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Home / Mental Health

What not to tell the bereaved  

MENTAL HEALTHBy ROSA AGUTU | Mon,Oct 18 2021 00:00:00 EAT
By ROSA AGUTU | Mon,Oct 18 2021 00:00:00 EAT

 

Grief has stages: denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. [Courtesy]

Grief is part of the human condition. Some experience loss of a loved one early in life, others in old age. But pain is pain all the same.

While some believe grief has no formula, it does have stages: denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

By acceptance some believe it hurts less, but some people grieve decades on like the pain just happened.

Maggy Waithira, 32, and a mother of two lost her baby two days after delivery and laments some friends and family were not sensitive.

“People told me that I am still young and I can have another child, others said the baby was not meant to be mine that is why I lost it,” and which hurt as she had carried the baby for nine months and prepared for its arrival “then someone says the baby was not mine.”  

Indeed, there are things to avoid telling a grieving person. Here goes…

It is well: It is not well. This person is in pain and nothing seem well.

They are in a better place, the suffering is over: Telling this to a five-year-old who has lost a parent is confusing as the best place is here, being together.

 

Time does not heal, though healthy coping mechanisms work. [Courtesy]

Time heals: Time does not heal, though healthy coping mechanisms work.

Kenyans are also fond of saying ‘at least he/she died in old age, many die young” while confronted by tears some quip “stop crying, be strong’ and for someone who died ages ago you will also hear “Aren’t you over him yet, he’s been dead for a while now, there is a reason for everything.”

Others still will yap ‘she was such a good person; God wanted to be with Him, Stay busy. Don’t think about it.”

Laura Nafula recalls people telling her “be strong because I am the First Born. So I needed to be strong for my siblings and my mother but they did not understand the pain I was going through,” she says of the time she lost her dad.

Others said having been sickly, he was now in a better place yet being her father “being dead did not lessen the pain for me,” she adds

 

The grieving need a support system to discharge emotions. [Courtesy]

Clinical psychologist Jacqueline Gathu says the grieving need a support system to discharge emotions and mostly the “bereaved need a confidant, someone who is so emotionally in touch with themselves that even if you express things that society will not allow you to express, they will still be okay. That’s the only way you will get healing, you need to be weak, you need to be vulnerable because that’s the only way to heal,” says Gathu adding that professional help while grieving helps.

“You cannot do this alone even if you have family and friends,” says Gathu. “You need professional help especially if the grief is prolonged or the loss is affecting you in a way that you never thought it would and you are feeling that your life is coming to an end.”  

Gathu says that it doesn’t have to be death, as even loss of jobs, friendships and relationships can have similar effects.

“There’s nothing that is final than death. People who have been left behind are going through a lot. While supporting someone who is bereaved just give a hug, it’s better to keep quite as opposed to saying things like it’s okay, God will make away. Remember this person is blaming God for the loss?”

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