Losing a parent is something no-one wants to go through. But losing a mother no matter at what age will always have a strong impact on someone’s life. Most mothers in Malawi are not bread winners, but their absence greatly affects families, especially children. ALBERT SHARRA talks to a number of people to find out what losing a mother means to them.
Richard Joseph (not real name) who lives in Mbayani, Blantyre says the death of his mother killed his promising future.
The 22 year-old says his mother encouraged him a lot in education and made efforts to send him to Kaphuka Private Schools at a time when his family was struggling.
“My father sells hardware materials in Blantyre and my mother used to sell mandasi [fritters] at home. There were three of us and we were all at Kaphuka Private School. Our father loved us a lot too, but after the death of our mother everything changed,” said Joseph regretfully.
He says there was chaos in the house; even meals were not consistent. He says the father started to arrive very late at home and cared less about the children which resulted in the three of them dropping out of school.
“We did not drop out of school because of lack of fees. But the absence of our mother changed everything. When my father re-married things just got worse for us. Your biological mother’s love is exceptional and can never be replaced,” he laments.
Joseph eventually moved out of his parent’s home claiming he could not continue living in the house without the love of his biological mother. His two sisters have since joined him in his one bed-roomed house in Mbayani.
Like Joseph, Violet Balala who lives in Bangwe says she went into the streets after the death of her mother.
“There was no one to take care for us [children].Our father ran away from us a year before our mother died. He said he was tired of looking after our mother during her illness. Our mother spent over a year struggling with headache. She died in my arms and her death was the end of my education journey,” says the 17 year-old who is now a mother of two and sells bananas at Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
Apart from her children, she takes care of her two brothers.
These are just examples of families that have been affected by death of a mother.
Psychologist Dominic Nsona agrees that death of a mother in a family is a great loss and affects the children than it does when a father dies. Nsona says this is because of the roles each parent plays in the family.
“A mother plays the crucial role in a family that is associated with provision of, among others, love, guidance, teaching and discipline. On the other hand, society regards the father as only a bread winner. We are often emotionally attached to our mothers than we are to our fathers. This is why when we cry we mention mother and rarely father,” he says.
Nsona says death of a mother affects the children emotionally, psychosocially, spiritually and physically.
“When a mother dies, a child is left with emotions ranging from emptiness and loneliness to guilt and anger. The most common emotions and normal reactions include confusion, anxiety, remorse, fear, frustration, yearning and depression.
“Most children who are growing without a mother develop low self- esteem. Others feel guilty thinking they could have done something for the mother to live. This leads to self-blame.
“It’s a psychological phenomenon where by the children think new caregivers do not understand them better. This is why it is often hard to look after orphans,” says Nsona.
The psychologist adds that emotional aspects of a child’s character such as compassion and respect for women is absolutely affected. He says a mother provides pampering and sentiments which make a child realise the softness of life.
“Coping with the pain of losing a mother varies from one child to another. This variation is dependent on the developmental stage which determines the children’s understanding of the replaced care and love that is offered by immediate caregivers. Age affects the child’s ability to cope with the death of a mother,” says Nsona.