Reflections on the Crisis in the Horn of Africa
Many of us have the gift of moving through the grief process as we find a way — often after years of remaking — to put grief to rest.
Anne Lamott writes,
“You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.”
It only takes something small … maybe a smell, a scent that reminds us of our loved one; or a picture; an activity to cause an overflow of the deep well of tears to burst forth from the depths. Even after years, grief is always at the surface. Tears we had momentarily forgotten about, feelings we had buried with the everyday activities that we’ve used to help us move on, and then it happens. Our buried, bruised soul awakens.
Grief sleeps lightly; ready to be awoken by the slightest touch.
But, there is a grief that doesn’t sleep.
Most of us are able, in some way or another, to go through the necessary phases of grief, and come to a place of acceptance. It might take months, years or decades, but we find the time to wrestle, to express and to become the new, yet un-whole person we must become in the wake of death.
We become human by sharing our humanity with others, and so when those others leave, we lose part of ourselves, and so must rediscover ourselves as new people who are less than what we used to be. And that discovery of learning to leave and learning to become new is the grief process.
And yet, right now, there are Somali mothers and families who don’t have the luxury of grief.
Over the past three months, 30,000 children under the age of five have died from starvation and sickness as a result of a fatal mix of famine and disease that’s spreading in the refugee camps … camps that continue to increase with those who are fleeing their water parched lands to find refuge in parts of Ethiopia and Kenya.
And the United Nations predicts that a potential 600,000 more could die by the end of the year.
If this were in the United States, Europe or Asia, the world would be up in arms, extending hands of grace and finances to forestall any more death. But, this is in the harsh sands of Eastern Africa, where life isn’t given much hope and the lifeblood of death (grief) is a luxury that few are afforded the time to concern themselves with. It’s almost as if life is worth less in these parts … it’s as if these stories aren’t worth being told.
Imagine being a Somali mother.
Being displaced from your home.
Walking days or possibly weeks to the closest refugee camp.
And losing one child, maybe two or three, to starvation.
Imagine the complication of guilt that comes with losing a child to starvation.
You, the parent, couldn’t, didn’t provide for your child, who now lays lifeless.
A lifeless child that may not even be afforded the privilege of a proper burial.
The guilt that eats away at you.
Not to mention, your own starvation that’s literally eating away your body, clouding your mind, hindering you from thinking well, causing you to become less stable and more reactionary, more emotional and erratic; or possibly less emotional and more lifeless. More and more you feel like an animal.
And, surely, while your one child may have died (or maybe two have died), you may have one, two, three or four other children who are dying of starvation that you must tend to.
You don’t care about your own survival, but you know you must survive … or who will advocate for your children? If you die, who will care for those you leave behind … the other families who are also suffering just as much as you? As little as you care for your own well-being, you know that if you pass, there will be no hope for the dependent ones that you brought into the world, which you must make sure will not leave it.
Here, there isn’t time for grief.
All the energy is for the living.
This is the desert. This is the jungle.
And in this jungle, you are the prey.
The prey of Hunger, the prey of Death. If you’re body doesn’t eat itself, if your guilt doesn’t eat away your motivation and leave you lifeless, than surely your grief waits, ready to make you into something awful.
Here, surrounded by death, there is a grief that doesn’t sleep.
Also, I have never asked for any of my blog posts to be “shared”. But this one is different. If you could please help your friends gain some exposure to this crisis by hitting the “like” button below, or sharing this on facebook or on twitter … I, and others, would greatly appreciate it.