Young widow speaks out
At a tender age of 24, Potso Lopang got married to her best friend, Tinaye Victor Lopang and went on to have three children with him.
The young wife couldn’t have been happier. Tinaye, was her dream man.
He was older hence mature, loving and overall a great person, just as Potso had imagined her prince charming would be.
At such a young age, Lopang was a free spirit fresh out of school and had not started working.
As the youngest, her family had worried about her big decision to get hitched but being strong minded and determined, Potso was adamant to be Mrs Lopang.
“I grew up without a father and although I come from a loving and supportive family, my husband was my rock. Truth be told, I was like his firstborn. He did everything for me and played both the roles of a father and mother to our children. I never had to be concerned about our family needs as he took care of everything,” she said
Potso’s happily ever after was however cut short abruptly when Tinaye died in June 2016, following a short illness.
“In a space of a month, we were confronted with the devastating news of leukemia diagnosis and he was quickly admitted in hospital. Never the one to cause worry, Tinaye reassured me that all was going to be okay. After spending a few days in hospital he had good days and bad ones as the chemotherapy took a toll on him. Even then he remained resolute about getting better so I too tried not to panic.”
However on the day he passed on, he had insisted that his family should not visit him in hospital, as he had wanted to rest.” the grieving wife explained.
In the company of family, Lopang traveled back to Gaborone from Pretoria.
It was then that I Potso incredibly sick and obsessed with the need to reach her husband but to no avail.
In hindsight, she now realizes that no one knew how to break the news of his passing to her. “No one was ready,” said Potso
The following weeks were a complete nightmare for the young wife.
“I couldn’t comprehend what was going on and didn’t believe that my Tinaye was gone. How was I going to deal with life and raise our young children? I fell into a deep hole and didn’t know how to climb out. To this day I don’t remember all that transpired leading to Tinaye’s burial. I was there physically but not emotionally strong to deal with all of it.
As the family plans for his tombstone unveiling, Potso is hit with fresh emotions all over again as though she is dealing with his passing for the first time again. I am overwhelmed and not confident to give direction of how I want this significant event to turn out. Worst still, I cannot even recall details of the burial so to me it is as if am planning a funeral,” she says
Navigating life has been difficult since the passing of Tinaye, Lopang reveals.
“My first few counseling sessions seemed hopeless as I refused to share my feelings. The counselor advised that to heal, I would need to break the silence. I didn’t know where to start.” Lopang says she was however lucky to be introduced to others who had gone through similar situations and had lost their partners.
“Till then, I didn’t know anyone my age who had lost a partner. So when people would say, “it will be well,’ I thought to myself, but how? Nothing felt fine and I was frustrated and overwhelmed.”
Praising her family including her in laws and her friends and colleagues for their support, she said, “They have stood by me even when the going got tough. Often people would pass judgment and involve my family about how they felt I should be grieving but family allowed me to grieve my way, “she said and went on to warn that there is no prescribed formula and period to one’s grieving.
“I went through all kinds of emotions including times self hurt by binge drinking and abusing prescribed drugs. I was high often and thought I would be better off dead as suicide crossed my mind. Until then, I had been a selfish individual who only thought of herself. But with 3 young children I picked myself up.”
For support she joined a prayer group of women that have suffered loss and through that it was comforting to hear details of other’s losses that made her realize that though hurt, others have had it worse.
Two years later she bereaved wife is still trying to find solace in all the memories that she and her husband have built.
“It has been difficult to explain to the children that their father is never coming back and we need to move on without him. Important occasions such as the kids’ birthdays spark emotions but am doing better.” She says
Throughout this experience, Lopang has learnt how strong and resilient she can be.
“I had no idea, as I have always had so much done for me, but I am now picking up the pieces and rebuilding my life.”
When asked about dating and remarriage, Potso laughed it off and said, “ My counselor often reminds me to stop building a make belief world that essentially has me fantasizing about how life would be if my husband were alive. Even my description of an ideal man to date mirrors that of my departed Tinaye. For now my concern is raising our children and just dealing with each day as best as I can.”
Lopang’s advice to dealing with loss
- Be open to professional counseling
- Share your feelings with those around you
- Be mindful of self sabotage e.g isolating oneself from people
- Do not abuse drugs e.g prescribed drugs and alcohol
- Create new memories for yourself and children