I am no expert at comprehending grief but I continue to do it by Clara Jack


I wrote an honest moving piece on grief in 2021 after I lost an aunt and my mum’s best friend in the same month. Losing Aunty Lolo and Uncle Darlington in July 2021 was my spirit telling grief, ‘e don do’ because I had been grieving long before then. Grief has altered my life and continues to do it but in August of 2021 I decided to write all I had learned about it in a 7-part memoir titled ‘Death will find me living’. It was one of the earliest pieces I ever wrote in non-fiction and it made my audience start seeing me as a serious writer; whatever that is.

Now, it is March 2023 and I have excelled at creative non-fiction as I tend to do with everything that has the privilege of capturing my heart, being touched my hands or held by my gaze. I was going to write a review of the year so far because this year has been dramatic and after that there was still enough juice so I wrote this as well.

I put out a tweet recently saying that for the first time in my career I am writing a sequel. I have been writing for a decade this year so bet that grief is a thing that says ‘I must be known’. I had a piece of mine read recently at a literary function and as I answered questions concerning it, it occurred to me to write this continuation on what my perception on grief has evolved to. 

Bearing in mind the first essay (which you should read before reading this), everything I learned up to that point still stands but as you can see from the title, two years and some more grief later, I am still not an expert at understanding grief, but I continue to indulge it which brings to be first part. 


As unlikely as it sounds, grief is important work and that is why I continue to do it. I have started my newsletter which currently has over 47 entries in 12 months and like I remarked in one of them, ‘the earth must honor he who is loved’. Grief in some of its important components, is honoring the love we have lost. And tell me now, is that not important work? That is why I continue to indulge it not because I even am good at or profiting off it. I will always proudly be an amateur in grief and if the world chooses to continue taking my loved ones, I will continue to honor them. Because what I have left of them is contained in that grief. It is messy, strange, creeps on me but by God it is mine. It sits at my back constantly and I carry it. Yes, grief can have physical manifestations. Mine sits in my back. Sometimes it sits in the eyes of the grieving.

Part IX

Grief is not limited to the death of people. We cannot say that the pain we get from death is so much more different from severe separation. I was initially going to title this ‘the demystifying of grief’ because in my true nature as a teacher, in everything I dabble in, I aspire to build a bridge of knowledge to ease the path of those who will come after me but true to my mysterious girl nature, I also deeply enjoy implying things. Grief is the pain from losing anything that once sat in your heart and is no longer yours to hold. I lost my dog in August of last year. He was sick and in his last moments, his eyes that were once bright dimmed. He wasn’t even eating and this is a dog that I used to tease for eating all my food. It broke my heart and I cried for him for a while. Mind you, this is a dog that I was initially scared of and didn’t even want but over time, we grew fond of each other and what kind of love beats the one that creeps up on you? Watching something slip from your hands and being powerless to change the narrative is stifling. I said in the last piece that you cannot allow anyone to make a trivial matter of your grief and I maintain it. No one can tell you what is enough to grieve and what is not. 

Part X

Grief will humble you. I am not a person who indulges ego but I still hate being humbled. It is something that I cannot stand because what do you mean that with everything I am and have and have done, I am still not enough. Laugh out loud, said grief. Grief can swallow you, consume you and not even spit you out. You just keep trying to come out of a blanket that has endless sides and you don’t even know what you need. That helplessness is common in grief, I saw it mirrored in Auden’s ‘Funeral Blues’ and in most of Andrea Gibson’s pieces. The humbling also spreads, seeps into everyone and is a point of similarity among everyone who draws breath. A common grief, a co-existing grief and now part eleven.

Part XI

Two griefs can co-exist. I said this in the space my work was being read, co-existence does not mean balance. We often misconstrue that concept. Two griefs can co-exist in the heart of one person and the grief of one person can co-exist in the hearts of multiple people. I recently watched four people grieve one person. Her husband, their daughter, her best friend and her neighbour. The husband was beside himself for a year as he should be and her daughter stopped smiling. Both of them kept having clashes because she was his wife and she was her mother. A massive vacancy in their life had erupted and they were not seeing eye to eye. Very uncomfortable and that is the imbalance, it did not stop grief from existing. In their strained conversations, in their awkward breakfasts, in their smiles that do not reach their eyes. It continued to stay until they decided to merge it. Grief can wreck one person completely but it will struggle harder to wreck two or more people who are healing together.

On two griefs existing in the mind of one person, you can be grieving the loss of a version of yourself, a lost friendship and the death of a pet. Makes your mind feel like a battlefield and that kind of longing can continue to stretch you into obvious destruction. Unless, you merge those griefs. No grief is more important than the other because it is silly and needless to compare pain so merge what remains of every part of your heart that has broken and try to patch it in due time. Do not skip the mourning part of grieving. Healing is a practice not a destination. I saw this on Twitter, it was someone’s pinned tweet. I rarely take advice from the internet but this one, I ran with it. 


In that literary space I did something I never do with my roll of literature. I don’t give direct answers to questions I pose in my writing because literature is open to interpretation and should stretch for the reader’s heart desire or need. Or at least that is what poetry did for 13-year-old me and I could not ask Shakespeare why of all the seasons, he compared the love of his life to a summers day when summer can bring a heat stroke.

I answered because that piece of fiction was the best way 18-year-old me could make sense of Bryan dying in my already deep shit life. The story is full of a lot of symbolisms and when it is studied in later times, dear literature students, I have given you an easy expo with this essay. What can I say except you’re welcome.

To reiterate that answer, ‘it is not that deep’. I am the last person who will trivialize grief so stay with me and look around, do you not owe it to yourself and the mourning period to allow a smile creep unto your face again? In part seven of the previous essay I mentioned that moving on from grief can feel like forgetting your loss but it is not. You cannot forget death just ask the Pearsons so don’t worry. The helplessness in grief can double as a prison only that in this one, we become our own wardens. Locking ourselves in and throwing away the key. Don’t be your own warden darling. I am forever grateful for the passage of time because it brings another day to try again after we find our way out of the forest of grief. We often think our suffering is so grave and heavy because we are isolated in our pain but then we consume art, and we realize that pain happens to the best, worst and most average of us all. With this perception it becomes lighter to carry and suddenly the hole grief put you in is not that deep. Baldwin said so surely that we think out pain is unprecedented and then we read. The advice of touching grass is not literal every time. Sometimes, it is an implication to look around and connect with people because our veins are more than train tracks for blood, they are ties that tether us one to another. Like an inbuilt Bluetooth because as good as doing it alone feels, sometimes you need someone else to touch you. There are some places only external love of value can bring us out of. Let them touch, let them carry you to shore. 

We should always honor ourselves with the courage to move past every audacious bad thing that has faced us in this life because it is not possible to go through life unscathed. Remember that the process of grief is essentially an honour so the last person to honour should be yourself. And you know what will continue? Life so why can we not join it? Unfortunate events have the audacity to face us so I am sure we can find the audacity to continue in spite of them. Sometimes, rebellion can present as self-preservation. In spite of everything that killed you, here you still are. Eloghosa said something in her book. “If anyone deserves to live, it is us after all the dying we have done” I am adding to that. You deserve to live after all the mourning you have done. That is it reader, that is the summary of what I have learned this quarter. I grieve because it is an honor to my loss but I let myself live with it because my face is worthy of housing a crept smile again and again. Writing twelve parts on it still doesn’t make me an expert but quote me regardless because I am an amateur and amateurism is the true practice of anything. It is for the love of it and finally to quote Vision and end this, what is grief if not love persevering? 

About the author


Add Comment

By clarajack


Get in touch

Pencilmarks and Scribbles Magazine was founded in 2017 by Clara Jack to be a home for African writers, asking them to come as they are and giving them room for growth. The publication aims to give back to the Nigerian Literary scene for the things it has given us.