In the world of grief and mourning, there is a type of loss that defies closure even with healthy families. It is called ambiguous loss, a term coined in the 1970s to illustrate a unique kind of loss when a loved one disappears in body or mind. A family member vanishes physically with no verification of whereabouts or fate as dead or alive or fades away psychologically from dementia and other cognitive or emotional impairments.
In either case, grief is inherently complicated, not by psychic weakness but from the profound complications of loss shrouded in doubt. Meaning is ruptured, relationships go awry, and family conflict increases. When a loved one is here but not here, or gone but not for sure, the family as a whole, and the individuals in it, struggle as their story continues without an ending.
This is possibly a glary description of the Mtetwa family of Majindane in Nyamandlovu who lost children (3 and 13, boy and girl respectively) to an unknown explosion 3 weeks ago.
The gory experience remains a mystery enveloping the whole village in fear, confusion and hopelessness. The feeling is worse for the young mother who lost her only 3 year old son, Thabiso and grandparents whose pension years have been bludgeoned by lack of answers on what killed their grandchildren Happiness and Thabiso.
The process of living without closure, however, is made more difficult by those who cannot hold that ambiguity. They cannot distinguish between official death versus ambiguous loss. The extreme experience of ambiguous loss serves to remind us professionally and personally that closure for the Mtwetwa family really needs to happen.
Matema, the grandmother, fails to hold in her pain, and profusely sobs. One cannot help but notice the woman whose pain is ravishly displayed by trembling hands as she struggles to contain the pain and hide it from the visitors. This is the same of Twoboy Mtetwa, the grandfather, however macho he tries, his adjectives in narrating the ordeal that occured just less than 15 meters from where he was sleeping are loaded with furrows of heartwrenching pain. He tries so hard, but he too, like his wife, as nature would be expected, is in pain because he is not really sure of what killed his grandchildren.
Eversince the calamity, no one has come back to give the family a candid explanation of what occured. Their hope lies in the Police service that took the remains of the pots in which the suspected “motar bomb” exploded from and never came back.
Twoboy Mtetwa, a beneficiary in one of HOCIC-WFP Social Assistance programme known as the Lean Season Assistance Programme wishes that one day he gets to know what took the lives of his grandchildren. He does not understand how a bomb could get only to his homestead in 24 years he has been a resident of Majindane in Nyamandlovu. He buried his bloodline with no answers. He bores no idea on the cause of the loss except only a memory that it was an explosion that shredded young humans, blew pieces of property yards away and the last memory he has is of them doing dishes. It’s a hellish punishment for a parent.
It’s rare that we get the closure we want when we’re faced with a loss. Even so, losing someone without understanding why, or when you have unanswered questions, can be really destabilizing.It touches on our human vulnerability in such a jarring way.
Twoboy Mtetwa continues to gaze into the distance of the parched village longing to see a car driving straight to his homestead to give an explanation. When is that day? that is the question.