My First Week after the Cleansing Process

by Lerato Maribe
(JOhannesburg, South Africa)



After my daughter's burial, as it's customary I wore a black cloak and head scarf, for mourning. In a way it is supposed to help me face the reality of my baby's passing. I received a lot of stares at first, mostly because like most people said, I was so young to be wearing that. The most interesting part was at work, most of my white colleagues saw my cloak and head scarf as a fashion statement.

I got compliments everyday at work about how beautiful I looked and how I must give lessons on how to wear the head scarf. At first it was painful, but I ended up just smiling at them and saying 'Thank You.' Traditionally I'm supposed to wear the clothes for 3 months, but after the first month I started falling ill.

It didn't get better as the weeks went on, so my family ended up agreeing that I should remove them. I was a bit hesitant, as in my mind it seemed like I was rushing to leave memories of Mbali behind. It may sound strange, but I felt like I was cheating my daughter. My mom explained to me that in some cases, the clothes are too heavy for the person's soul, thereby leading to all sorts of illnesses, so they are trying to help me.

The one person who helped me see it otherwise was Mbali's Aunt, Viola. She said to me I should look at it as a sign from Mbali that she doesn't want me to be so sad, and wearing those clothes. She wants me to start moving on and stop crying so much, as to her the clothes resemble my tears. After that talk, I agreed to the cleansing.

It was done on 08 October, 3 days after Mba's birthday, and 2 months after her passing. I must admit it turned out to be a good day. The family was all there, and there was no single tear shed on that day. We all just sat, talked and reminiced on the good times we had with her. It turned out to be my cleansing and a celebration of Mbali's life. I could feel her presence among us, laughing and happy to see us all in smiles. It's one of the days I will cherish for as long as I live, cause I got the message, that it is alright to move on, it doesn't mean we have forgotten her. She is always with us and looking over us since she is now our Guardian Angel.

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Oct 17, 2011
by: Janelle

Dear Lerato,

Thanks so much for sharing this beautiful story and photo of your beautiful daughter. I always appreciate hearing the grieving ritual stories of other cultures. It was wonderful to hear how your family helped you discern what was right for you about the clothes. We all do grief differently and it seemed like your family was very sensitive to your experience and Mbali's hopes for you.

Although you may still experience many ups and downs, may you continue to find hope and beauty for each step of the way.

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