The Sunday News
Meluleki Moyo, Sunday News Correspondent
IT’S not an extract from Barthes’ Mourning Diary, neither is it a chapter from Gunther’s Death be not proud nor a commentary on Rourke’s memoir; The long goodbye.
These are chronicles of a high school teacher, who, haunted by the sorrows of orphanhood and widowhood, endures a double-lockdown at the hands of two evils — the exterminating coronavirus disease and a shameless animal called death, an animal whose sting triumphant humanity shall one day demand to see.
“Grief is inward and one can smile and pretend to be fine and sociable on the outside, but on the inside, it eats you up. You cannot touch grief, neither can you see it. It has no face but you can feel it, let us feel it together,” said Jaquelline Nyakwangwa on the sidelines of the launch of her debut book Walk a mile with me at the National Art Gallery recently.
Seemingly cognisant of the fact that problems shared are problems solved, the Luveve High School History and English teacher who also holds a BSc Honours degree in Development Studies with Lupane State University, has had her fair share of death’s excruciating pain, having lost both parents at a tender age, as well as losing her husband at the prime of their lives.
Amid a manifestation of great creativity, she introduces her tragic experiences with death, how she haplessly lost her mother, as well as narrating her husband’s last moments as he fought for his life in a hospital bed, probably rhyming some lyrics from the Christian hymn, Abide with me:
Abide with me, fast falls the even tide;
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide!
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O, abide with me.
“Grief has often been an avoided topic. Central to my concerns is to highlight how society views grief and how it treats the people affected. In my case, society was instead more worried about how I react to the loss of my husband, how I converse with people, how I maintain relationships, how I speak in a manner expected of a widow, how I dress and maybe even expect me to look in a particular way depicting misery,” says the author who also has written random poems and unpublished short stories.
Studies have shown that processing grief can be a significant challenge to those directly experiencing the loss of their loved ones. People’s experience of grief is at times so subjective and as a culture, we suffer from a lack of literacy around death and grieving. Resultantly, the affected are left feeling isolated and unsupported in their grief, at a time when they need people and support the most.
“From a broader perspective, despite its unpleasantness, pain can be a unifying force as it can actually have positive social consequences, acting as a unifying force, fostering cohesion between those who share tragic experiences.
Without attacking anyone but rather laying facts as they are without fear or favour, Walk a mile with me seeks to break the stigma associated with loss, in its representation of the voiceless,” observes Ms Nokusa Nyathi, an activist against gender-based violence.
Foreworded by published author Thabitha Williams, Walk A Mile With Me is about grief, an often avoided topic. It highlights the feelings the author went through about death from childhood till the moment of losing a partner. It is an insight into the deepest untold battles of a grieving heart and possibly hopes to heal even many people facing loss of a loved one.”
It talks of facing the loss of a partner at a young age and the confusion that follows in the life of a young lady, the expectations, experience including what she goes through at the hands of in-laws. Interestingly, the text offers no set answers but arouses debate through questions and starts a conversation as to what can be done to give room to empathy rather than sympathy, hence the title, Walk A Mile With Me.
“It all happened in three weeks during the lockdown when in solitude and loneliness, I decided to let out the grief inside me, resultantly putting it in black and white. As women, we have over the years decried patriarchal oppression but I think as women, the end of our own oppression must begin with us,” added the peer educator and a mother of one who also draws inspiration from the legendary Tsitsi Dangarembwa and Charles Mungoshi. — [email protected]