How to Handle Tragedy while Respecting and Uplifting the People Afflicted
Tragedy is something that is terrible and difficult to deal with regardless of anyone’s position in society.
About two weeks ago, Ifeanyi, the son of Chioma and David Adeleke drowned in the pool of their Banana Island home. Unfortunately, the internet got to be aware of the situation very early on, before the parents and child’s family had the opportunity to process the saddening incident. Celebrities who had found out about what occurred were also quick to post condolences or images of them heartbroken, while the news was confirmed by popular blogs and media houses. Since Nigeria has no protection laws concerning medical information, or rather does not enforce them, some blogs were also able to get access to the child’s medical providers and leak private news into the public sphere involving his mother’s next moves after finding out that he had drowned.
The incident came as a shock for a lot of people, being that the celebrity (Davido) in question is extremely popular and loved. The family is also well into the public eye, their kin being major power-houses in the political sphere, public sector and entertainment scene. The child himself was also a beloved face on social media; his parents had severally shared cute moments of him on social media. From the onset, nothing about this situation was handled properly, with no fault to the parents of the child of course. It was not their expectation that such a tragedy would befall them and when situations like these occur, the people affected hurriedly attempt to handle it in the best way they can. They probably were unaware that the news would be leaked so fast and that the medical providers involved would be unethical enough to openly discuss their plight. The public did not help, instead, worsening the situation by speculating over the news and announcing it before the parents even had a chance to take their next breath. As a result of all the disconcerting events, Davido and Chioma reportedly retreated to his father’s house and restricted access to themselves.
For the public, processing tragedy generally can feel overwhelming. In this case, people were quite unsure of the details of the incident and proceeded to share what could have possibly been baseless lies. There was a section of people that hoped that the news was false and would soon be revealed to be lies against the family. When that did not happen, when the family was radio silent, such people would have become desperate for more news and inside details to the situation. This is where dealing with tragedy goes wrong, as often times this seeking out begins to fuel the finding of intimate details that should have been very personal to the family. For example, the detail about his mother carrying his deceased body to church was none of our business. This detail had been leaked by the nurses’ present, some of whom had even reported to blogs that the child had been dead on arrival. Details such as the police arrest and questioning can oftentimes become public knowledge because of the need for justification of those arrests. Those details often do not contain very personal details such as the example mentioned above. As the public mourns, we often further traumatize the victims by digging deeper and attempting to uncover information about it that have nothing to do with us. The fact that we already knew about the incident even before the parents had been given a chance to process it was troubling enough.
Other ways that we can deal with tragedy without re-traumatizing the victims is simply by publicly sending them love, prayers and holding them in our hearts. There are several tweets of people simply sharing that they are thinking about the family and have been praying for them. If you are close with someone personally affected, you can also seek them out and share your condolences.
In most cases, if you’re not close to a person who tragedy has just befallen, the best thing you can do is give the person some space. In the case where you’re passing your condolences, be mindful of not taking up too much of their time or turning the situation into a lecture. That’s not the time to be Sherlock Holmes, requesting for a play by play of the incident. It’s also not the time to play the blame game. Simply share your thoughts and move on. If the family affected is less privileged (in this case they are not), you can also show support by sending monetary condolences or items that you feel they might need. You can also crowd fund to pay for the burial, as those are often costly to put together.
Tragedy is something that is terrible and difficult to deal with regardless of anyone’s position in society. People who are outsiders to the situation must think critically about the position that we take and the responsibility that we have to the victims, even while they are celebrities and seem untouchable. Davido and Chioma lost a son, their only child together. They are more than likely reeling from the inevitability of life, the reality of how much he must have struggled close to death and blaming themselves for the fact that it could have been avoided despite not even being present prior to the incident. It is imperative that we do not worsen their situation more than we already have and that we continue to hold them in our most loving thoughts and prayers. My sincere hope is that they find comfort in each other, and that baby Ifeanyi is now resting in the bosom of the Lord. May his star continue to shine through his parents and loved ones.