Today, I met a young woman in the bank, at customer care. She was holding a baby of about 5 months or less with dark skin curly hair, wide beautiful eyes, and chubby cheeks. The moment I sat down close to the mother; the baby fixed her gaze on me. After a while, she began to wail in apparent distress from the way the mother was holding her while still looking at me as though saying ‘save me’. I quickly stretched out my hands and asked to mom if I could carry her, she joyfully handed the baby over to me who immediately stopped wailing and beamed with smiles. I asked for the baby’s name and the mother told me. For the next 10 to 15 minutes, myself and cherubic smiling Meema talked and giggled endlessly, our chatter penetrating the banking hall. From the corners of my eyes, I could see some people peeping into the customer care section to see where the baby talks and giggles was coming from.
The customer care attending to the mother discharged her, and she took her back from my arms strapping her to her back.
She then she looked at me straight in the eyes with a small and shaking voice and said, ‘thank you very much for holding her’. I assured her that I enjoyed the time I spent with her cheerful beautiful baby; then she added, ‘her father died.
That was when I truly saw her, and the burden she was carrying. She quickly wiped a tear that was rolling from her very yellow eyes down her cheek and said another thank you. I felt lost and powerless, because I know exactly how she was feeling, and I know even if I were as rich as Dangote or Bua, I may not be able to lift this grief off her.
Time stood still for me at that moment and took me back 22 years. I saw myself, right there, in that young woman, and the pain, uncertainty, anxiety, grief and emptiness that she is carrying. I know that feeling; I still carry it till this day.
She looked forlorn, malnourished, and confused. I collected her phone number and promised to call her, even though I absolutely do not know what I would say or do to support her, but I will try because I know she needs all the support she can get. Not many people know how to give support, especially average conservative communities and families, which is where she is from the looks of her. Maybe they don’t want to, or they just don’t know how to; either way, most families end up wrecking a grieving and broken woman more than supporting her.
To most conservative families especially parents, grieving is a sign of lack of faith. Experiencing pain and grief much less showing it is ingratitude to God, hence you must swallow it down, and the best thing to do to a widowed or divorced daughter is to get her married as soon as possible. And that was exactly what my father did, he wanted me married off as soon as I had delivered the baby I was carrying. He never relented in his bid to get me married by every means possible, not even when I left home because I wanted an education, found myself a job and enrolled myself back in school. I was treated more like an unwanted liability, than a daughter whose 15-month-old husband had died.
I look at that young widow and my heart ache all over again; for her, for me and for all the clueless, vulnerable, young widows that our society continues to produce by the day.
Death and separation are a reality of life that many parents never put into consideration when goading their uneducated, unempowered, dependent daughters to get married. Alas! It is a reality that is not about to change.
For as long as we continue to push uneducated, unempowered and dependent women and girls to get married and have children they cannot raise alone, we will continue to produce grief stricken, broken dependent widows and divorcees with orphans whom we have no ability to support, nor a system/ structure that provides that support. The saddest part of all this, is not only that they may very well experience widowhood and divorce, but that they may suffer for it as well.
What we can do however, it to change the way we approach it, the lack of preparedness for it, the way we continue to dismiss such life realities flippantly as though they do not matter and change the way we continue to do same things repeatedly yet expecting different results.
An educated, empowered and financially independent woman will be an educated empowered and financially dependent widow or divorcee who is capable of taking care of herself and her children, or at least contributing to their upkeep. Both her, and them are more likely to not be anyone’s liability and the possibility of them having a decent life are higher.
Moreover, we all need to understand that people grieve differently especially between men and women. I have seen both men and women who have regained, rebranded, and got their lives rolling again after the loss of a spouse in little or no time. And I have seen those who are stuck in time, just like me.
For a long time, I thought I was the only one carrying such vacuum of pain, until I came out into the world and found them. A friend just described it to me some few days ago, ‘living in limbo’.
There are a lot of women living in limbo, from the pain of grief from loss, grief from abuse or from life’s unpleasantness, some experience just one, some experience both. And most hardly get the support they need to enable them transition out of it and heal. I always think maybe if I have had more support from my family, if I had had more compassionate and kind people in my circle, I would have healed too. But I now understand that not everyone understands the importance of kindness, compassion, emotional, mental, moral, psychological, and financial support even amongst family.
We must however realise that this is a skill we all must develop because that is the bane of all sustainability. Kindness, compassion, and support is what sustains every and any kind of relationship, family, friends, society, community, makes it functional and thrive. And I daresay lack of these virtues is some of the reasons why we live in a dysfunctional society today.
My beautiful niece got married less than 2 weeks ago, I did not attend the wedding and seriously do not know how I feel about it. It is such a complex mix of emotions ranging between despair (because I cannot stop it) exasperation (because it is a repeated pattern) dismay (at the cluelessness of everyone involved). Its incredible to think that the cute, beautiful baby girl that was born right in front of me and looks so much like her grandma has grown up to become such a beautiful young woman. In my world, 21 years and just beginning post-secondary education is not a ripe age for marriage; but I know I am alone in this world. Hopefully, someday, more people will come live in it.
I hope and pray she had been prepared for what ‘married life’ means for a young girl in this part of the world, and she is ready to face it. More importantly, I do hope and pray she has been prepared for inevitable life situations like widowhood and divorce, and that her parents are mentally, emotionally, psychologically, and financially ready to support her in the event such happens.
We need to stop producing helpless widows and orphans needlessly, like YESTERDAY. Parents especially fathers need to understand that Girls are not liabilities and have as much if not more potential than boys. Training a Girl, investing as much in her potential and future as much as the boy, is the only way to ensure a good life for her; married or not, that of her children and build a sustainable society.
Right now, our is unsustainable; and unstable. We are all living in LIMBO because the woman are broken.