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Friday, August 10, 2007

Mourning Families Need Help After Burial

MOURNING FAMILIES STILL NEED US AFTER THE BURIAL

WORDS BY: FRANCIS KAHIHU

fkahihu@gmail.com

Everyday of our lives, there is a family that is mourning. Over the last couple of months, with the increase in insecurity and road carnage, many families have been plunged into mourning. Every member of the society is today either directly or indirectly affected. We have relatives, colleagues at work, friends, or even ourselves mourning at one time or the other.

In many Kenyan cultures, whenever a family loses a member, whether close or distant, there are assemblies from the day the sad news reach the village to the day the body is laid to rest. The mourning family receives lots of guests at this moment. In fact, mourning sessions serve as effective fora for persons to touch base with long-time--not-seen friends and relatives. In other words, the homes and lives of the bereaved are packed with persons and activity.

Our culture has taught us not to visit mourning families empty handed. Faithfully, then, do we visit the families with a gift in either cash, ‘shopping’ or service, in that we are willing to spend and to be spent for the sake of the bereaved family. We run errands for them, volunteer to serve in the fundraising and organizing committees, and even plan to drop their kids to school. In this, the bereaved family is overwhelmed by our presence, our presence in all forms and shapes.

With a sad face, we all shake the hands of the affected, wishing them our sympathies. In most cases, all members of the neighbourhood must pass by the bereaved home lest it be said that they partook in the death of the deceased. We all turn very generous, albeit not to be associated with the death being mourned. We contribute money to support the funeral arrangements, escort the body to its final resting place, and then, vanish. Yes, we all vanish and leave the mourning family deserted. Lonely.

Remember the last time you lost a friend or a relative. You indeed appreciated the company of myriads of friends of people around you. They offered the much needed support. They held you by the hand as you planned for the burial of your loved one.Then, the dreaded day came. You lowered the casket to the grave. And that was the beginning of another experience. Later that evening, after a very busy previous night, the visitors are gone. The home is suddenly silent. The seats are empty and the silence in the home is so loud that it scares. It seems like the crowd has gone with the departed friend.

Then the reality of the moment rudely strikes. The level of mourning heightens. You now mourn two losses, at times three. First, the loss of the family friend, secondly, the loss of the company in the evenings and thirdly, the loss of the chicken, the goats and the crops since in most cases they are trampled upon during the ceremony.

There is a general thought among humans that the bereaved family needs support and solace only during the period when arranging for the buarial of the deceased. We fail to cover the whole distance with the family in need. We walk with them halfway through and leave them to trudge the hard part. With the disintegration of the family unit, there has been little support offered even by the family members to each other. The members who live in the cities drive off after the burial and hope that those who have been left behind will stabilize. With this, we abort the process of supporting the mourning.

Mourning is a process. It starts off with the announcement or anticipation of a loss, prevails through the process of planning for the burial, and proceeds to haunt the mind of the bereaved long after the burial. It is never fair to imagine that the family or person in mourning recuperates the evening after the burial of a loved one. In a way, it seems to offer some sort of psychological cushion when the body of the deceased is lying in the morgue. The family members feel that their kin is at least accessible. The evening after the burial usually awakens a rude shocker. The loved one is now six feet under, or has been cremated. In a nutshell, the loved one is gone, gone for good.

It’s at this point in the mourning process that the bereaved persons critically need solace and company. Ironically, society deserts mourning persons at this point. This has been known to plunge persons into post burial depression. This is generated by three factors. First is the loss of a loved one, and the realization that they will never meet the, again. Secondly, the bereaved person comes to terms with the responsibilities they have to bear with the demise of the loved one e.g. paying school fees and hefty medical bills. Thirdly, the person feels after days of enjoying the company of friends, they are suddenly dropped. Silence visits the home, while a lot of psychological noise rules the mind. This is a recipe for a distabilised mind.

The above are some of the reasons why we need to consider offering above average support to persons undergoing a mourning season. The persons need our presence and penny, before, during and after the burial. May I dare suggest that support is needed even more after the burial? And so, if you did not make to visit a mourning family as they arranged for the burial of their loved one, it is not late. A grand opportunity awaits. Plan to pay them a visit and offer support after every one else is gone. You will be surprised at how much they will appreciate your concern.

We have watched on the media, and experienced in our neighbourhoods the fact that in times when death strikes a home, children are usually oblivious of the goings-on at the home. They only observe that the family has received many visitors suddenly, and later loss all the visitors, after a trip to an upcountry home (for the burial, but they fail at times to grasp exactly what is happening). Gradual withdrawal from the mourning family helps the children come to terms with the demise of a loved one. Let us learn the art of offering strategic support to persons affected by death.

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