On grief and anger
It ripples, it shudders, it smacks high tide waves against wet sand or maybe it’s that impenetrable oil like viscose material, short but frightening silence which falls when even the dogs cease to bark and the last reveller has stumbled home from the corner shebeen on Makhuba Street Khayelitsha…these are just some of the images which flit through my mind as I try to describe for myself, the various ways in which anger attempts to verbalise, find a route, a space through grief and loss.
I started writing this piece before the massacre in Garissa Kenya, before commemorations of the genocide in Rwanda began, before one year of remembering, honouring the lives of the missing girls of Chibok Nigeria and before the wave of renewed brutality against foreign nationals living in South Africa.
I found an un-feeling, numbness creeping over me as I attempted to write about another inadmissible – the right to feel, admit, acknowledge anger when grieving and experiencing loss. I chose to set this piece of writing aside, to travel to foreign parts and wait a while before returning to it and in a way, that path felt, feels the right one.
Waiting in anger. Permitting oneself the un-feeling which comes from feeling too many feelings and simply to Be. It reminds me so much of the spring tides, a time when we see so little on the surface of the sea and yet, beneath the surface immense turbulence in a continuous rolling rhythm and movement which dredges, shifts sands, birthing life giving forms even as it changes the shape of the unseen and destroys in its wake.
And my thoughts turned to how we somehow, in our desire and search for ‘happiness’ and ‘closure’ sprint away from that which is its opposite, rush towards what we call ‘healing’ and refuse to open ourselves to the vastness and complexity of living within contradiction. To accept and embrace that one loss triggers memories of another, that the pain experienced through living lives that are not valued, perceived to be less than, the daily loss of self so deeply embedded in injustice and prejudice compounds and fractures grief. And that anger is sometimes necessary just to get through a day, a time, igniting the simple act of getting up and out of bed, going to work and maybe, walking a protest march.
I am reminded of the Elder in one of the HTMO workshops who needed to return to her Life Cycle drawing again and again as she traced all of the incidents which layered the feelings of anger at the recent loss of her granddaughter and her daughter to AIDS. The ignorance and incompetence of doctors with respect to her granddaughter, the lack of provision of ARVs for her daughter through state ineptitude, the loneliness in her grief when society and the church could find no place for her anger. And the inability of one of her peers to simply listen, quietly provide her the space to articulate this anger, hurrying to appease and silence her.
And this time, I turn to the words of Sisonke Msimang, awesome intellectual, activist, writer in an almost, but not quite not, unrelated post about the reverberations of difference, change and disharmony and its place in society in South Africa.
“We have lived with choreographed unity for long enough to know that we now prefer acrimonious and robust disharmony. We see reconciliation as part of a narrative that was constructed on the basis of anxieties that are no longer relevant: Democracy has taught us that raised voices don’t have to lead to war. This may not feel good, or even comfortable. And it does not offer the peace many black South Africans imagined 20 years ago. Nonetheless our impatience for justice is a new kind of hope; a sign that green shoots may yet emerge from the ruins of the rainbow nation.”
And in her words I seek and find the wisdom to know that anger has its place. Difference, disharmony born of a seeking for something – justice, answers, resolution or even, closure is required for new growth. That raised voices in anger ‘don’t have to lead to war’. That truthfulness is the undercurrent which precludes walking a path of healing.
 A place I called home for a period in my life
Deirdre Prins-Solani is the Project Manager of Healing through Memory and Objects- a pilot project of the Museum of AIDS in Africa to help people overcome their grief over the loss of a loved one, through personal and collective story-telling and ‘object therapy’