The year 2020 will always be remembered for the wrong reasons but even in the midst of the chaos there are great lessons that one can learn and many of us will find inner strength that we never knew existed deep within us.

Thursday, November 12, 2020 started beautifully just as most days do then by mid-morning the skies became cloudy and soon after news started trickling in that our former president, Jerry John Rawlings has taken an unexpected trip to his maker. The mood in the country mirrored that of Tuesday, July 24, 2012 when we lost our sitting president Professor J.E.A Mills. This comes at a time when the pandemic is already causing enormous mental health challenges and we need to marshal all the resources available.

Sometimes we are preoccupied with many unnecessary things and never pause to appreciate a person until it is too late. Some people may even be angry because they think things should have followed a different path. That is not ours to determine; it is the sole right of the bearded one above. Whichever group you may belong to, it is your right to express yourself. We all grieve differently and I can assure you there is no right or wrong way to grieve, neither is there a specific grief path that we all need to follow but one thing remains possible, there are healthy ways to cope with pain that in time can renew you and permit you to move on. Time definitely heals many wounds.

Grief is a natural response to loss. It is the emotional suffering that one experiences when someone you love is taken away by death for instance.

Remember these as you grief

  1. Ignoring your pain will not make it go away faster. It will rather make it worse in the long run. Express your emotions even if it means you have to do it in “private”
  2. There is no need to be “strong” in the face of loss; crying does not make you a weak person. Feeling sad, frightened or lonely is normal at such a time.
  3. There is no appropriate period to grieve: for some it may last only a few days while for others it may take over a year. It varies from one individual to another.
  4. The fact that you are not shedding tears does not mean you are not deeply hurt. You may be equally or even much more affected than someone who is raining tears.

Over 40 years ago, a psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross described 5-stages of grief. Definitely many of us were in DENIAL on the morning of Thursday, November 12. Remember we all grieve differently and we may not go through all the stages. Some of us will also not go through grief in the order listed by Kubler-Ross, a fact that she pointed out herself.

  1. Denial – “this can’t be happening to me”
  2. Anger – “who is to blame”
  3. Bargaining – “make this not happen and in return I will…”
  4. Depression –  “I am too sad to do anything”
  5. Acceptance – “I am at peace with what happened”

Common Symptoms of Grief

  1. Shock and disbelief
  2. Sadness – this is probably the most universal symptom
  3. Guilt – you may regret or feel guilty about what you said or did not say or do
  4. Anger – even if the loss was nobody’s fault you may experience anger and resent
  5. Fear – a significant loss may trigger a host of worries and fears. One may feel anxious and even insecure.
  6. Physical symptoms – grief may go beyond emotions and we may experience inability to sleep, body pains, fatigue and even nausea.

Together we can cope in a healthy way

  1. Get support
    1. Seek comfort in people who care about you. Fortunately in our current situation, we have millions of people to share our thoughts, feelings and fears with. This can ease the pain. The media houses are doing a fairly good job at that.
    1. Draw comfort from your faith – this is a great time to pray, meditate, read words of inspiration from the Bible, Quran etc. it helps to know that there is a superior God whom we can cast our burdens on. Those who do not have a religious leaning may have some challenges in this area.
  2. Take care of yourself
    1. Face your feelings instead of avoiding or suppressing them all the time
    1. Express your feelings in a tangible way – it is refreshing to read or listen to people share their thoughts on radio, television, in newspapers, on facebook, twitter and a host of other avenues. If you do not have access to any of these or it may be inappropriate for you at this time, you may write your feelings down on paper
    1. Physical health is important – when you feel good physically, you will also feel better emotionally. Combat the sadness and fatigue by eating right, exercising and getting enough sleep. Do not use alcohol or drugs to numb your feelings; you may be asking for trouble.
    1. Do not dictate how others should feel and neither should they determine what you feel. We all grieve differently.
    1. Plan ahead for grief “triggers”. It is important to know that we will occasionally find ourselves in the woods even after it appears we have overcome our pain. You may need to be well psyched in certain situations; in our case when the National Anthem is played or sang, when speeches by our departed president are replayed or as factors leading to his demise are “interrogated”
    1. Remember that all humans grieve and you have done nothing wrong by grieving

When to seek professional help

Time is a great healer of many things including pain. After a while we expect that the intensity of our pain etc should wane. If it does not and we have any of the feelings below then we need to seek urgent professional help.

  1. Feel like life is not worth living
  2. Wish you had died with your loved one
  3. Blame yourself for the loss or failing to prevent it
  4. Feel numb and disconnected from others for more than a few weeks
  5. Having difficulty trusting others since your loss
  6. Are unable to perform your normal daily activities.

Nana Konadu and children, Ghanaians share in your pain and we will continue to pray with you. It is our prayer that God keeps JJ in His bosom. May God bless Ghana.


Dr Kojo Cobba Essel

Health Essentials Ltd/Mobissel/St. Andrews Clinic


*Dr Essel is a Medical Doctor, holds an MBA and is ISSA certified in exercise therapy, fitness nutrition and corrective exercise.

Thought for the week –“Every individual in this universe experiences grief at one stage or the other. Death is the universal truth and no one can avoid it.”


  1. Helpguide.org – “coping with grief and loss – understanding the grieving process”
  2. www.people-health.com
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