Welcome to number 15 in our widowhood chronicles. We have had a fascinating journey chronicling people’s journey into widowhood or widowerhood for the men. There are several things we have learnt but several ones run through.
1. Africans don’t plan for their families when they are gone. There is such a taboo about death that people don’t make adequate plans. As such several families are left to the mercies of their relations on death.
2. Enjoy your spouse as much as you can while you are with them. Death and subsequent widowhood come unannounced.
3. Women, get some independence. Don’t be totally dependent on your husband. Husbands, allow your wives to work or run a business.
It is quite interesting that in spite of all that has been done along the lines of widows rights, women still suffer so much in widowhood. Barbaric customs still exist, Women are still subject to so much torture and abuse at the death of a loved one. As such, they undergo double tragedy – the death of a loved one and the loss of the security they once enjoyed.
Today’s story takes a look at some of the forgotten sides of widowhood. While it seems these customs are disappearing, it is also disheartening to see that some still exits in 21st century Africa. Please take time and drop your comments as usual. You can read past editions of the widowhood chronicles here. Please also take time to read some of our Davina diaries articles. If you have anything to share, please send to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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The Widowhood chronicles 15, Carol: They made Me Sleep With His Corpse
My name is Carol and this is my widowhood story. Sometimes it’s not the death of a spouse that hurts so much but the treatment you get thereafter.
I was a young graduate serving in my husband’s state when we met. I was active in community development. I graduated as a nurse. My husband was a medical doctor in the states’ teaching hospital. We often met in villages when we went about our Community development project.
I noticed he liked me. He would always call me up to join him on some field trips. We got talking and then went out a couple of times. By the end of my service year, he told me he wanted something more from me. I was retained in my place of primary assignment. This gave him ample opportunity to woo me. He was truly a gentleman and I fell in love with him easily.
We got very close and before long he took me to see his family. It wasn’t a warm reception from his mother. His siblings also welcomed me half-heartedly. I expressed my disappointment to him. He told me to relax and all would work out well. My parents too were uneasy about the relationship majorly because they didn’t particularly like the customs of his people. They agreed that he was a good young man but had reservations about their customs. I didn’t understand their language too but I was picking it up slowly.
Against all odds, we got married five years after my service year. My husband was supportive and caring. We had three children who were smart. We both grew in our medical fields, taking up community projects and all that. His family did try once in a while to meddle with us but my husband shielded me continuously. At one point they wanted me to participate in one fetish activity but I declined and my husband backed me up. They accused me of bewitching him.
I began to talk to him about moving out of his state to another place so we could be free from the family issues. He said he couldn’t because of the work he was doing there. We started having all manner of spiritual attacks. I wasn’t such a strong Christian but I knew something that was demonic when I saw it.
One day one of my kids fell ill and we rushed her to the hospital. The doctors couldn’t find anything. I was forced to take her to a church for prayers. The pastor in charge confirmed my fears. It was a spiritual attack. He placed us on a seven day fast. This made me urge my husband the more to leave that environment. He finally agreed and we began to make plans. Then tragedy struck.
One night my husband said he forgot some documents in the hospital and needed to go retrieve them. I wondered why he couldn’t go in the morning but he insisted that he needed to use it that night. So he left. The distance was a fifteen-minute drive from home but he never returned. I was called to the hospital to identify my husband who rammed into a truck. Devastated is an understatement to describe how I felt. This was when the true nature of my husband’s people showed up.
They shaved my head and made me sleep with the body for a week. They also made me swear by their juju that I didn’t kill my husband. They starved my children while all this was going on. They forbade me to wear clothes all through the burial period. I merely tied a wrapper around my chest. His mother called me a witch repeatedly.
My family members came around and saw the treatment I was being given. They threatened to call the police on them. It was a big quarrel. By the time the body was lowered to the ground, I was totally worn out and ill. As soon as I got home, I told my siblings to help pack my things. I didn’t want to stay another day in that town.
My siblings tried to tell me to rest and regain my strength but I was adamant. I knew the family would keep coming again and again. They actually said I should surrender my kids to them. I only nodded and asked to bring them to pick their things. As early as 4 am, I left the town with my children and valuables.
I went to my parents’ house for a while. I really got to mourn then. I held my children close to me and vowed no one would take them away. The incident did bring me closer to God. A lot of things were revealed in the process of praying. They still tried to attack me spiritually but I was wiser and stronger now.
I haven’t been in contact with my in-laws for over ten years now. Women, please ask about widowhood customs of your husband’s people especially if you are not from those parts.