My world was turned upside down when I lost my parents a year after each other.
I’m Jermaine, and a 31-year-old navigating through the challenges that come my way. Life as I knew it changed in 2014 and 2015.
My dad died in 2014, and my mum passed away in October the following year. This felt so surreal, like some test from God.
What could God possibly try to teach me with two losses a year after each other? Your guess is as good as mine!
The truth is I may never know, or I will get some realisation at some point. So I stopped worrying about what God was trying to teach me and started focusing on how I could move forward with this grief.
Writing about it and talking about it is my way of moving forward. Grief can make you feel isolated, and creating a platform to express helped me feel less isolated.
In starting my podcast, Thinking Out Loud, I thought this would merely be a space where myself and my co-host, Ben, would share our experiences with grief and delve into what it feels like to lose both parents at a young age.
However, we sooner realised that this wasn’t just about sharing our stories. It was a way we spoke to other people who have also dealt with
loss. Sharing my story, I believe, is a way to raise awareness on grief but, more importantly, normalise it.
In one way or the other, grief is inevitable and whilst we may experience it in different forms, I feel as though it’s still very much a taboo.
I know changing the narrative isn’t a one-person job, but every little conversation helps. We can change the narrative as a collective, and I feel empowered as part of this grief community.
I remember the days I lost my mum and dad so clearly. I got the news in the morning. The day I lost my dad, I returned from a night shift at work. It was around 9 am, and I was so excited to jump into bed after an 8-hour night shift at the call centre.
I arrived home and noticed my aunt and uncle were in the living room. “Why are they visiting so early?” I thought to myself, and even then, I wasn’t suspicious that something wasn’t right. Maybe they had a busy day ahead, so they wanted to stop by and visit us.
This was possible, but looking back, it still was worrying because they don’t visit us that often. My uncle told me to sit down as he had something to say to me. I was still clueless at this point, and then he proceeded to tell me that my dad had passed away.
I wasn’t surprised, but I felt peaceful about it for a split moment. My dad had been ill as he had multiple sclerosis. I knew death was a possibility, but there was still a part in me that had hoped he would get better.
After hearing the news, I went to my room and cried quietly. I felt so vulnerable and a bit of guilt that I wasn’t surprised about his passing.
The loss of my mum brought about the same emotions, but in all honestly, this one cut deep! It isn’t to say I valued my mum more than my dad.But, I was closer to her, so naturally, it’s going to hurt more, right?
The night before we got the news, we were told that she was ill in hospital back in Nigeria. I forgot to add that both my parents died there. My dad lived there, and my mum was visiting my grandparents, as she did every year.
My aunt, who lives in Nigeria, informed us that my mum had been admitted into hospital and wasn’t in the best condition
. I had faith she would pull through as we had been in this situation before. She was admitted to the hospital because of fatigue and low blood levels.
Hearing this would be enough to alarm any son, but not me. I knew my mum was always a fighter, so I was very optimistic that she would pull through.
The following morning, I was getting ready to go to work, and I contemplated calling my manager at the time to explain the situation to her and see if I could take a day off.
I was still very much filled with optimism, so I started getting my things ready to start my commute.
Shortly after I had prepared myself to leave, my aunt received a phone call, and yet again, the optimism in me was still at an all-time high.
I thought the phone call would be some update to let us know that she was getting better and discharged soon.
Instead, it was the opposite of what I had hoped for with huge devastation. “She’s gone”, my aunt quietly whispered whilst sitting down with her head down.
I had so much anxiety running through me whilst in disbelief about what I had just heard.
I started crying uncontrollably, and then my sister burst out of her room, knowing that the unimaginable had become a reality. The neighbours were probably alarmed by the excessive crying and screaming coming from our flat.
Life as I knew it was over, as the worst of the worst had happened: losing both parents. The first few weeks felt surreal, and the first 24 hours, I cried like a baby clutching a photo of my mum to console me.
I had so many questions about why the doctors couldn’t have done more to save her life. We were told that she suffered from cardiac arrest.
Life can change in a heartbeat, because I would have never imagined losing my mum even though she had health issues.
My mum suffered from sickle cell, so her way of life was a bit different. At the time, I didn’t know much about sickle cell disease and the extent to which it can affect those who have it. This wasn’t the sole reason for her death, but it contributed to it.
The past 7 years have been one emotional rollercoaster. I’ve cried, cried some more and more, and learnt to adjust to this new normal without my parents. Sharing my story gives me a sense of fulfilment, and I see it as a way to honour my parents.
My faith in God was tested like never before, and at the time, I didn’t understand why God could be so cruel. I felt so bad for even questioning God in hindsight, but it’s okay to question things because we are human.
I questioned the things that happened, but I never stopped having faith even though I didn’t realise it. Even though I didn’t understand why or what I was being taught, I still prayed for guidance and strength.
God had, and still does have, my best interest at heart. I may never have understood that because I was so consumed in my grief.
Through understanding my grief and reaching a place of acceptance in my journey, I believe that grief has no expiry date. In my opinion, there is a season for mourning, but grief is for a lifetime.