm

    True Talk! Society has to renew its mindser regarding widows and the appropriate ‘mouning period’. What is good for the goose is indeed good for the gander. We cant nudge males to marry when the concrete is barely dry on their dead wife’s grave and crucify the women in the same breath if they embark upon the same action…….

  20. Zara

    March 16, 2015 at 10:02 pm

    Ijeoma,Ebun and Genny..God is your strength ..lots of love.

  21. Lucy

    March 16, 2015 at 10:12 pm

    @Genny May God be ur strength oooo,I don’t even know what to say

  22. tina

    March 16, 2015 at 11:55 pm

    These traditions were made by men who died over 400 years ago and still we continue to live by them. You see why our country will continue to move backwards. We women should speak out when we are being oppressed. If you see your fellow woman going through the same ordeal speak out for the person. When you attend your village meetings bring it up. It was a human being who started these wicked traditions in the first place and it is up to us as human beings to end it. Women are not supposed to be going through this in this modern day and time. Rules are made and can be broken someday.

  23. Que

    March 17, 2015 at 1:23 pm

    If my siblings read this they’d suspect it was me typing my mum’s attitude in the same circumstance…. my mum would laugh and gist then crrrryyyy in the same breathe……I’d never seen such cocktail of emotions b4….. she made sure to laugh when she could manage it cos she was conscious of us watching her…..we all tried to lace our grief with some cheer cos thats what you do to give your mum, brothers or sisters hope in such times…..cos all the strangers believing they can teach u how to grief only end up multiplying your depression… she cut her hair cos she wanted to (even though my dad had said not to) ….i guess she felt it in some way it was the loyal thing to do for herself….but woe betide anyone that even suggested it for me or the boys, and she came for you in all her rage! It was my mum that thought me that in mourning you cry with open eyes….cos predators prey when you’re most vulnerable. Such losses, you will most likely mourn for the rest of your life, so muster as much strength as u can in the early days, to make it a good life.

    She suffered serious depression annually around the anniversary of his death, for at least 5yrs after he passed., Each year for over a week she would fall into it, sometimes for about 2weeks at a stretch….she would disconnect from the world, into her shell….it was our in-house struggle…But any oversabi looking from the outside saw a lively, hardworking successful business woman, who just moved on! Cos she managed to keep living, shed lots of weight, look great and ensure all her kids went to world class universities to enable them a chance at global competition….

    Outsiders always see your challenges through rose coloured glasses…. what they didnt see was that she was just another woman trying to fulfill dreams held by her lost love! 10years on and every time we celebrate an achievement, big or small….her sentiments are always ‘your father should be here to see this…’ I have been begging her to remarry….she said she’s not interested in any man coming to lounge on what her husband sowed for years…. she dates but thats it… I guess in her time she’ll decide….#mamaknowsbest!

    Thank God for women who manage to discern wisely according to what suits the real loved ones left behind. She, apart from God, is my yardstick for handling challenges……with as much grace as you can muster!

  24. Genny

    March 17, 2015 at 3:23 pm

    AMEN!!!!! to all your prayers, i love you all my dearies

  25. opeyemi

    March 18, 2015 at 12:00 am

    hummm!!!! i married one of the best Man on earth 8 months after DEATH!!!! snatched him away leaving me then with a 6 months old son was preggie before my marriage i mourned him for a year without wearing makeup barbed my hair no earrings and all sorts until my son clocked 1 and had to celebrate his birthday i had to make my son happy in spite of all which i did and people started talking during my mourning peroids i was still doing business cause i could see nobody was going to help’, am done with the 1 year mourning and got myself and son a house for me to start my life back its not easy the pains is not when u look messy or unkept so people can pity it is a thing of the heart so many times i cry i try to stop the tears but they keep flowing its sooooo deep its unexplainable only the one who wears the shoes knows how it feels so many times i want him to talk to me so many lonely nights cold nights sometimes i just want him to telll me SORRY when am tired Our society does not respect us if we dont stand up to our feet and take up responsibilities in the little way we can who will???family and friends will promise heaven and earth but trust me they will fail pls let that woman go in with her life its not too early
    Genny it is well with you pls be strong the lord who has been my pillar will be there for you he will comfort in when those hot tears rolls dowm ur face plsss take care of ur self,ur baby is the sign of the love you guys shared am so grateful to God for my son he is a blessing to me u can add me on bbm 2ad70d5c if u need someone to talk to

    • oy

      March 18, 2015 at 9:50 am

      thanks, we all should be there for one another, stand and fight for one another, God bless you

    • orange

      March 20, 2015 at 8:32 am

      Awwn,tnks for dt,@gennybaby,u wil be fyn,muah!u r loved……..Dnt forget to bliv in God,my sister”s husband died almost two mnths after deir wedding,chaii,it was painful,nd to talk abt her in-laws,she gave us d gst of wat dy did,she has pickd up ooooo,she don pick up,she wasn’t pregnant tho,now she works,earns her money nd gave birth to a baby boy lst december,cute boy o,outta wedlock sha, ma pale dy vex……….it z well…#lovejoypeace

  26. aleesha

    March 18, 2015 at 10:51 am

    my parents were married for over 40 years, and when my dad died, people still had stuff to say about my mom: ‘she didn’t scape every strand of hair off her head’ ‘ she sat on a chair and not on the bare floor during the mourning week’ ‘she had nail polish on her toes’ ….

    • orange

      March 20, 2015 at 8:29 am

      Pple dt thunder wil soon strike,tchew……….bad belles

  27. #simply_suzann

    May 28, 2015 at 9:49 pm

    Ppl jst keep on treating widows like beggars.. I rmb when I lost my dad,I was barely 8 nd my youngest sibling was 7mnths. My dad’s family made us see hell on earth,we saw paper back then and almost called it money all in d name of their brother’s property.. We got 2 d point of going to court but spiritual attacks nko?? I jst hope someday all this tradition madness wld stop

  28. Blackbarbie

    February 17, 2019 at 1:12 pm

    The sad part is that it’s the women folk who are quick to maltreat widows forgetting that every married woman is a widow-in-waiting. May God continue to strengthen and comfort.

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