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Delayed Grief: Grieving The Loss Of My Father Years After He Passed Away.

I have finally mustered up the courage to write about my father. When I was asked to share my story, I found it difficult to put pen to paper because thirteen years after his passing, it still hurt deeply. My reaction to his loss was delayed, I didn’t seem to grieve initially after the loss. 

I wish my dad didn’t die!


Losing My Dad

My dad meant so much to me. He was my father, and not just my guy but the great Commander Christopher Abiodun Oniwo of the Nigerian Navy. He was a man for the people, a lover of music, a fair and just man with imperfections that his perfection suppressed. He studied music and later went on to study journalism. He was also the head of the Nigerian Naval Band for many years. 

Dad passed away on the 4th of June 2009. At the time, I was away in Ghana doing business and having a hard time at work because my manager at the time was being extremely mean to me. I had quit but I  was working out my final notice.

My dad didn’t die suddenly, he had been ill and was at the hospital. Before I left for Ghana, my mum called me to say that he bluntly refused to eat the new menu the hospital recommended to lower his blood sugar. He wasn’t having it and was giving everyone a hard time. 

We were extremely close, so I was asked to step in as his bestie to convince him to try the food. I made a deal with him to prepare his favorite meal and after that, he would have to eat what the doctor recommended, I was relieved he agreed to this. 

To uphold my part of the deal, I whipped up a full English breakfast with all the things he loved and served it to him while we chatted away. At that moment, he was really happy and smiled as he ate his meal, even though he was sick. I told him to hang in there because I needed him to walk me down the aisle on my wedding day. 

We continued to chat and had an in-depth discussion about life, work, business and everything. He was also upset about the way my boss was treating me but I told him I’ll be fine. I told him I had to travel to Ghana for a few days for work and would see him when I got back. We hugged and I left. 

When I was in Ghana, I set out to purchase all I needed for my business. I was busy and had a lot on my mind because I needed to make more money to pay the bills and support myself. 

On the 3rd of June, I started feeling uneasy, I just wanted to go back home, something was amiss. I was in close communication with my sister for updates so I knew my dad was okay but something kept nudging me to go back home. 

photo of thunderstorm
Photo by Rodrigo Souza on

I decided to head back to Lagos immediately, my flight had been changed so I had a long wait at the airport, and eventually, I got on the plane, it felt longer than 45 mins.  As soon as I got to Lagos, I went home to drop off my bags and the goods I had purchased. 

There was a strange sense of urgency to do this and proceed to the hospital to check on my guy. A gist session was loading, I couldn’t wait to tell him what I’d been up to, about this Ghana guy I met that I kinda liked. 

I got home and there was no power, I had no time to put on the generator so I waddled through the dark with my phone light and as I got to the door, I called my sister again to say I was heading to the hospital. 

She responded calmly and said, “Dad didn’t make it KAY”. I had no emotions as I still made my way to the hospital. I don’t recall crying, the tears wouldn’t come, and I felt numb. 

Kaylah Oniwos late dad Delayed grief Balanced Wheel Delayed Grief: Grieving The Loss Of My Father Years After He Passed Away.

The emotions that followed after my father’s death

The preparations began for the funeral, as my dad had said he didn’t want any fanfare. He wanted to be buried as soon as possible. Dad was a simple man, didn’t like noise or drama and I took that from him. 

On one of the funeral planning days, I was asked to take my dad’s ceremonial uniform to the cold room. In the military, you have the option of being buried in a ceremonial outfit with the gun salute procession, similar to what is done when one is getting married. 

I took the uniform to the cold room, I had never seen anything like that. The attendant came to me and quite weirdly asked if I would like to see my dad one more time, he pointed to the mortuary cabinets and showed me where my dad was. 

It took a few minutes and a flash of my last meeting with him passed through my eyes, ‘No thanks’ I said because I didn’t want to alter the moments and last image with the image of my dad lifeless. I had a moment and a series of hot silent tears fell. I dropped off the clothes, wiped my eyes, and left. 

During the preparations for the burial, I felt numb. The people, the planning, the decision making and condolences. I just about made it through. I couldn’t feel anything. As controversial as this may sound, on the day of the funeral, I only cried because my mum cried, it wasn’t from my heart. 

After the funeral, we were at the reception party where random people would walk up to me and share stories of how my dad had paid for their fees etc, they would share these stories in tears. I nodded, said my thank you’s and left. There were fake hugs, fake smiles, unsolicited advice and the usual nonsense. But all through this, I was numb though I didn’t know I was at the time. 

After the funeral, everyone picked up their lives and moved on. I would visit his grave from time to time to give him updates. I struggled with making hard decisions and was so upset that I couldn’t speak to him or ask for his advice.

red field summer agriculture
Photo by Pixabay on

Finally Mourning 

A few years on, I discovered I hadn’t quite mourned my father. I was afraid because it was hard. I was actually very distressed that I was out of town when he passed. I also couldn’t forgive myself for not being there when he died. I was also disturbed that he didn’t fulfill the promise of walking me down the aisle. 

I’m not married yet but I cry so much at weddings because I know my dad won’t be at mine. Additionally, when I told him I had made my decision to be a radio host instead of a banker, he was happy to support me, he pulled me to a corner and said ‘Go for it’. This was another huge blow for me as he never got to hear me on the radio. 

One day, I went to his grave and talked about it. I cried so much my lungs were almost out of air. That day, I let the hurt go and truly mourned him. This was in 2015 and my dad passed away in 2009. I had suppressed all of that for so many years. 

As his birthday drew close, this year on May 9th, I imagine what it would have been like as he would have been 80 years old. I woke up having dreams of him back to back for 3 days. I told my sister about it and we went to pay him a visit. We cried together but I found comfort in the tears and expressing my grief. I wish my dad didn’t die! 

I am glad I managed to finally mourn him. I rest assured in the fact that my dad was my biggest fan, he was kind and extremely generous, he was very funny and a great orator. He loved us deeply and we knew it. I had imagined years and years with him. I am certain the trajectory of my life would have been different with him present but I stay grounded and hold on to all the good memories knowing God is the ultimate and he knows best. 

I still miss my dad so much!

Monochrome potrait of Kaylah Oniwo for a guest blog post on Balanced Wheel

Kaylah Oniwo

Kaylah Oniwo is an award-winning Media personality with over a decade of experience in the radio space, global beauty, fashion, and lifestyle influencer as well as an entrepreneur in the Nigerian fashion industry.  

Kaylah is an advocate for African brands and seeks to educate, empower and entertain her followers through her content on Instagram or Twitter.


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