The trauma of loss is inevitable in its pain but unique in its grief. For Blessing Timidi-Digha, and her husband, Bode, losing their two children – Itunuoluwa and Oluwadamilare – in a house fire, has been described as, “horrible from dusk to dawn, filled with tears, blame, heated emotions, silence or no will at all.” In this interview, Blessing shares with us her journey to healing and all the obstacles she and her husband have encountered along the way.
I am told that speaking about your grief is therapeutic and I admire your strength and boldness in doing that. What made you want to share your story with the world?
Personally, I started sharing my story when I was highly suicidal, after the incident. It was a way to grapple with what had happened.
Working with the therapist, I realised that only three things appealed to me a lot: my bed, writing and reading. She advised us to do whatever was helping us cope so I started reading and writing more, the bed part is still the most difficult to achieve because loved ones won’t really let you stay in bed and I am naturally upbeat anyways, always looking for something sane to do. We aren’t alone at all. I once told a friend that the day I don’t write what I feel, the week no one hears from me, is [an indication that] this grief has consumed my sanity totally.
You and your husband, Bode, are currently undergoing professional therapy and plan on seeing a psychiatrist soon. What made you seek professional help?
[Consultant] Praise Fowowe and a wonderful family I belong to (Ecclesia) advised us to seek professional help. The truth is a lot of people mentioned getting help but the group and PF suggested Priscilla, set up the meetings and followed up. They still do. I went alone the first day because I wasn’t sleeping at all- sometimes even after the medication. Everyone was worried about me because there were times I was constantly screaming and calling for Itunuoluwa and Oluwadamilare, I was attempting suicide, I was zoning out terribly.
The day before I went for therapy the first time, Bode said I was with friends who had come to see me and for almost an hour they didn’t know I had zoned out. I was there with my eyes open and they were gisting but I had gone off completely. It took him coming to check on us to see that I had switched off a long time ago. Trying to make sense of it all, the way I am feeling physically and mentally made me seek out professional help.
Subsequently, Bode and I have gone together and have private sessions, then combined sessions. I also have the privilege of being in a WhatsApp group set up by a wonderful lady I met through a friend on Instagram for mummies who have lost their children and there we share our experiences, cry together, and just basically hold each other’s hands.
In your writing, you mentioned that a lot of people still associate therapy with “madness” and that you were advised not to mention you are seeing a therapist. How were you able to ignore such false beliefs?
Praise Fowowe and many people gave me a good pep talk, but the truth is even without the pep talk I was not going to care about what anyone was associating therapists and psychiatrists with. I can as well be ‘mad’ right now. The things I do and experience are not within the realm of ‘normal or sane behaviour’ so I need all the help I can get as long it’s the right help.
Has therapy helped on your journey to healing?
Oh yes! Therapy helps as a healing tool. I slept at my therapist’s place for the first time without drugs since the incident. I missed her by a few minutes (Lagos traffic) and I had to wait, somehow I found myself on the floor, asleep. This is me, who was popping pills and wasn’t sleeping at all or sleeping for one or two hours a day. When I woke up and saw that she was around and didn’t wake me up, I knew she was the right one for me. The first words she said were, “Blessing you haven’t been sleeping.”
The journey to my healing started when I slept in her office. Bode and I have been able to unbottle. Grief is overwhelming and Priscilla helps us unpack our daily feelings. She asks questions that will shake your core, shock you and also help you expect what is to come. Therapy helps you make sense of everything, identify triggers, and put a name to what you are going through. Therapy helps as a healing tool but unfortunately not many people will seek therapy, see the sense in it or afford it.
Counselling aside, how do you cope with the everyday? Are there other means that proved therapeutic for you.
Cry, scream, read, write, stay in bed, not take a bath, go through the pictures and videos I have of my kids, stay around Bode, watch action movies (I haven’t been able to watch cartoons and some films that I would normally watch with my kids and DSTV is showing a lot of those films these days). Pray! I recently went back to walking briskly on days I can or when Bode can follow me.
Bode cries, reads, stays in bed, he sometimes won’t take a bath either; watches the movies with me, worries over me and reads some more.
Statistics show that when dealing with the loss of a loved one, guilt is usually the biggest emotion to deal with. How have you been able to cope with that?
We have not coped truly, though we have been able to call it the name it is- Guilt. There is no day that we don’t feel guilty about what we could have done to possibly avert this. Most times we see ourselves as bad parents who let their kids down. But talking about it helps us cope, reminding each other of all we were doing to give the kids a better life helps quench the fire at the moment.
The world is currently undergoing a wave of mental health challenges. There is a growing number of reported cases of suicide and attempted suicide. Up until recently, depression was rarely discussed in Nigeria. What steps would you advise someone battling with any form of mental health challenge to take?
Seek professional help. It’s good to pray but talk to a specialist because not all clergy know what depression, suicide or mental health are, and might just compound the voices you already hear in your head or around you and make your feelings worse.
I would also advise people to speak up. There should be no shame in speaking up because at the end of the day, you’d get to meet a therapist or support group for what you want.
I’d like to see more support groups modelled after Alcohol Anonymous spring up, so that anyone battling with any mental health challenge can find support.
How supportive have family and friends been? Has the incident in anyway affected those relationships?
The world has been supportive. Everyone – family, friends, loved ones, even strangers who have now morphed into loved ones. Everyone has held our hands, supporting us all the way with prayers, finances, food, you name it. We see the support everyday.
Bode and I have gotten closer, cried together. We’ve fought, but truly we have gotten closer. Same for family and friends.
Even though some people have naturally drifted away because of reasons we don’t understand, we have become closer and more empathetic towards the other.
Any final words for people who are grieving?
Don’t be in a hurry to heal but trust your healing process. I learnt this from Coach Sam Obafemi. The pain will never go away but it will become more bearable, always remember the fun memories you had with your loved ones and speak out, help is always near.
If you are experiencing challenges with your mental health, please consider professional help. Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org to be put in touch with a specialist.
This interview was first published in Genevieve Magazine September Issue. Download Digital Copy Here