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There is no denying the fact that most if not all of us are oscillating between the feeling of numbness and collectively holding our breath one news headline at a time. From navigating a global pandemic, racial uprisings, looting, the #EndSARS protest, the recent spate of death by suicide while trying to untangle a web of inherited and childhood traumas, figuring out how to safely exist as your full self in an increasingly violent country and now KwaZulu-Natal flooding? 

It’s a lot. And honestly, it’s okay if you are feeling paralyzed by it all. We are all navigating uncharted waters and you are doing the best that you can in the wake of the current rising death toll over a season that is supposed to be reflectively joyous. For our future selves and mental well-being, we must extend ourselves an extra dose of grace and make room to also lean into this current moment of lament. 

Lament; 

  1. Noun
  • a passionate expression of grief or sorrow.

Similar: wail, wailing, moan, moaning, groan, weeping

  1. Verb
  • express passionate grief about.

Now listen, nobody knows the transformative power of making room to lament more than the author of the Psalms, King David the man scripture says God called, “a man after his own heart.” King David is known to drop all that he was doing to make room for moments of lament and he often documented them;

“God, listen! Listen to my prayer,

 listen to the pain in my cries.

Don’t turn your back on me

just when I need you so desperately.

Pay attention! This is a cry for help!

And hurry—this can’t wait!”

– Psalm 102: 1-2

It’s interesting to think about how the Biblical narrative has plenty of examples of people outwardly lamenting. Over a third of the Psalms written by King David are laments. The book of Lamentations weeps over the destruction of Jerusalem. The book of Job chronicles the prophet’s journey of lamenting over the insurmountable losses he and his family endured and Jesus himself also echoed the same sentiments as King David as He lamented the loss of his life in the Garden of Gethsemane; 

“Around mid-afternoon Jesus groaned out of the depths, crying loudly, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” 

-Matthew 27:46

It’s not lost on me that as we enter this Easter Season, a season of loss many of us also find ourselves crying out in similar ways to God – why have you forsaken us? How much more are we supposed to endure?

 

The 5 Stages of Grief

Mental health experts have dedicated years to studying grief and the emotions that come with it. Whilst working with terminally ill patients Swiss American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross noted five common emotions associated with grief. The Kübler-Ross method more popularly known as the 5 stages of grief identified the following emotions as common in the grief/lamenting process.  

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

While there is no particular order in experiencing these stages it’s also freeing to note that these are just guideposts for the journey and one might not experience all the stages above or in a similar order. 

Becoming re-acquainted with the five stages of grief and loss has helped me to contextualise where I currently am in the process and has helped me feel a lot less lost in the sometimes overwhelming well of emotions. Oscillating between two or three stages for extended periods is normal. So while we are all justifiably experiencing different levels of grief fatigue I’d like to encourage us for the betterment of our mental well-being and society to keep fighting to feel. Grief is not a hindrance but a natural human experience and process that is meant to be expressed and shared in the community.

Up until recently my response to the onslaught of grief has been avoidance because I didn’t believe I had any more grieving in me. I have honestly mastered the art of parking my grief, something I believe we women are very good at doing-especially Black women. We grew up watching our grandmothers, mothers, and aunties pick themselves up and dust their shoulders off because that’s womanhood. 5 Stages of grief for who? Ke mosadi (I am a woman) I’d often hear them proclaim as they swallowed many invisible or maybe they were visible lumps society expertly ignored? 

In many ways our ancestors were led to believe that our existence is only validated dare I say even justified by seasons of insurmountable grief – a rite of passage with the only socially acceptable public expression of our lament heard in song and maybe one other public outward expression of emotion, depending on what or who you are grieving. Anything more was relegated to the confines of the night where no one can see or hear the muffled cries. 

My current grief journey is helping me to shed some of the antiquated narratives and ideologies that I had inherited. I am learning that the journey is mine and mine alone. Yes, I need my community to support me but ultimately the assignment is mine. This means how I express, process, and heal will be unique because while we may have the recipe there is no blueprint to grieving. How I mix the ingredients is different to how you will do it and it’s also different for every situation! 

My prayer for us as we navigate these grief-filled uncharted waves is that we afford ourselves and others the grace and dignity to sit still long enough to listen, hear, and follow the lead of our intuition in how we are to mix the ingredients in this current season of lament without shame, judgement or unrealistic timeline pressures. 

“The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over the loss of a loved one; you’ll learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to.”  – Elizabeth Kübler-Ross & David Kessler