Can you tell us your experience of running the Ehibam Grief Share Foundation in the past one year?
It is being a year of great works and I thank God. We have tried to create awareness about the foundation which started as a result of the death of my promising 35 year-old son and only child, Ehisieme Osarieme Alonge who passed on in the United Kingdom due to pulmonary embolism (blood clot). It was devastating. But the foundation is a platform to comfort and console those who may find themselves in my situation to live a normal life. We extend God’s love to those in bereavement. We have established three centers in Yaba, Surulere and Victoria Island in Lagos. We have volunteers to assist those who are willing to share their experiences.
How has this platform served in the healing process?
My late son was about to get married when he suddenly died. I thought it was the end of the world because it was a hopeless situation for me. I remember eight months into my bereavement, I had the leading to reach out to those who are in my shoes. I struggled within me but the urge became strong and on what would have been his 37th birthday on December 1, 2016, I established Ehibam Grief Share Foundation. I had earlier attended a support group in United States in those turbulent days. I sat through 13 sessions and that helped me.
How have Nigerians received this new platform?
The cultural factor of mourning in silence is affecting this vision. But we are not discouraged. People have called me. They are just getting to know about the foundation. There is this belief that ‘you don’t discuss death with people’. People don’t see it as help or a platform to chart a new course. When you are bereaved, you are surrounded by family members for a short period of time, but when it comes to mourning, it is a personal thing that can take a whole lifetime. And that is where the Ehibam Grief Share Foundation comes in. We want to create a forum where you can meet those who have overcome loss. In my early days of grief, there were certain feelings that I might not want to share with a family member because I don’t want to affect that person with my emotion. But if I am among those who have been there before, I open up.
Would you say that you are gradually coming out of grief?
It is a personal commitment not to go into depression. I also believe that my faith system helped me in my time of crisis. When my only child passed on, I asked God to take me even before his funeral. The fact that God still kept me alive told me that there is still a purpose for me on earth. If you find yourself suddenly in a state of despair, if you don’t believe there is God, it is difficult to overcome. If not for my faith, I would have been dead by now. This is why I tell people that they must have belief in a being that is above them. That’s my mantra.
What sense can you make of the situation now?
With the Ehibam Grief Share Foundation, I realise my case is not a hopeless situation. I know that through this foundation, many lives will be touched. Many will find joy again. Many people will believe more in their God because no man can help you. I believe in that Spiritual Being that has helped me. It is painful. It is an internal pain and the hurt will always be there. When I am down I will look up to God and say ‘Please, Lord, help me.’ Then I am relieved. For those in bereavement, my advise is to commit themselves to that Spiritual Being. He is the only one that can help. I have ministered to four women: I am not saying that they shouldn’t feel the way they feel, but I can lend them my faith.
What challenges have you been confronted with in the last one year?
The challenges are the cultural factors because people are not forth coming. People question why I have created a forum for people to talk about their loss. They forget that it is a support system where people share their grief. It is a platform where we can sing together, laugh together and even cry together. We Bible-based sessions because as a Christian, I have found solace in the Word of God. We have DVD of people who have gone through this bereavement.
If you could turn back time, what things would do differently?
The only regret is that I should have pressurized my son to get married earlier and have his own family. If he was going away, he would have his own flesh around. But I thank God for the new role He has given me. I have an adopted a three year-old girl. She is God sent. When it was going to two years of his demise I just told God that I wanted to extend my mother-child love to another fellow. I still sit back and thank God for allowing me to enjoy motherhood for 35 years with a child that passed through my womb.