The hospital allowed me all the time I needed in the room where Chidinma’s body laid, when I was done they led me to a consultation room where I had the opportunity to meet with the lead consultant and the nurse that cared for Chidinma.
Whilst they were speaking, I would intermittently find myself lost in thoughts filled with several questions that arrived at a speed I can only compare to the speed of cars on a formula one racecourse. The thoughts appeared to drown what was being said.
Some of the Questions were:
How do I break the news to Chidinma’s parents and family that I wasn’t able to protect their daughter from death?
How many heart breaking phone calls will I need to make to our family and friends?
Did God really do this to me?
How do I break the news to everyone else?
I was dazed and lost in the tangled web of questions and emotions which began to fill me that I couldn’t make head or tail of what the consultant was saying.
My heart was still broken in several pieces because Chidinma and I had arrived at the hospital alive and what returned home with me was a white box containing her belongings. This outcome certainly wasn’t my expectation.
This wasn’t meant to happen, we were still young, we had only just started life, we had years planned, we had mountains to conquer, we had memories to create. This felt like a light hurriedly snuffed out without prior warning.
I began the dreaded telephone conversations, as this type of conversation is not the kind you have by text, WhatsApp or email. It’s the type that had to be done over the telephone.
I had always thought that the hardest phone call I ever made was calling to ask for permission to marry Chidinma, I felt I was asking her parents and siblings to trust me (a complete stranger) with their precious jewel. I consider asking for a hand in marriage a giant leap of trust and faith.
It never crossed my mind that I would be calling Chidinma’s dad and mum to inform them that their daughter was dead. Chidinma was daddy’s girl and at the same time mummy’s bestie and confidant. She had a way of managing relationships in such wonderful ways.
The thought of making the phone calls made me dehydrated with the sensation of a large lump in my throat. Slowly but surely, I mustered whatever was left of the strength I had and began the dreaded phone calls. Each phone call made me feel sick as well as the feeling of being tied to an electric chair and the voltage dialed up with each call I made even as I heard the responses and reactions from the other end of the line.
I was in utter shock as well as confused as my mind wrestled ferociously to accept the truth of my wife’s passing. I have had particularly rough days and then some days when rays of light break through the clouds of my grief. That said, I am grateful and humbled by the remarkable love that people near and far have shown to my family during this period with their prayers, generous financial contributions, messages and many more.
I’d like to think that the best, or should I say the most effective medicine for grief is shock. Days that followed Chidinma’s passing felt like I was in a nightmare, it felt as though my brain had turned to mush. It reminded me of driving in a heavy fog but only that this fog was grief. I can’t tell you how out-of-body I felt. I used to think it was only in the movies when someone is speaking to you, that somehow you only see their lips move but you can’t hear their voice. An out of body experience!
The words of C.S. Lewis from “A Grief Observed” couldn’t have articulated better what I was going through when he wrote “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing. At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting.”
I have never struggled to find sleep; we had an inside joke in the house - once my head hits the pillow, it’s a wrap, ‘forget having a conversation for the night’. Since the news about her death, it feels like my sleep went on an extended holiday - I found myself fully awake at 5am every day which would last for nearly four months. it turns out that temporary insomnia comes with grieving. I tried counting one hundred sheep, listening to slow music, and bought two of the strongest off-the-counter sleep aids, all of which didn’t do much. They made me drowsy and then wore off after some minutes.
I would keep calling her name, hoping this was all a dream, my pillow would be wet with tears, my mind was on a continuous loop playing the things I wished had been different, better, or more while at the same time seeing the unrealised hopes, dreams and expectations about the future. I know that I could ask my GP for a sleep prescription, my findings suggested that I could become dependent on them, so I avoided this option.
Chidinma and I enjoyed watching movies and series together. Those who know Chidinma closely would say she was a volunteer Irokotv ambassador. We would joke and tease her that we hoped she wasn’t secretly working for IrokoTV, because she knew every good movie that was worth watching and would get anyone who comes closer to watch too.
I remember a particular movie that I had to watch about 6 times because whenever we had our parents or friends come over she would put on one of these movies. Guess who also had to stay and watch it, so I found my ways around it.
I always almost got into trouble with her when I was so impatient that I would watch some of the episodes of the series we were watching together ahead of her. Somehow, she could tell that I had seen the episode of the series when we came to watch it together, my best pretence was no match for her.
Now that she’s gone, I don’t want to watch any episode ahead of her, it’s painful to carry on watching the same series we had watched together, but I want to watch them with her. I had to find some new series to binge on to keep my mind numb and prevent me from thinking about the loss.
I would get carried away sometimes forgetting that she’s not beside me until I’d turn to share something funny or interesting in the series, only to discover that she wasn’t by my side. My mind would flashback to the moment I went to see her body at the hospital and how cold her skin had become; how stiff her fingers were. The thought of her body lying breathless in a frozen room at the hospital makes me utterly sad, my heart feels like a new hole was being drawn with a sharp knife.
On a very good night I would get 2 hours of sleep. When I woke up, I would wish I was still asleep and hoped all that was happening was a dream because the waves of emotions I experienced when I woke up were completely horrible. Then again, the phone would ring endlessly, messages would flood in like a cup being filled with water, my heart continually filled with many questions. My brother became the custodian of my phone and managed the phone calls and messages.
I know people meant well in attempting to console me, but I found some attempts even more painful especially when they began to offer simplistic explanations and flippant comments to “cheer me up.” Whilst the intentions were to bring relief, instead they brought me even greater pain.
I remember someone in the first week of her passing encouraging me with Romans 8:28, “all things work together for good,” which irritated and angered me. It made me feel like the person was trying to brush off my pain when they hadn’t earned the right to do so. In my heart, I wanted to say “come back when you’ve gone through losing your wife, and then hear someone say this to you just days after she has passed.”
Some phone calls felt like I was being interviewed by the journalist, some called to ask me unimaginable questions like did she die of Covid? How old was she? is she always sick? Where did she die? What happened? What time did she die? They became journalists instead of comforters. After all the lines of questioning they sometimes end the call with “eeeeeeeeyyyyyyah. It is well.”
I mean what is well about losing my wife?
One of the things I came to find during the early stages of my grief journey was that my intellectual mind became heightened. I could counter every scripture that instructed me to accept this from God with scripture, intellectual reasons and questions on why I shouldn’t. This led to a lot of thinking, questioning, and introspection.
Eeeeeeeeyyyyyyah: Pitiful expression.
To Be Continued Next Wednesday...
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