An Open Letter to Orphans

Eighteen years ago yesterday (October 17th), I lost my mum to the cold hands of death. At that point, I had lost my dad 2 years prior. I felt naked and exposed when my father died. Now imagine my mum also gone!

I lost my dad when I was 16 years old. By the time I was 18, my mum was gone too.

As I remember my mum, I thought I might share my heart with fellow orphans (and anyone dealing with grief) in an open letter to orphans.

Although I did not have a relationship per say with my mum, I had this idea in my head that she was at least still there. Sandwiched between my paternal grandparents as they broke the news to me, I cried for only about 3 seconds.

Walking out their room that night, I kept verbalizing to myself- “I am an orphan”. That reality hit me in a way that I felt a strong sense of “I am now all alone in this world”.

Dear Brave Souls,

Life has a way of teaching us its most profound lessons through the deepest of trials. For those who have lost a parent, the pain and grief can be an unimaginable burden.

This open letter is a warm embrace to all the orphans out there. I want you to know this- you are not alone, and there is hope and resilience within you.

Here, we’ll discuss some tips to help you deal with the loss of a parent and navigate the path of healing. In the most succinct way possible, I will share these tips yet be vulnerable.

10 TIPS TO deal with the loss of a parent and navigate the path of healing

1. Allow Yourself to Grieve:

Like I mentioned earlier, I cried for my mother all but 3 seconds. Partly because I was told “she was really never a mother to you” and I believed it. But also because I believed being strong meant, I cast it to the back of mind, have dry eyes and not shed a tear.

But this only pushes the pain further down. Numbing does not take the pain away. You lost a dear person to you, let that sink in.

Grief is a natural response to loss, and there is no right or wrong way to grieve. It’s essential to give yourself permission to feel the emotions that arise, whether it’s sadness, anger, confusion, or even relief.

Don’t suppress your feelings; instead, express them in ways that feel comfortable and healing for you. This is the first step in your journey toward healing.

You do not need permission to grieve. Take all the time you need, BUT do not let yourself be drowned by the guilt either

Anita Adefuye

2. Seek Support:

I did not feel like I could seek support because I did not know where to being looking for one. But so much has changed in 18 years. Now there are online supports and communities to turn to as needed.

You don’t have to go through this journey alone. Reach out to friends, family members, or a therapist who can provide a listening ear and a shoulder to lean on.

Joining a support group of individuals who have experienced similar loss can also be incredibly comforting, as they can understand your feelings in ways others might not.

Faith-based communities are truly such a blessing and whilst not perfect you’d be amazed at how much supports can come from them.

PS: If you are like me who felt like my family and friends around me did not understand or get it, please be sure to give them grace. If they don’t get it, then they don’t. I remember being so angry at them for this. But these people all had their parents alive and well, so truly how could they get it?

3. Preserve Memories:

Memories of your parent are a precious treasure. Take the time to celebrate and honor their life by preserving your memories. Create a memory book, compile photographs, write letters, or engage in activities that remind you of the happy times spent together.

I still playback pictures of my mother praying in the middle of the night. I still see her face light up at the sight of my younger brother (I always suspected she loved him more than me…shh, do not tell him. LOL).

And when I had the chance, I took this phot of her hanging in my grandparents’ home. Isn’t she lovely?

Years ago when I was going to name my daughters (who by the way was born 2 days after my mom’s remembrance), I named her Hephzibah. It turned out my daughters’ middle name (Hephzibah) and my mother’s name (Obubele), means the same thing- God’s Delight!!!!. I cherish this with all my heart!

If you do not know I am from a Nigerian tribe called Kalabari Kingdom.

This process of collecting and preserving memories can help you find solace.

4. Self-Care Is Crucial:

During times of loss, self-care becomes essential for your well-being. Take care of your physical, emotional and spiritual health by eating well, exercising, resting, praying and meditating. Engaging in activities you enjoy can provide a sense of normalcy and positivity.

These activities can help rejuvenate you more than you realize. I was in university when my mum died. By the time I got back to school from Lagos after hearing the news, I walked a lot.

Truth be told, I did not have money , hence the walking. But I also always felt the urge to walk, I found it helped me destress. While I did mot understand what this was at the time, I continued and it helped!

5. Set Realistic Expectations:

Grief doesn’t have a set timeline, and it’s different for everyone. Be patient with yourself and set realistic expectations. Healing takes time, and there’s no rush to “get over” your loss. It’s a process of learning to live with the absence and moving forward at your own pace.

There will be people who will tell you to get it over it and make you look/feel weak. But the worse kind is the stories we tell ourselves based on the expectations we set for ourselves.

6. Remember Your Parent’s Legacy:

Your parent’s love and influence will always be a part of you. Continue their legacy by living a life that would make them proud. Keep the values and lessons they instilled in you close to your heart and incorporate them into your own journey.

My mother was a woman who fought for justice and freedom of her people. She was also very committed to her family. We witnessed a woman who was thrown into jail, fought men to a standstill and negotiated the destiny of her children in prayer.

It took me forever to realize all the lessons (many unspoken) she taught me. If I wrote a lesson book on things my mother taught me, many a women would be better off for it. And I will!

All of these lessons I find myself applying to my own daughter and every woman around me today. My hither also loved fiercely because, I mean, have you met my dad?!

A little secret, ONE of the main drivers for doing a PhD is because my mother said I must. lol. I still hear er voice in my head!

7. Find Meaning and Purpose:

Loss can be a catalyst for finding a deeper sense of purpose in your life. Use this time to reflect on your goals, dreams, and aspirations. Discover what truly matters to you and pursue it with renewed determination.

How do you find meaning in death? Death is not the end, I believe this strongly. There is a scripture of the Bible I love and find comforting:

13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 1

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 NIV – Believers Who Have Died – Brothers and – Bible Gateway

8. Embrace Resilience:

Orphans often possess remarkable resilience. Your experience of loss can make you stronger, more empathetic, and better equipped to face life’s challenges. Embrace this resilience and use it to build a future filled with hope and happiness.

Remember, the journey of healing is unique for each person. While the loss of a parent leaves an indelible mark, it can also be a source of strength and growth. In the midst of pain, there is hope, and within you lies the capacity to heal, learn, and find joy once more.

9. Pour into Others:

I know this sounds weird. How do you help others when you yourself are hurting. Give yourself the time you need to be ready. But there is opportunity to do good, always! Even in pain.

No bigger clap back at life than turning that pain into passion. I have done this with my journey to healing on child sexual abuse and pretty much everything else. Here is the biggest lesson, pouring into others is an integral part of the healing process.

10. Turn to God:

At the core of my healing journey- from sexual abuse, grief, loss, rejection, God has been my anchor. It is by Him that I have come out of it all and now can say I am truly healed.

I often jokingly say the Holy Spirit is my therapist. However it is not a joke, it is my reality and it can be yours. One of the questions I hear a lot is why I became a Christian. I provided the answer right here in the video below.

God truly is a loving Father who seeks to help us and comes alongside us in our journey of healing. Heck, He is the healer. So far, everything we talked about was possible for me because of this!

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Psalm 34:18 NIV – The LORD is close to the brokenhearted – Bible Gateway

You are not alone on this path, dear orphans. Your courage, your strength, and your ability to embrace life with hope and resilience are a testament to the enduring power of the human spirit.

Finally, you dear friend are indeed a brave soul. That pain you feel is not the end of you. There’s no light at the end of the tunnel because YOU ARE THE LIGHT that dispels every darkness. Grief has nothing on you!

With warmth, empathy, and love

Anita Adefuye

Anita Adefuye, the author, shares her story of sexual abuse, low mental health, suicide, and how she overcame them all. Today, she is the founder of LoudSilences and more.

Her book, Reve-Healed – A true story of pain, healing, and hope, is available for purchase. Get yourself a copy today!

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