Thursday, January 20, 2022

Notes on Grief by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Notes On Grief
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
67 Pages
Published May 2021 by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

Publisher's Summary:  
Notes on Grief is an exquisite work of meditation, remembrance, and hope, written in the wake of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's beloved father’s death in the summer of 2020. As the COVID-19 pandemic raged around the world, and kept Adichie and her family members separated from one another, her father succumbed unexpectedly to complications of kidney failure.

Expanding on her original New Yorker piece, Adichie shares how this loss shook her to her core. She writes about being one of the millions of people grieving this year; about the familial and cultural dimensions of grief and also about the loneliness and anger that are unavoidable in it. With signature precision of language, and glittering, devastating detail on the page—and never without touches of rich, honest humor—Adichie weaves together her own experience of her father’s death with threads of his life story, from his remarkable survival during the Biafran war, through a long career as a statistics professor, into the days of the pandemic in which he’d stay connected with his children and grandchildren over video chat from the family home in Abba, Nigeria.

My Thoughts:
Since my mom died 11 months ago, I've done a lot of thinking about grief as I've done a lot of grieving. 

For these past months I've said time and again that people all grieve differently. And that's true. There is no right or wrong way to grief. The five stages of grief weren't even intended to be for those of us left grieving but instead for those facing their own imminent death. 

But when I find myself gravitating to books about grief, what I find myself looking for are the ways in which grief is universal, for the ways in which other's grief mirrors my own. 

Adichie lost her beloved father in 2020, just after the world shut down because of Covid. Like my family, hers couldn't mourn her parent in the ways that were traditional because of pandemic restrictions. But her family also wasn't able to be together to grief - Adichie was living in the U.S. , another sibling was in England - and in order to hold the traditional ceremony, they were forced to wait months before they could bury her father. Her life growing up in Africa had been much different than had mine. Her initial reaction to the news of her father's unexpected grief was to collapse in uncontrollable sobbing. Mine was to hold that in, lest it overtake me.  

But both of us suddenly found ourselves at a loss, without the person around whom the family had orbited, and unable to imagine how to go on.
""Never" has come to stay. "Never" feels so unfairly punitive. For the rest of my life, I will live with my hands outstretched for things that are no longer there." 
We will no longer hear their voice at the other end of a telephone call. We will be hit with loss in the most unexpected ways and at the most unexpected times. And the grief will go on much longer than we could have imagined. It was not the first time either of us had grieved. But it was the first time either of us had lost a parent and a parent, I've found, is another level of grief I had not experienced before. And I find myself needing to know that, even though we do all grieve differently, there are other people out there who understand the way I feel.
"I am writing about my father in the past tense, and I cannot believe I am writing about my father in the past tense." 

1 comment:

  1. The first time I remember being hit with grief was when my grandma had a stroke. She recovered, but she was changed and her role in the family was never the same. Later I deeply mourned my brother-in-law's loss of a baby and the loss of my 32-year-old niece and the loss of my mother. It's a slow and painful process.