How Long Can One Grieve The Loss Of A Loved One?

By Ekaette Udoekong

A few months ago I was at the beach market – Esuk Atu to buy fresh fish and shrimps. Euk Atu is small seaside beach with few fish traders and fishermen. Business happens here more in the morning and a little in the evening depending on the weather and tides. The beach is usually deserted in the afternoon. At the beach you can see women and young children crossing from one end of the river to another with goods, and of course fishermen returning with fish, shrimps and sometimes oysters. 

I got very concerned about the women and children who travel by water in a small canoes and are not afraid of the tides and the water.  One of the women told me that she focuses on an object or thinks of something beautiful and not on the waves when traveling on water. She does not listen to the tossing of the canoe or battering by the water, she busies her mind on how to sell off her fish and how to get her creditors to pay their debt. Then I turned to one of the fishermen, a boat owner and asked how he manages if the tidal waves caught up with him at sea. He laughed and said he has not experienced it yet though because he had learnt over time to understand the tides (every fisherman knows!). 

Most weekends when I get to the beach the fishermen had already washed off the nets and are on-shore in a make-shift bar to take ofop-ofop or combine, or have breakfast, or are selling off fish to middlemen. I observed a few times that a particular fisherman does not celebrate at the bar with others but just exchanges pleasantries, sells to a particular middleman and leaves with his two boys. It’s obvious he does that so that he does not have to stay at the beach longer than necessary. Then I began to asked questions and for more than two months I have frequented the beach market to winthe friendship of some of the fishermen and the middle-women. This weekend I got my story.

The fisherman I have been observing lost his oldest son and the loss caused a deep grief that had taken him off social life including sharing a drink with fellow fishermen. It has been over 2 years since his son died. According to the middle-woman I spoke with, he has not overcome his grief. My source said he only greets and sells only to one middleman. According to my source he used to be a jolly fellow participated actively at the beach but is very withdrawn now. 

How long can one grieve the loss of a loved one? There is a link between grief and substance abuse problem but in this case could grief cause one to stop drinking? Are there other stressors that could trigger such a change in a person for over 2 years?