On handling Loss || An Interview with Stella Mpisi


Loosing your loved ones

It's the month of August already! I always have some sort of time shock when it's a new month! Like how did we get to four months away from Christmas? Anyway, I have to say I am happy to be starting this month with a very exciting feature.

I am drawn to stories and how they shape people. I want to hear how people are dispossessed or elevated by their experiences so I started digging. And to be honest, I found treasure. I was drawn, excited, cried even, at some things I found.

I was particularly intrigued by Stella's Story. The honesty and openness of it. I binge-read her Blog in one sitting. Her writing style is simple but it will draw diverse and complex emotions out of you, open your eyes to the nuance of what you once considered obvious till you can see the unconventionality of perspectives. Whoosh! I am typing so fast I might go on a spiral and forget the purpose of this blog post.

I reached out to Stella and she responded so warmly and timely. I feel so honoured that she agreed to do this ( I am actually smiling my I am so blessed smile) I am so grateful for this. I learnt a lot from her response and I hope you will too.

Let's meet Stella

Being an orphan

I became an orphan when I was ten years old.


I am so glad to have you here please introduce yourself?


Thank you so much for reaching out to me. My name is Stella Mpisi, a Congolese-born South African writer. I became an orphan when I was ten years old. Both my parents died on the same day. My experiences with orphanhood are what inspire most of what I write. 

The more I grew up, the more I realized that I was different from South African natives,


What was it like growing up in South Africa?


Growing up in South Africa was both interesting and challenging. On the one hand, it was interesting to be a part of such a diverse nation. Being exposed to people of different racial backgrounds, cultures and religions was intriguing. However, there was always a sense of disconnect when it came to certain issues. The more I grew up, the more I realized that I was different from South African natives, even to those who looked like me. As a child, I did not know how to embrace both cultures as being a part of me. I often hid my Congolese identity out of pure ignorance or out of shame of being different. 


Have you received any push back in terms of sharing your journey with people, have you had anyone try to measure your grief and tell you that you are supposed to just move on?


Very often! The biggest pushback I have received is from family and friends. People misinterpret my writing for being a sign that I am stuck in the past. They do not quite understand that grief is a journey and that I’ve chosen writing to explore and navigate it. It is not a destination to be “stuck in”. 

I lived in denial for many years,


How did it feel losing your both parents on the same day and what was the most defining moment in that for you?


The feeling was of sheer disbelief and confusion. At ten years old it had never occurred to me that that was even possible. I lived in denial for many years, even after seeing both my parents in their coffins at the funeral. At the back of my mind, I secretly hoped that God had made a mistake and that my parents would come back somehow. I guess the most defining moment for me was when I finally let go of denial and accepted things for what they were. 



In a recent post, you talked about being an orphan bride and how you were able to navigate through it, in that light how do you handle disappointments and what advice do you have for anyone who feels sad that their expectations were cut short


I think with time and age I have learnt that life is not a straight line. The first step to handling disappointments is understanding that events do not define you and learning to get up when you fall. Another important thing is that you have to understand that problems come and go (no one lives a perfect life) and what matters is not the problem itself, but how you react to it. Your reaction or lack thereof determines the rest of your journey. 


My mistake was that I relied on religion and religious principles and not so much of spirituality and my actual relationship with “the unknown”.



You mentioned giving up on God at some point, how did that feel + do you think having a spiritual life is important in handling Loss?


Wow! This is an interesting question. After my parents died, I held on to God with all my strength. I didn’t blame God for any of the things that were happening to me. I relied on prayer to survive. But after many years, I got tried and questioned everything. Life just didn’t make sense anymore and I lost all faith. How could God be so good to some and yet just abandon me? I felt empty. I think spirituality does indeed help with handling loss. My mistake was that I relied on religion and religious principles and not so much of spirituality and my actual relationship with “the unknown”. I believe that spirituality has no rules and is about you as an individual and the individual relationship you have with God. That relationship is very important when it comes to grief. 

Loss


You have had to Isolate yourself at some point and try to hide your pain. How effective was that in itself and do you think hiding from pain is a solution for grief? 


For me, I think isolating myself was needed. I think isolation comes with the territory. However, I don’t think that hiding from pain is a solution. I had to go through that period of isolation to focus on myself and to understand that I needed to address my pain. That’s the “phase” I am in right now. I think it is important to mention that grief is not a problem you find a solution to. People grieve because they love. You don’t just stop loving someone because they are no longer alive, so you never really stop grieving. That is why I believe in positive grief.  


Did pity from friends and family contribute to the length and intensity of your grief. 


Most definitely. I can’t stand pity. It makes me cringe. I understand that people mean well, but pity has always made me feel “less than”. 

Motherhood



Has being an orphan affected motherhood for you, any life lessons?

Oh yes! Becoming a mother changes, you and I think going through that change without a mom is one of the most difficult things I have had to go through. My daughter is almost two years old now and the most important motherless motherhood lesson I have learnt thus far is that of being a positive example for my child so that she can look up to me even when I will no longer be on this Earth.  

Without writing I don’t think I’d be anywhere near the level of healing I have reached today.


You mentioned writing as a coping mechanism, how was that like and where are you in your writing journey. 


Writing helped me through many obstacles. It is almost like I am able to escape the troubles of the world and pour my emotions and thoughts down on paper. Without writing I don’t think I’d be anywhere near the level of healing I have reached today. Apart from my blog I am currently working on a fiction novel in honour of my mother. I’m super excited about that! 

“there are as many ways to grieve as there are people on Earth”. Everyone is different.


How would you advise people to handle loss and the pain that comes with it, is there like a rule book? 


There is no rule book whatsoever. I read somewhere that “there are as many ways to grieve as there are people on Earth”. Everyone is different. What I can say, however, is that it is important to have a support system and to learn to take care of your mental health. 


Orphanhood and grief


Do you ever outgrow the need for having your parents + advise for young people who want to hurry up and just be independent?


I think being independent and needing your parents are two different things. With every important life experience, I feel the need to just pick up the phone and call my mom and dad. The relationship between parent and child does not end when the child becomes socially and financially independent. 


How has loss affected your relationship with people?


I have serious trust issues and I am somewhat anti-social. For many years I lost all trust in mankind. With time I am slowly rehabilitating the social aspect of my being. It’s an uphill battle. 


Give us two fun / random things about you? 


I LOVE rapping. I can rap several Eminem songs from start to finish! LOL. Also, I hate the smell and taste of the coffee. 



I learnt so much from this and I know you did too. What are your takeouts from this post? How do you handle loss? Let's chat in the comments + Stella would love to reply you. If you have any suggestions or people you want me to feature tell me and we'll make it happen. Love ya!


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How to survive orphanhood

3 comments

  1. This was a wonderful read. Like I literally read the voices(maybe not accurately buy you get my point)

    There was a silence as I read and I honestly feel this would really be of help to someone I know.

    'As many different ways to grieve as there are people on Earth'... My biggest takeaway

    Thanks a lot for this

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for Reading. Hope that person reads and finds solace too

      Delete

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