by Luyeye Hope Matambo
The time was 04:20am on June 15th, 2014. It was a cold and wet morning in Cape Town, South Africa, when I received the call that would forever change my life as I knew it. The news of my husband’s sudden passing in a road traffic accident, didn’t immediately register mentally in terms of the magnitude of what I had just been told over the phone.
In fact, my reaction to the news was somewhat unusual and to some extent hilarious coming to think of it. First, I belted out “Mummy, Mumba is dead!” Then my next response was to quickly get up, wash my face and brush my teeth - pretty standard practice, right? Well, I went on to carefully examine my wardrobe looking for the perfect outfit to wear. I kid you not!
I picked out a pretty white and black stripped dress and contemplated my next move – probably to put on some make up before I set out to make the long drive to the accident scene. Suddenly, I heard a voice, very faint at first, then a little louder. It was my mother’s voice; “Lulu, you can’t wear that dress,” She suggested politely. My mind scrambled to make out what her words were saying. It’s almost like I was in an alternate state of mind, but her voice broke through and snapped me out of my mini trance.
I was suddenly overcome by a strange feeling. I soon recognised it, as anger! I was angry. Mad! In fact, I was furious at my husband for dying! I was furious because he was always talking about his death and it taking him at a young age! He finally called death out of the universe, taking him away from me, in the twilight years of his youth! Our last conversation, only a fortnight before his death, had him joke about how I would move on and get married to another man once he left this earth. Interestingly, for the first time since we met, this was the first conversation we had about death where I wasn’t so uptight about it. I would always get so upset and rebuke him for always talking about his death in case he invited it before his time. He would always laugh my worries away and say; “Death is the only surest thing here on earth, not even birth is guaranteed so don’t be afraid.” In a way, I guess that was him preparing me for this moment.
I drove as calmly as I possibly could to the accident scene with my mother. There were blue lights everywhere and seeing the state of the vehicle in which my now late husband was in, my heart sunk. In that moment, my mind still trying to comprehend what was happening or what all this meant, my survival instincts kicked in, I went in to planning mode. We were 2 weeks’ shy of our 3rd anniversary, I was in a foreign country, with no family except my mother who was scheduled to return to Zambia that very morning AND I was pregnant with our first child. A lot was racing in my mind, but I had to keep it together.
As the days leading up to the final resting place of my late husband in his hometown of Ndola drew closer, I lost HOPE. What I was hoping was all a bad dream, was turning into a reality. All I could do was fight in my mind to survive and find the strength every day to get through it. The more I tried to reconcile my new reality, the more I lost hope. Hope in life, hope in myself and hope that I would pick up the pieces and eventually move forward.
Months later, I was due to give birth, and little did I know that the birth of my son would be my saving grace! Bringing him into the world, was the best feeling and gift ever and I knew in that moment that God had a purpose for me and for my son. The birth of my son was God giving me beauty in exchange for my ashes, literally. However, grief is a stealer of joy.
Suddenly I was experiencing a new dimension to my grief. I didn’t grieve from a point of hopelessness anymore, but grieved from a perspective of FEAR! I constantly asked myself how I would be able to parent on my own. I kept reciting the verse that God, through my inner voice, had spoken to me the day before my late husband died; 2 Timothy 1: 7 which says: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” Even though it took a lot of time and effort for me to eventually recognise and put language and a word to the feeling, I knew that the birth of my son was the beginning of my HEALING!
Although my healing journey has had many twists and turns, some including secretly battling depression, panic attacks and near suicide, I knew that being connected to a community of people who I could share my experiences with and who would understand without judgment, was the one piece of the puzzle that I needed to help and spur me onto my path of GROWTH.
The key to any growth path and especially the path from grief to growth can only be achieved through connecting with other widow/ers that act as guide posts for when you feel discouraged. Along my journey of widowhood, and after several years of finding my meaning, I have learnt to give grief less space, and allow for growth within me.
"WE DON'T MOVE ON FROM GRIEF, BUT MOVE FORWARD WITH IT"
I have had to carve out what healing means for me. I learned to extend myself grace, be patient and kind to myself, but most importantly, my healing means that I constantly explore the different nuances of what SELF LOVE is for me! My healing means I am fully present emotionally, spiritually and mentally, for my son as I watch him figure out the world around him, and as he deals with his own emotions around his grief. My healing looks like me seemingly carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders on one day, but getting back that spring in my step the very next. You see, there is no secret or formula to healing. You just got to be present in the moment and feel all the feels that the emotions of grief throw at you in a positive way. We don’t move on from grief, but move forward with it. Grieving never ends, it just takes on different forms in different seasons. But even as I grieve, I find that I have to look back into my past, pick up my broken pieces and create the building blocks that propel me towards growth.
In the early days of my widowhood, I was blessed enough to be surrounded by women, my earthly angels (non-widowed and all married), much older than myself, who shared one piece of valuable advice that I have held dear to my heart. To use my experiences to build up a ladder that will allow me to find the strength to climb my way out of where I was. “As you build and climb up this ladder, reach back, stretch out, hold and pull others up that ladder with you”.
My goal and purpose, nine years on, is to share my story and experiences, to connect to widows/ers like myself to walk this journey of widowhood from grief to growth.
And this has now become my purpose.
Finally, my widowhood journey has taught me that life is fragile, but it also means that I need to embrace it and be intentional as I journey on and carry others with me on this path from grief to growth. I found that through this journey, I have found my SUPERPOWER! I have experienced emotions I never thought I had, but every time I found myself at the corner of grief and dark street, I found my superpower, walked on and paved the way to growth street one brick at a time!
So as I journey on, I commit myself to carry this mantle and be of SERVICE to widows like me, who need to connect the dots by staying in HOPE, longing to HEAL and reaching out to GROWTH as an enlightened and empowered widow, equipped with the KNOWLEDGE to overpower GRIEF.
Luyeye (Lulu) is a mother, widow and entrepreneur.
Connect with her on Facebook: Lulu Hope Matambo
AFRICANA WOMAN RETREAT 2023
Reinvention: Write A New Story Retreat is designed to help you let go of narratives that no longer serve you and claim the life you absolutely desire and deserve. For 2 Nights, 3 days on 4-6 August, 2023, retreat to the scenic Lower Zambezi. This experience is inclusive of meals, transport, accommodation at Kasaka River Lodge and guided retreat program.To find out more click here.
To be a contributor to the Africana Woman Blog click here.