Let The Family Rest in Peace Too in 5 (Seemingly) Easy Steps
Monday, May 18, 2020
Hey, You …
This month I have the incredible honor of presenting to you our guest Meechie, Lena Nozizwe.
I first met Lena when I was working as a television production accountant. I had to speak with Lena about an episode, and encountered a goddess, right there in the office. I immediately thought, When I grow up …
Since then, I’ve been honored to call Lena a mentor and a friend.
In her beautifully-written letter, Mourn In Peace, Lena reminds us about space and dignity and honor after the passing of her beloved brother, Lowell. Our responsibility to each other, as human beings, to extend grace and to be in love, always.
Please join me in welcoming Lena and in celebrating the life of Lowell.
Lena Nozizwe is an Emmy award-winning multimedia journalist. Her writing has appeared in a number of publications including Vibe, Seventeen and Complete Woman. Nozizwe’s video clients have included AJ+, The Root, mitú and Deutsche Welle. Lena is also the author of the motivational book,
“Starring in Your Own Life,” published by Simon and Schuster, available on Amazon.
And … when I think of her, I still think, When I grow up …
Mourn In Peace
Let The Family Rest in Peace Too in 5 (Seemingly) Easy Steps
The grizzled man made his way up the hill, then through the bushes that lined the walkway leading to the entrance of the house on the corner.
He was on a mission.
The stranger knocked on the door of the home of a grieving mother who lost her son just days earlier. He did not come bearing flowers, a card or really nothing much else other than his curiosity.
When he managed to rouse a family member, thankfully not the grieving mother, his intentions were clear.
“What happened to Lowell?”
When he did not get an answer he groused, “Geez, I just wanted to get the details.”
Yes, that’s what he said as he pushed to learn more about the passing of my brother, Lowell t. Siwundhla.
That happened, and yes I repeat, just hours after my brother’s spirit left this earth.
I wish that I could say that’s the most painful episode, beyond the actual passing of Lowell, that I have experienced since losing my brother. Actually I would consider myself lucky if that were the case.
Not only has this extracurricular pain compounded the grief of my whole family, it has also inspired me to step up and provide a 5-Step tip sheet focusing on a more humane way of dealing with the mourning family members. My explicit purpose is to make grieving better for the next family.
- Are you a tabloid or a friend? I could never imagine knocking on the door of the parent of someone who passed away and demanding details about the loss. Just can’t imagine it. Ever. And sadly I have even seen online comments regarding my brother asking questions that are also grotesque and macabre. That includes someone wondering — make that, demanding — to know the location of Lowell’s body. If the grieving family does not offer up information, don’t insist on it. There may not be some deep dark secret they are hiding from you. Could be they just want to keep aspects of the tragedy to themselves. Note, for years I worked as an on-air correspondent for “America’s Most Wanted.” In the process I interviewed hundreds of grieving families. I was dubbed a “sob sister” because so many family members and even coworkers would cry during the interviews. It’s because in every single instance I was imagining what it would be like if I were in their shoes. They opened up to me because of that. I never pushed.
- Public world, private messages. Before I was able to face my brother’s passing publicly, nothing throughout this sad journey has meant more to me than the private messages I have received from friends and extended family who loved my brother. NOTHING. I have reveled in the personal and emphatic comments. One mutual friend wrote, “Naturally I think about how I could possibly deal with the loss of one of my brothers. Right now I just don’t know. I am so sorry that you are going through it now.” A couple who knew my brother more than they knew me kindly sent me this message: “… if you need a very private and quiet place to re-group, we can offer some time at one of our cabins in Julian.” It was also very meaningful when friends checked in with me privately to see how I was doing during my social media period of mourning blackout. Public sympathies are to be appreciated, but condolences don’t all have to be in the spotlight.
- Say what you mean, mean what you say. When someone is grieving it may be reflexive to offer the world to them. The grieving family is in a very vulnerable state. If you promise to do something, they are likely to believe that you will come through. Better not to offer and then back out.
- Breaking news. When a friend’s brother passed away earlier this year within minutes the news was posted on social media, and not by the immediate family. At least the person posted on his own personal page rather than on the page of the person who passed away. But why do people outside the immediate family feel it’s necessary to post haste? I know this was disturbing for my friend. I have never wanted to break news about someone’s passing and I learned this lesson very well after I posted, on my page, a tribute to a former co-worker. This was hours after I had seen a former colleague share the news of his passing. Well I got a message that the widow was upset with me. And here I thought I had done good because I had waited sometime after I saw the original post. She didn’t think so. The widow gets to decide. Subsequently I don’t post nuttin’ about anyone who passes away. The only thing I do is comment on what a close family member has posted.
- Live and let grieve. When a family loses one of their own it is not up to you to tell them how to grieve. Howsabout taking your cues from them? Pushing them to behave in a way that you think is becoming a loss is downright cruel. Everyone processes grief differently. Don’t make it about you. If a family member wants to be alone, let it be. Simply be sure to let them know that you are there if needed. If they want to be very public, that’s cool too. The wrong move is to be overbearing and insist you know how they should grieve. I was forced to grapple with this not even 24 hours after my brother passed. And I don’t mind admitting that it was more painful that I could have imagined.
I struggle as I find my way of dealing with the hardest thing that’s happened in my entire life. Somehow I am determined to cope. I am insistent on somehow making my grief into a better me–and others. The day I shared the news of my chef brother’s passing was also the day I shared info about a scholarship I helped set up at the college where he was a faculty member.
The only times I have smiled since losing Lowell has had to do with finding ways to memorialize him, including setting up the scholarship. Every time I hear of a new contribution, I am giddy. It’s been my way of synthesizing grief into good.
Be merciful to grieving families as they find their way through the darkness.
Thanks for listening.
Please listen to grieving families.
For more information about the scholarship that has been established in my brother’s name please contact:
Lowell t. Siwundhla Second Chances Scholarship
Quincy, CA 95971
570 Golden Eagle Ave
Contact Dr. Karen Pierson via KPierson@frc.edu if you have any questions.