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A Personal Journey of Grief and Growth: How I’ve Found New Meaning in Life

I now fully understand the importance of living an impactful life even though everything can change in an instance. Grief is a subject I’m familiar with, having lost a brother at a young age, my husband, and my mum. 

My husband Leslie and I got married in 2009. Our marriage was blessed with two boys and a girl. Our daughter was eight weeks old when my life took a 180-degree turn and on a cool Tuesday night. 

Leslie had become more committed to his Christian faith and enjoyed attending the mid-week worship experience at our local church and wouldn’t miss it for anything in the world. I usually teased him because of how committed he was, saying, “you will soon become a pastor.”

His usual habit was to head straight to the worship experience every Tuesday after work before returning home at 9 pm.

Tuesday, 9th of June 2015 is a day I will forever remember. First, Leslie went to work, then from there to midweek worship experience and never returned home.

He was always courteous, carrying me along, especially when plans changed. He wasn’t one to just stay out late without informing you of his whereabouts. I found it weird and became concerned when Leslie had not returned home by 9 pm. It takes no more than 5 minutes to drive from the church to our home.

I picked my phone and dialled the numbers of almost everyone whom I was sure would have attended the Tuesday worship experience. I asked them if Leslie attended, and they all affirmed that he was there.

Everyone who saw him in the church said that he stayed back to pray at the altar after the service before heading home. Some said they saw him leave the church and head in the direction of home. 

I became apprehensive as the volume and intensity of the central question of “where could he be” grew louder and intense in my mind. 

I couldn’t sleep; I cried all through the night, anxious and scared. That Tuesday night was traumatic. Almost every thought you can imagine ran through my mind. I prayed for his safe return. I waited all night, hoping that each sound I heard was the sound of his keys turning the locks.

My hope waned as I watched night turn into day; still, my husband had not returned.

I became hot and bothered at 5:30 am the following day and decided to leave the house to look for my husband. My mum, God bless her soul, wouldn’t have it as she was concerned about my postpartum condition, having given birth 8 weeks earlier. 

I insisted and left the house to look for my Leslie! It began to drizzle when I left the house at 6 am, committed to searching for my husband. I am not sure why I did it, but I felt I would see him. So I began walking the 3 mile / 4.8 km to church in anticipation that I would bump into my husband.

Grief Diane Kalu Balanced Wheel A Personal Journey of Grief and Growth: How I've Found New Meaning in Life

Not long into my search, the drizzle turned into light rain, which turned into a heavy downpour. It beat me so mercilessly. Leaving me completely drenched as I walked the streets, asking strangers if they had seen him, hoping to find Leslie all to no avail.

I saw my hopes dashed from me when I eventually got to our church, and he wasn’t there. I searched and searched with tears in my eyes. I continued on another 4 miles/ 6.4 km walk to the police station. 

Upon arriving at the police station, I wished that a police officer could come out because I was too scared to go into the station. Then I went back home, disappointed, exhausted, with no headway or answers.

Not in a million years did I think about death. The worst case I thought was a kidnap for ransom, even that was far off, though. I returned home at 9am just in time to walk my boys to school. As soon as I walked in that morning, my boys asked me, “mummy, where is daddy?”

I panicked, hid my tears away from them because I couldn’t answer the question. I avoided answering.

To this day heavy downpour of rain reminds me of my traumatic experience of searching for my husband. Since then, I have felt that each heavy rain is my husband’s tears. 

We ledged a missing person inquiry with the police by early Wednesday afternoon, and the search began. But, all through Wednesday, we heard no news, or so I thought…

My husband had been missing for over 36 hours. My emotions were everywhere. All I wanted was to have my husband back home safely. Family and friends had also become restless about this out-of-character disappearance of my husband.

I paid a visit to the police station on Thursday morning, hoping for good news about my husband’s whereabouts. The police officer was so mortified to the extent that he wasn’t able to maintain eye contact with me.

I just knew there was something wrong, and so I started to cry all over again. The officers saw how inconsolable I was and offered to drive me home. On getting to the house, the police officer asked to see my eight-week-old baby. He saw my baby. His countenance appeared grief-stricken, his face fell, but he still said no word.

I knew without a doubt that something was wrong. I wondered, why is no one telling me anything?

My friend walked the officer to the door. They appeared to be engaged in a hush discussion. My friend’s reaction and body language betrayed the conversation. I saw her sobbing with her hands covering her mouth to muffle her cry.

I just knew, and so I screamed out loud, hysteria followed, amnesia which lasted for a year, my blood pressure shot up! The police officer had told my friend that my husband had died from a motor accident.

Like a track stuck on endless replay, I kept saying, “Leslie, what are you doing in the morgue?”, “This wasn’t the plan!”,” How am I to raise three children by myself???!!!”, “I’m too young for this pain!!!”

I hated being in that house! Everything was a reminder, worse off, the long stares from sympathisers as though they could see how broken and ugly I felt at that moment, how angry, afraid, and confused I felt.

I watched my mum age 10 times more than her age, her health was so frail, yet she cared for my tender babies who kept asking for their dad.

Oh! My heart broke for the innocent children. Although I had told them daddy wasn’t coming back because he had gone to heaven, their mind didn’t quite understand that daddy was never coming back.

Then one day, in the peak of my grief, my 4-year-old son looked up to the sky screaming, Daddy! Daddy and I asked why he was doing that. His response broke my heart “I’m screaming so that Daddy can come down from heaven so that I can see him”

I drew him close and gave him a warm hug, and tried to explain again. This I would do a couple of times until he understood this reality.

It’s been a journey of self-discovery and growth for me. Being a positive-minded person helped me embrace my journey.

I also found comfort in speaking with other people who have experienced similar losses. A widowed friend shared her experience about how bottling her grief up rather than accepting and expressing her emotions led her to become hypertensive in her early 30’s.

She said, and I quote, “Now I have to manage my health. I wish I had listened when they asked me to express my emotions. I’m sure you don’t want to be like me.” That jolted me back to the reality of what was ahead if I didn’t get myself together.

The love and support I received from friends, strangers, and my immediate family have been instrumental in helping the children and me cope with the loss of my husband.

I also found comfort in praying. No one around me really understood how I felt, but I felt better anytime I prayed. After all, tears are prayers, and it felt as though God understood how broken I was on the inside.

My husband’s death left me questioning, and so surfing the internet for answers kept me occupied. I researched near-death experiences and what they felt like. I researched people who had visited heaven.

Also talking to my children in age-appropriate terms made it easier for them to cope, letting them know that God is the “father to the fatherless” and he will always take care of us.

One day in 2018, I had a nudge to share my story on a popular platform on social media. Little did I know that it was an appointment with destiny.

After I shared my story titled “I’m not what widowed look like” hundreds of women who were widows reached out to me, commending my courage and boldness.

Grief and Personal growth Diane Kalu A Personal Journey of Grief and Growth: How I've Found New Meaning in Life

Widowhood is a long, difficult road. Then I realised there was a vacuum even though I was hesitant at first, but I’m glad I followed my heart. 

There was a need to create a safe space. Where young widowed women share their thoughts, find their voice, heal and build resilience so they can remain valuable in society while journeying through widowhood with a positive mindset.

So I started a grief support group that has grown into an NGO that supports young widows and their children.

Not only did I start this Movement Called WiCare. I’ve also become a certified therapist. This has aided me to help many more people as I continue to enrich myself in various areas of interest because, for me, it’s just a bend, not the end.

I will like to leave you with the following thought;

  • Grieving a loved one is painful, we can learn to shift our attention from the pain and focus on the future. 
  • Like a pendulum, you may find yourself oscillating between the positive and negative thoughts from time to time. This too is part of healing.
  • Don’t be overcome by grief. Accept your loss, Express your grief, but don’t let it build a home.
  • We are not meant to be broken forever. It’s too much punishment for a heart that was created to embrace love and growth.

Getting Support

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.

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