My desire with today’s post is to bring a ray of hope to anyone who’s mourning or grieving the death of their loved one by throwing light into another part of the grieving process on rainbows and coping with the grief and loss of a loved one.
I want to tell you a personal story about rainbows before I further discuss what a rainbow has to do with the grief and loss of a loved one.
In the many conversations Chidinma and I had about the things that we like, one that stood out was her love and fascination with one of nature’s most beautiful displays, rainbows.
I have never met an adult fascinated by rainbows. What do I mean? Let me share one of many incidents with you.
We were on our way to visit some friends on a summer afternoon. We were chatting away, giggling and enjoying each other’s company. We had the music playing softly in the background, even though the rain and our conversation had drowned it.
It had been raining for about two days, like the typical British summer. When we began our journey, the windscreen wiper was at medium speed. Visibility was poor because of the heavy rain and the sprays of water from other cars ahead of us on the motorway.
We had been driving for about an hour, and the rain had subsided. We saw rays of sunshine burst through the clouds like when one puts a straw through a children’s carton drink. I observed that the weather was looking brighter.
With no warning, the next thing I heard from the passenger side was a happy high shriek of “Tee, o my God!” I had never heard this sound before. I panicked a bit; I was driving at over 70 mph. I still wasn’t sure what was going on; I glanced through the corner of my glasses to see what caused the excitement.
I saw her smiling with hands over her mouth, with eyes fixed in a direction in the sky. I didn’t see what she saw at first. Next, she motions both her hand in animation, like when one is air-drying the hand to get rid of water. Followed by another exciting high shriek, “This is beautiful.”
We could now see the rainbow arch through the windscreen as we continued to drive on the motorway. Chidinma occasionally tapped me and asked me, “Tee, can you see the rainbow? Gosh man, it’s so beautiful”
She looked excited like when you tell a toddler they’ll be having a meal at their favourite fast-food joint.
If it were possible, we would have followed the rainbow. I suppose for two different reasons. For her, it was the affection of the rainbow. For me, it would have been to follow the mythical sayings that there’s a gold pot waiting at the end of the rainbow.
I later found that Chidinma’s reaction to seeing a rainbow was constant. Her excitement doubled when we saw double rainbows. Rainbows deeply fascinated Chidinma.
It didn’t matter where she saw it. She had the same reaction, whether it was in the movie, in real life, or in a dream. One time we spent an evening watching rainbows on various YouTube channels.
Guess what happened next?
I voluntarily became Chidinma’s rainbow observer; my siblings also became Chidinma’s rainbow observer. If we saw a rainbow wherever we were, we took pictures and videos to share with her. Her reaction was the same excitement, like a kid taken to a candy store response.
So what did I do with this discovery? I searched online, found videos and pictures of rainbows, and downloaded some to my phone. Rainbows became one of my “get out of the doghouse cards.”
Did it work? Almost all the time! It became my joker card. It didn’t matter how upset she was. Somehow, her heart melted each time she saw a rainbow.
Whenever I see a rainbow, I remember Chidinma. It brings fond memories, reminds me of her childlike laughter, her excitement and her vibrancy. I found this true even in my depths of grief. I also find that rainbows melt my heart, bringing me warm comfort.
We were preparing to launch Balanced Wheel in August 2020. My close friends will tell you I don’t enjoy being in front of the camera. You would find me pulling a face or doing something weird in every picture.
One of the ‘bones’ Chidinma always picked with me. We had checked almost all the pictures I had and realised that almost all were not ‘public-friendly.’
I asked a friend, Kemi aka ‘GraceKemi’, to help take some pictures that we would use for the website. Kemi and I had agreed on a date for the pictures.
The day started beautifully well; it had rained heavily by lunchtime, as it often does during the British summer months. We drove to our location.
I was sad and tried to smile for the camera pointed. Besides this, I felt awkward and was mainly stiff in front of the camera. I am sure Kemi must have taken hundreds of pictures to get a few that we could use.
Kemi had decided that we take some seating pictures on the bench. I looked up into the sky as I was about to sit, and what I saw broke my sadness into a genuine smile—possibly the only genuine smile that day. I saw a faint rainbow appearing in the sky.
It felt like a bright light was lit momentarily in my dark grief heart. I remembered Chidinma. My heart was glad. I forgot we were taking pictures, and Kemi captured that moment. I am glad she did. Thank you, Kemi!
What am I trying to say? I have found certain things, places or events that remind me of fond memories with my loved one. Those memories trigger joy and peace in my heart. Sometimes, the feelings last less than a minute.
I recently saw another rainbow on one of my 2 hours long walks. Ahead, behind the tall forest trees, was a rainbow. I took a detour to find a spot where I could see the rainbow. I found a delightful spot where I could see the arch. It was beautiful.
I stood staring at the beautiful arch for what felt like a long time. I welled up yet with a warm sensation in my heart.
I only recollected my thoughts when I heard my mouth without my permission say out loud with a deep sigh, “aaaaah Chidinma!” The sensation at that moment was a bittersweet experience, like sadness and joy in the exact moment.
I continued walking with the thought about what the rainbow has to do with grief and losing a loved one? Is there something else besides the fond memories that Chidinma and I shared that I can learn from looking at the rainbow?
I also wondered about how rainbows formed. So here are some of my reflections on what rainbows can teach us about the grief and loss of a loved one.
How do rainbows form?
Rainbows can only appear directly opposite from the sun. In order to see a rainbow, there needs to be an interplay between sunlight, water and air, which happens mostly during sunny, rainy days. Essentially, rainbows are formed by scattering light from the sun by tiny drops of water (e.g. raindrops or fog).
The light entering a water droplet slows down, bends, and slows down as it passes from the air to the water. A rainbow appears when light exits the droplets, and the sky beneath a rainbow appears brighter than the sky above it.
How does the rainbow relate to life after the loss of a loved one?
When raining or has rained; the sun shining through the clouds creates the formation of a rainbow that appears. We could liken the rain and shine at the same time to the happy-sad tears in our grief journey.
Happy-sad tears and moments are like a rainbow- it takes rain and sunshine to make a rainbow.
You may find that these happy-sad moments don’t last too long. Sometimes they are fleeting experiences, and that’s fine.
I don’t think it’s initially about how long the feelings triggered by the memories are. I think it’s about the fact that the grieving heart could receive some respite. I find these intermittent breaks help with the healing of the heart.
So I encourage you to find and commit to heart some pleasant memories you and you loved shared. These can be part of your continuing bond with your loved one.
Balanced Wheel’s Bereavement support groups support anyone who has lost a parent, spouse/partner, child, grandparent, grandchild, sibling/relative, or friend.
Grieving is a highly personal experience. Losing a loved one is a painful experience. Support is available if you have lost someone close to you. Support is available from Balanced Wheel.
You can eventually cope with your loss by getting the proper support. Sharing your experience of grief with others who are experiencing similar things can be more helpful than trying to cope alone.
So, I invite you to join our peer-to-peer bereavement support group.
Are you grieving the loss of someone you loved and would like to join our support group? We will start with two bereavement support groups in September. Would you please complete this registration form for any of the next two bereavement support groups?
I’d love to share your coping with grief story too.
I intend to expand the blog and resources on the website to include stories of other people who have lost a loved one, not limited to losing a spouse. I’d love to hear about how you handled grief. Would you please let me know if you would like to share your story?
I am also open to having anyone anonymised if that’s your preferred option. Complete the contact us form with the text “I would like to share my story.”
To Be Continued Next Wednesday…
I would like to hear from you. Would you please share your thoughts, comments and reflections below? Thank you.