Dealing with grief is never easy. It is especially true when you lost someone at a young age. You were maybe still a child or a teenager. In both cases, you are missing someone who was a pillar in your education and development. For me it was my Dad. I was 14.
Baba (i.e. Daddy in Fulah) was my best friend, my hero – just the way little girls often feel about their dad. But it doesn’t have to be a parent. You were maybe close to your grandma or granddad, it could be an aunt, an uncle – anyone who played the role of a tutor and took care of you. The most painful is to think about all those important steps in your life that they will not be able to witness and that you will never have the chance to share with them : your graduation day, your first time moving out, your first job, your wedding day, meeting your children and significant other…Grief is composed of several steps but I think that going through that as a kid or a teenager is slightly different and this is why.
Your character is not fully formed
I lost my bearings. The world like I knew it will never be the same. How can I grow and become a fully capable adult when one of the biggest part of me, of my life is missing? As a child it is so hard to integrate and convey those feelings. A lot of questions and “why?” pop up in your head and you just don’t have the ability to digest them yet. Therefore the first steps for me were not only denial and anger but also feeling like my childhood was over or, at least, that I was not like every other child anymore, since I was now an orphan.
Adults think you don’t understand
Since you are so young, you can not concretely fathom what death is. At least, this is what adults around you might think. Now, they might just want to protect you or reassure themselves by thinking that children get more easily through rough times than adults. However, it is not necessarily true. You might seem okay from the outside because you are still playing with your friends and going to school, when on the inside, you are just crumbling down and wishing someone could see it.
Forgeting the unforgettable
Your memories of that person are fading away…You feel angry and ashamed at the same time because you already had lived so few memories with her. It is completely normal to feel this way. There is unfortunately not a lot one can do about it. Since your brain is still learning and forming, it keeps just the essential. Like a computer and its memory card, only our brain is not as nearly efficient on the long run. Time wins in the end and only elusive clues of the person appearance, of her voice remain.
To anyone going through this pain right now or still trying to figure out how to deal with it on the long run, here are some pieces of advice that I applied myself :
Realize that you still have loved ones
It is simple to be first mad at anything and anyone. Just remember that you have people around you that are grieving too. You may not feel understood by adults but you may have someone who knows exactly what you are going through. In my case, my sister is 3 years younger than me. Character-wise we are similar. Although we were not that close at that time, I knew she was the most likely to understand what I was feeling. She cried when I cried, she shut down when I shut down. We did not have to talk and we did not know how either. But knowing that we were going through the same grieving process brought us closer.
Build new bearings
Your world is torn apart but you still have to build the foundations of the adult you are yet to be. Keep doing the things that bring you comfort, that help you feel like other people your age. For me it was school : I studied harder, remained a good student. At school, I was still like any other teenager. When it was sad at home, I turned to my friends, to books and this is what kept me grounded.
Live to make them proud
Live. And don’t feel bad about it. On the contrary, there is a saying in Fulah that I kept in mind : “Do not weep for the people you have lost, for it prevent their soul from finding peace”. Indeed, a person that cares about you doesn’t want to see you closing off and stop living. She’ll want to see you happy, achieving your life purpose. So live for them and for you, make them proud just as you would have if they were still by your side.
Talk about them, remember the good moments
Even prononcing their name will bring you tears at the beginning but don’t give up. Ask people about them, their habits, how they sounded like. That is also what will keep their memory living in you. After a while, you’ll see it will be easier and instead of tears you will have a smile on your face just thinking about them. You did have good moments worth remembering and celebrating.
Time flies…It’s been 11 years now. I have since then that comforting feeling that a special someone is watching over me and making sure that everything will be okay. Let me tell you this: you are going to be okay too.