Sunday 4 July 2021

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s ‘Notes on Grief’ Processes the Death of a Loved One


Photo credit: The Reading List

“We don’t know how we will grieve until we grieve.”


People exhibit great grief at the death of their loved ones. Grief plunges one into darkness, clogging the thoughts with sadness, worry, and uncertainties. It is a reminder of the shortness of this world and the limited time we have to spend with our loved ones.


Life is characterised by happiness, sadness, worry, laughter, tears, and a host of others. And what makes it somewhat bearable are the moments we spend with our loved ones. We get to express our feeling without being judged or ridiculed and are aware that we are not alone…that there are people always willing to stand by us. So, life comes crashing when the unthinkable happens- when we lose our loved ones.


We feel like the world is crashing right in front of us. We find our breathing ragged. We struggle to gasp for air. We cry until our eyes get swollen and red.


Life is filled with enough sorrows, and the worst that could happen to someone is losing a loved one.

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In Chimamanda Adichie’s latest release, Notes on Grief, she processes the unexpected death of her beloved father, James Nwoye Adichie. In her slim memoir, Adichie gives account of the wonderful life her father, the first professor of Statistics in Nigeria, lived.


Any reader would relate to the sadness that engulfed her heart. She explains how she felt after receiving the dreadful news…how heart-wrenching the news was, and how it came at a moment she least expected.


Notes on Grief will leave you in tears and make you reflect on the brevity of human life. It is a reminder to spend memorable moments with the ones we love and ensure that every single moment counts.


Some notable quotes from Chimamanda’s Notes on Grief include:

“Grief is a cruel kind of education. You learn how ungentle mourning can be, how full of anger. You learn how glib condolences can feel. You learn how much grief is about language, the failure of language and the grasping for language.”


 “For weeks, my stomach is in turmoil, tense and tight with foreboding, the ever present certainty that somebody else will die, that more will be lost.”


 “How do people walk around functioning in the world after losing a beloved father?”


“…10 June 2020 was the worst day of my life. There is such things as the worst day of a life, and please, dear universe, I do not want anything ever to top it.”


 “What does not feel like the deliberate prodding of wounds is a simple ‘I’m sorry’, because in its banality it presumes nothing.”


 “There was something in his nature that was capacious, a spirit that could stretch; he absorbed bad news; he negotiated, compromised, made decisions, laid down rules, geld relatives together.”


“My siblings and I were raised with a strong sense of who we were as Igbo, and if it was pride, then it was a pride so organic, so inevitable, that it felt no need to call itself pride.”


“A friend sends me a line from my novel: ‘Grief was the celebration of love, those who could feel real grief were lucky to have loved.’ How odd to find it so exquisitely painful to read my own words.”


“Does love bring, even if unconsciously, the delusional arrogance of expecting never to be touched by grief?”


“Happiness becomes a weakness because it leaves you defenceless in the face of grief.”


“Death could just come hurtling at you on any day and at any time…”


“Why does the image of two red butterflies on a T-shirt make me cry?”


“We don’t know how we will grieve until we grieve.”


 “It does not matter whether I want to be changed, because I am changed.”


“I am writing about my father in the past tense, and I cannot believe I am writing about my father in the past tense.”

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The thing about grief is that we never can tell how it would feel until we experience it. It is agonising and gut-wrenching, and depressing. We are still alive, but it seems like our world has come to an end. We think of how to survive without seeing that bright eyes and charming smile again. We are scared that we would slowly forget the face of the person we’ve loved deeply.


Our hands twitch when we start to use ‘was’ instead of ‘is.’


We try to wrap our heads around the fact that this person is gone forever. It is not a two-week journey with the expectation of seeing the person again…or a five-year visit to another continent with the promise of returning. This person has left us in this world, and the pain is excruciating.


Notes on Grief’ also highlights the achievements of Chimamanda Adichie’s father and how much of a great father he was to his children and a remarkable man to his community.


The age of the demise doesn’t translate to the level of hurt. Forty, seventy, ninety years. It doesn’t matter. Once a loved one dies, our world crashes.


If you haven’t read Notes on Grief, I’d advise that you get a copy. However, be warned that it is an emotional read.



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