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Grace Efezokhae: When You Go to Visit the Bereaved…Don’t Make the Pain More Difficult

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Have you ever been duped by a friend you trusted, rejected by loved ones or your investments in a project went south? Such experiences could be very painful, but none can be compared with the pain of losing a loved one.
That kind of pain is everlasting; it stays with you for life.

I remember when a friend lost her dad a few years ago. I struggled within myself to find the right words to say as other friends and I planned visiting. My final resolve was to go there and hold hands. The visit went well; babe was strong enough and she appreciated our visit.

Last year when the doctors had said my brother had few weeks to live, my family and I were all devastated. I can’t explain how excruciating that period was for us. The day I received the call that he had finally given up, I froze for some minutes and tried dialing his number. The doctor picked up and told me to be calm. I kept dialing that number till the day he was buried.
I told my neighbor and he held my hands. He said I needed to take a walk away from home. We finally had that walk downtown by almost midnight. That walk calmed me a bit. Friends and family called, wanting to know how I was. Some came visiting and brought juice and other stuff.

I kept getting calls from home to take heart and the feedback from home was that my mum especially took the news well. I will not forget those that called to ask if I had eaten. I woke up every morning to voice notes from friends. A friend sent me money to take a trip anywhere from home.

I also heard some insensitive statements: How can someone be telling me that if my brother was in Nigeria, the family would have taken him to XYZ prayer ground and he would have been healed? Did she think the family wasn’t praying? Was his ill health not a result of the crappy health system in Nigeria, till we pushed for him to live in a country with better healthcare? What about those that were saying I should not cry? Crying itself is therapeutic.

I don’t think it’s nice to visit the bereaved and ask what happened. Please ask someone else for details other than the bereaved. Please, don’t go there and let the bereaved especially those directly affected face the horror of narrating the story a million times. Tell them nice things like how they were amazing loved ones to the dead. I remember a call I got from my aunty and one other man. They said my brother will be smiling in his grave for the love we showed him during his lifetime and how we stood by him through it all.
This statement from people still gladdens my heart till date… “Ah! Grace, I give it you and your family, the love you showed him was amazing. I am sure if any of you were to take his place, you would have all fought to do”

A friend just lost his dad and some people who visited laid blame on the mum and his siblings for the death. See ehn, even if a little child mistakenly drank a bottle of kerosene and died, going there to blame the mum or dad for their “carelessness” is the worst and most insensitive thing to do.

In the Sosoliso plane crash of 2005, a woman lost all three kids. When she was interviewed, she talked about how people were blaming her for taking her kids to a school in Abuja all the way from Port Harcourt. that was highly unfair.

When you ever have to visit someone, who is bereaved, all that matters is your presence. A hug, holding of hands and just sitting there will be great ideas. Send text messages telling them how you will always be there for them (if you don’t mean it, just keep quiet}. A bereaved may not be in the mood to call so don’t take it personal when they don’t, don’t tell them not to cry. I will even advise that statements like ‘it is God’s Will’ or ‘do not grieve like the unbelievers’ should be avoided. Even if they post about it on Facebook, don’t click the like button (this is my opinion). Comment if at all or send an inbox.

Before you go there and start blaming the bereaved or saying yeye stuff like “if you had listened to me and taken him/her to that prayer house I told you, this wouldn’t have happened”. I am begging you on my knees as I type, just go there sit still like a piece of art by Michelangelo than to spill gibberish. The experience of losing a loved one is tough enough, don’t go there and make things more difficult.

Photo Credit: Rocketclips, Inc. | Dreamstime.com

Grace Efezokahe is a finance professional based in Toronto, Ontario. She is an avid reader, writer and traveller who loves to travel and share her experiences for others to see the world through her eyes. She can be reached on [email protected].

28 Comments

  1. Cece

    March 16, 2017 at 12:21 pm

    Deep, true words.

  2. i must talk

    March 16, 2017 at 12:24 pm

    Placatory words should be as simple as – God will heal this wound or God will comfort you and all yours. Stay with the bereaved, give soothing hugs allow him or her lean on your shoulders, bring food for them (yes i said food). Unfortunately, the reverse is the case. when i lost my broda to a road traffic accident, most relative that came emptied our store! others were watching African magic till late in the night.

    • Fisayo

      March 16, 2017 at 1:26 pm

      Sorry hun. That must have been horrible.

      Why won’t people just stay at home instead? That looting of the kitchen sh*t is the worst! Ugh!

    • Dr. N

      March 16, 2017 at 5:15 pm

      Ndi ara!
      Imagine the effontry!
      I hope you are able to forgive their foolishness

  3. iyke

    March 16, 2017 at 1:01 pm

    Anybody who has been bereaved carry a double burden: the pain of loss, and the pain and awkwardness of living in sadness among people who almost invariably would prefer not to hear about it.
    While you, my friend may have the best of intentions, sitting with me, the griever in silence rather than attempting to offer verbal consolation will help a lot. Some comments like ‘NDO’…’Diwe’…’God knows best’ ‘ Everything happens for a reason’,…. ‘time is a healer’…. And other motivational platitudes for someone who just lost a loved one can cause unintentional harm and even create a rift.
    So, personally, I expect those who care to just show up for me… don’t just assume that I will reach out to you if I need help. Sometimes, helping with practical things like housekeeping , fixing canopies and cooking can relieve a lot of stress and in turn help the bereaved.
    Also, be sure to take the initiative to follow up in the weeks and months ahead.

  4. TOYIN

    March 16, 2017 at 1:40 pm

    This is spot on!! because people just cut the wounds deeper in the name of condolence visit. Allow the person grief . When i lost my dad a stranger told my uncles to take me out of the church cause i was crying too much what kind of insensitivity is that, He was my father, can you imagine how i felt

  5. Salewa

    March 16, 2017 at 2:16 pm

    Couldn’t have said it better! It’s weird how our experiences are so similar. I’ll only add a tiny bit:
    Dear religious people,
    Please understand that when someone has a family member that was ill before dying, chances are they have prayed and sought help more than you can ever try. Enough with the “christianese” while someone is hurting. If you must be biblical to a grieving person, refer to the story of Job and remember that everything was fine when all Job’s friends politely sat with him in silence. The second they opened their yama yama mouths, wahala started. Sometimes sitting in silence with someone grieving is all that is needed. The constant statements such as “God knows”, “You should have run to God” etc, just hurts. Hope you don’t get punched in the face one day. A simple hug and sitting in silence without being a gbeborun asking what happened or trying to figure out what could have been done is fine.
    Signed,
    Someone who has been stung by “caring visitors”

  6. Daddy's fav girl

    March 16, 2017 at 2:47 pm

    Excuse my epistle but this article is the truth and i need to rant. I lost my dad barely 3 weeks ago, i still dont know how i wake up to work everyday or smile at people cos i’m devastated. i feel like i need to see a therapist sef cos i have two personalities within me now, i smile at u while my mind is elsewhere thinking of what i could have done to prevent my daddy’s death.
    Meanwhile, when he died, some people came to the house and i remember one man kept asking a stupid question,why did we leave him in that hospital? like if we had our way we wouldnt move him. Like u, the only thing that has given me hope so far is the fact that my dad was loved. He was a lecturer and seeing his students and colleague’s comments on different facebook posts and how people genuinely cared for him,gives me peace that he left a beautiful legacy. My daddy wasnt perfect but he was a good man and like u said, this pain is going to last forever. I cant get over his sudden death. Not even a goodbye, i stayed at that hospital for two nights till he died in my arms, if i had any idea he was going to die, i would have hugged him all night and talked more instead of hoping for his recovery. His last words was my name….sigh I pray you find peace dad,and i pray for comfort and understanding to get through this. The burial is next week, i know i am going to encounter some insensitive people telling us what we could have done better again, please shut up in advance, thanks

  7. Mutubaby

    March 16, 2017 at 3:09 pm

    Thumbs for this write-up!

    I think a lot of Nigerian can be very insensitive on how to react and respond to people who have been bereaved. They become very curious (what to know how it happened) and don’t realize that the last thing you want to talk about is the person you have just lost.

    I remember when I lost my mom… I got blamed for not calling her siblings and that we got told off that we were responsible for her death, bearing in me we had to rush her to the hospital ourselves.The same people throwing stones didn’t contribute to the hospital bills, they had not visited in god knows how many years. A deaconess in church even told us we should have taken her to church; at that point, I began to blame myself. We were even rebuked for crying.lol

    All I and siblings wanted at that point was a hug and kind words.

    In my opinion, until you lose a very close relative or friend you would never know the pain that comes with been bereaved!

  8. Laolu

    March 16, 2017 at 3:34 pm

    I couldn’t agree more, pele hun. You are doing so much better already

  9. Xplorenollywood.com

    March 16, 2017 at 4:18 pm

    Spot on! Was with a friend that actually lost his wife, didn’t even try to say more than my condolences and be quiet. He had his ears full ehen, he could actually smash his fone! Please and please, just be a friend and offer your shoulders. In fact even i am sorry for you loss is weird, no you cos the death?

  10. Tina

    March 16, 2017 at 5:00 pm

    Thanks for this write-up, I loss my mum this weak and it has been so painful, am devastated, lost in taught, the pain is on explainable, some of my relations are not aiding at all, even some sympathies. Lord Jesus all I need is you right now, you are the answer to it all, please save me.

    • Ms. E

      March 16, 2017 at 6:42 pm

      I lost my dad a year ago and I understand how you feel. Please cry when you want to. It will help you heal. Ask God questions even if you may not get an answer. Express your anger, frustration, disappointment or what you feel to God. Trust me, He will not reject you, as we have been commonly taught. You are still human and are his child. But also ask for Him to strengthen you. You need that strength to heal, plan a funeral, deal with guests and visitors that lack sympathy and commonsense. Ask for wisdom. You will need it during the planning. Ask for courage. You will need that during the funeral itself. Too many people with peanut brains can come up with traditional practices for a funeral even when the person was not a traditionalist. I said no to so many things my fathers family wanted to do, as per the burial. That strength could only come from God. Please know too that you do not have to answer any questions as to what happened and why? It is none of their business. Only you know how you feel. It cannot be described with words. We all feel pain but how we experience it, is individual. Be comforted my sister. Your mum will want you strong for her now. She will want you stable through it all. She will want you to be wise. And she will want you to remember your good times together.

    • Munachi

      March 16, 2017 at 10:27 pm

      It Is well. …Holy spirit will comfort you.

    • Tina

      March 17, 2017 at 9:49 am

      Amen thanks

    • Dr. N

      March 16, 2017 at 10:37 pm

      Ndo Nne
      Be comforted

    • Tina

      March 17, 2017 at 9:49 am

      Thanks I appreciate

    • Mz Socially Awkward....

      March 17, 2017 at 12:48 pm

      Some people will read this comment of yours and they may not reply, but they’ll say a silent prayer for you.

      I dearly pray The Lord will be gracious to every prayer said over you and yours in this time….. and may His answers bring you healing and so much more. Please accept my condolences.

  11. Dr. N

    March 16, 2017 at 5:14 pm

    Don’t open healed wounds. This reminded me of a classmate who rushed to fb to put up a post when I lost a bestie
    “Have you heard what happened to so and so? May we not die b4 our time!”
    I felt like she stabbed me wt a shard of glass and twisted it in then poured acid in the hole. What rubbish!
    Mtchewww!
    Silence is golden people. Not all the time blab. Sometimes mute

  12. Beti

    March 16, 2017 at 5:16 pm

    It sure can be awkward but oftentimes, just being there, holding the person’s hand is comfort enough. I also don’t get why people try to stop you when you cry. I am a huge advocate for crying when you have to. Crying is great therapy.

  13. Eii

    March 16, 2017 at 8:24 pm

    Dear Tina,please accept my condolence on your mum’s passing. May the Lord Almighty grant you and all who loved her, peace like a river in your hearts and strength to get through this time,Amen.

    • Tina

      March 17, 2017 at 9:50 am

      Amen and Amen. Am grateful

  14. Paula Phosa

    March 16, 2017 at 9:31 pm

    Eish, can’t agree more. I recently lost my Mother last month.the worst statements were:
    _ All Will be okay
    _ Time will Heal
    _ It’s God’s Will
    _ You are a Christian and shouldn’t Cry like someone who don’t know God. People don’t put themselves in other people shoes
    _ what will be okay without my Mother?
    _Who said I want to forget my Mom with time?
    _God’s plan for my life is to Bless me & not harm me.
    Rather let the Bereaved be the one talking and crying if she wants to , because thats therapeutic.
    The rest please keep quite cause chances are you don’t even mean what you are saying
    Sometime the only healing thing was Music esp. Gospel that we both enjoyed.
    PMP
    Tembisa S.A

  15. Munachi

    March 16, 2017 at 10:25 pm

    This is so apt. .I lost my mom last year and some family members were not helping at all, I heard things like ” munachi why are you not picking your calls ” like for the heck of it, why should I pick your call, what exactly are you planning to tell me that can’t be sent in a text. ” ( even peeps that failed jamb dont pick their calls, how much someone whose world just crashed). Munachi you should have called me, could it be medical negligence, high blood pressure doesn’t kill anyone…. and I am like really Aunty like really.
    I think it takes someone that has lost a loved one to fully understand how it feels ..

  16. Trish

    March 17, 2017 at 2:01 am

    Thank you so much for this! My only child died 2 months ago and it’s horrible to be asked how he died. The worse question you can ask.

    • Serene

      March 17, 2017 at 9:30 am

      I’m so sorry Trish. I wish I could hold your hand. I’m an only child, and I’m just so filled with sadness at the pain you must be going through

  17. smith

    March 17, 2017 at 3:59 pm

    ”that kind of pain is everlasting and stays with you for life”. I remember a friend of mine calling me like after 3weeks saying ”dude I know you are over it by now”. it’s been over 3 years now and sometimes it still feels like yesterday, guess if it’s hasn’t happened to you, you’ll never know…well written

  18. silent

    March 18, 2017 at 8:38 am

    I lost my dad in December and I have frds and extended family telling me it is well. My response to them is always it isn’t well.
    I also had frds telling me it’s God’s will well the God I serve won’t want me to be sad as time doesn’t heal or make things better. We had uncles and aunties that accused my mum and siblings for my dad’s death ,well forgive me for believing he will make it. Everyday when he was in the hospital I kept asking him if he would be fine and even with the pains he kept reassuring I and my siblings that will be fine.

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