The city I live in here in Tanzania is in mourning.
Last weekend, 33 children, two teachers and a driver were killed in an horrific bus accident. The final year primary school pupils were on their way to sit their exams. All of those killed were from the same small village on the outskirts of Arusha, and there is not a person in Arusha who has not been affected in some way by this meaningless loss of precious young lives.
Two days after the accident, the city held a public memorial service for the victims at the stadium. The stadium was packed to capacity with people, with many lining the streets outside the stadium, unable to get in but wanting to pay their respects to the victims and their families. It seemed like the entire city had come to a standstill as it collectively mourned the young people who were so cruelly taken away.
Death never pierces the heart so much as when it takes someone we love; cleaving the heart they held with their passing.
—Brandon M. Herbert
Grief manifests itself in many ways. Every culture mourns and memorialises in different ways. In some cultures grief is expressed emphatically and publicly. In others it is expressed in private and quietly. In the chaos and confusion that accompanies death, it can be difficult and challenging to even begin to process and work your way through the grief.
And yet, it is said that grief only lives where love lived first.
In the English language there are words for a child who loses their parents, and for a husband or wife who loses a spouse. Yet, in this world of orphans and widows, there is no word for a parent who loses a child. Perhaps it is because there are no words for that kind of loss. No words for the pain.
No parent is prepared for a child’s death. Parents are simply not supposed to outlive their children. No matter how long your child lived, the loss of a child is profound at every age. Parents grieve for the hopes and dreams they had for their child, the potential that will never be realized, and the experiences that will never be shared. The pain of these losses will always be a part of them. Yet with time, most parents find a way forward and begin to experience happiness and meaning in life once again.
“Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the o-er wrought heart and bids it break.”
― William Shakespeare,
A parent will never really “get over” the death of a child. But they learn to live with the loss, making it a part of who they are. It may seem impossible, but happiness and purpose in life can be found again.
The children who died in this accident will not be forgotten and their legacy remains. The community who are grieving may choose to honour the children through fundraising, tree planting, or even campaigning for better road safety standards for school transport.
For parents, each of your children changes your life. They show you new ways to love, new things to find joy in, and new ways to look at the world. A part of each child’s legacy is that the changes he or she brings to your family continue after death. The memories of joyful moments you spent with your child and the love you shared will live on and always be part of you.
In loving memory of the children, teachers and staff of Lucky Vincent Nursery and Primary School, Arusha, who passed away on 6th May 2017.