Tears are synonymous with funerals, but that was not the reason people shed tears in Albert Wetundu’s burial nearly a month and a half ago.
Teargas lobbed by police to disperse mourners is what made their eyes watery. They wailed as they scampered for safety.
So furious were the mourners, among them political leaders, that they vowed to plan another funeral service for Wetundu, a former ward rep in Kakamega County.
“This is not a proper funeral for someone of his status. Once this Covid-19 pandemic is over, we will arrange a proper funeral,” said one mourner.
Mourning is one of the major avenues for community bonding, but the rule on social distance to curb the spread of Covid-19 has taken this away.
In the new normal, many cannot express their grief and inner pain in funerals, something that psychologists say is not good for mental health.
“When you do not see the person you are mourning; when you cannot touch them, it complicates grief,” says Susan Gitau, a psychologist.
It is not just how funerals are conducted today that is complicating grief for Kenyans, but the whole idea of a strange disease that has brought everything to a standstill.
Elisabeth Kubler Ross, a renowned psychiatrist, explained that there are five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
Kenyans, says Dr Gitau, could be going through the phases, which explains why many are not taking Covid-19 and its effects seriously.
“The question is - are we numbing? Numbing is part of denial stage,” she says. “Some people will feel guilty for not giving the dead a befitting burial.”
Another psychologist, Elizabeth Khaemba, says that one way of finding happiness during this period is to deal with emotional baggage.
“We feel all this grief which unfortunately we don’t want to acknowledge. If we can take time to let the grief go through us, acknowledge that we are feeling sad, we can’t go to work, that in itself reduces stress,” she says.
To be happy in these hard times, Ms Khaemba says, people must look for a coping mechanism.
“We can still attend church as a family by watching TV or play a game of scrabble at night and it is fun. We can talk and allow everyone in the family to talk,” she says.