Here's another beautiful piece from Toyin Femi-Akinlade. Her articles have been featured on here several times and she's an absolutely fantastic writer. Lessons like these, which she's written about below, need to be shared and learned from.
" It is better to go to the house of mourning than feasting for that is the end of all men..."
I often hear people say when they hear of someone that just lost a loved one that they do not know how to commiserate with the bereaved. Particularly if the deceased either died untimely or in very sad or painful circumstances.
I felt this same way two years ago when a dear cousin lost her husband untimely exactly two weeks after their daughter's first birthday. What made his death particularly sad was because they had only been married for just 4 years and she got married when she was well in her 30's. Married late as we say in this part. My first reaction when I heard was, 'How do I begin to console her? What do I even say to her?'
I also lost my dad not too long ago and like they say in my part of the country; 'We see even through our tears (Ti a ba n sunkun, a ma riran)'. I observed the many shenanigans of people who came on condolence visits to our family. Talk about the good, bad and ugly. While some had comforting words, gave helping hands, some would have been better off not visiting.
This is what has prompted this write up. These are a few tips I think people will find handy when going to visit the bereaved:
. Keep quiet if you don't have anything reassuring to say. Silence is golden remember?
. Offer a shoulder to lean on or your arms to hug and your hanky handy (clean ones please).
. Let the bereaved cry out. Don't try to make them suppress the tears. Don't try to control how people grieve. I cannot stress this enough. Some people will tell you, you have a lifetime to mourn so you shouldn't go overboard by crying your eyes out for days. If they need to cry or yell out please let them. Yes it may not bring back the dead but it's healing for the soul. Where caution is necessary is when that is all the bereaved wants to do.
. Don't lie or try to say flattering things about the deceased thinking you are comforting the bereaved. By all means be sincere in whatever you have to say.
. You could play a song. Music is therapeutic trust me. Something cool, soft and inspiring. Gospel music for the Christians or just good old jazz instrumentals. The choir in my dad's church came and sang a couple of his favourite hymns in Acapella style. That visit is one that left an indelible mark in our hearts. As we listened to them sing particularly the hymn, Peace Be Still, we were comforted and knew in that instant he was indeed in a better place free from the pain and discomfort he suffered in his dying days.
. When the bereaved feels better make them ride on the wave of the moment. They have a lifetime to mourn the loss of their loved one don't spoil a fine moment by drawing their attention back to it.
. Help out with something. House chores if you can. Take something along whenever you go visit. Money, food etc.
. Give sound counsel that will make the bereaved look beyond their loss, see the silver lining in the cloud.
. Say a prayer. I know the not so religious people may question this but really and truly a prayer sincerely said is so reassuring. It doesn't have to be loud. Just hugging the bereaved and whispering the words of prayer in their ears is enough. Though you can only do this if you are close to any member of the grieving family. A particular man of God visited us and as is the usual custom, he prayed with us before taking his leave. He said his prayers in Yoruba and forgive me but this has to be the deepest language in the world. He in his prayers listed out many reasons we had to be thankful for our father's life. Things that even we didn't notice making us realize like we say in my language that, ' He who thinks deeply will surely have reasons to give thanks ' (Eni ba monu ro a mope da).'
His prayers were as though someone wrapped a blanket around one on a very cold night. I felt this way. Every of my siblings and mum felt the same way too.
. Please do not force tradition down people's throats. I wish I could yell this from a rooftop. There are some things I believe civilization should have taken from us. This is me speaking generally as thankfully we didn't have to deal with this. This is the 21st century!!! 'Nuff said.
These are just a few tips and are by no means exhaustive. If you have more, please do share.
Article by: Toyin Femi-Akinlade
Article by: Toyin Femi-Akinlade