For a long time, grief over the loss of loved ones weighed down Jane Nderitu. However, the 33-year-old was able to cope with loss and is now a principal and career adviser at Spring Hill College.
She shared her story on overcoming grief via Saturday Magazine.
“I love working with the youth to help them build their career paths.
I get a sense of fulfilment whenever I help them to choose a career that will be worthwhile. I believe in continuous self-improvement and I learn new skills whenever I can.
I, too, have had my own demons to battle with. I always felt like I was unimportant and I took a backseat on most things, including work.
It hit home one day when a colleague asked me why I always wore black outfits. I had to look keenly at the woman in the mirror.
That’s when my life came rolling back. It started when my parents split in 1994.
My mother, two siblings and I had to move to my maternal grandparents’ home in Nakuru. The playful talkative Jane was gone and in came a confused child.
Tragedy struck again, and four years later my mother died suddenly of a blood clot in her lungs.
I will never forget that day; it was the 28th of December 1998 and I was 12. My world shattered. It was truly a dark Christmas and I could never talk about her death for a long time without breaking down.
Back then, children were never taken through grief counselling sessions and I recall developing serious anger issues. I actually learned of her demise from a call my grandma made to my aunt.
I did not utter a single word for the entire day. I was too dumbfounded and went through my mother’s burial motions as if in a trance.
My grandparents were gracious enough to take us in. Occasionally, our aunt took care of us, and our financial needs were fulfilled.
However, there was something lacking. Emotional support. You see, living in an extended family has its challenges.
At our grandmother’s homestead discipline was emphasised and self-expression was not tolerated.
This resulted in me developing low self-esteem. I also had become withdrawn by the time I was a teenager.
In short, my parents’ divorce, move to a new home environment and the death of my mum had traumatised me.
That’s why when my colleague observed my affinity for black outfits, I took note. I would start by adding more colourful pieces to my wardrobe.
I realised I had not been living life to the fullest. I had to make some changes. I had gone through high school (which I really loved as I identified with other girls who had gone similar hardships), university at Egerton University, where I studied Communication and Media and a job to realise I needed help.
My whole grief issue was compounded by the death of my maternal grandmother in 2007. I felt like my life was just full of grief and it’s as if I couldn’t catch a break.
But fate has a twisted way of leading you on. In 2010, I found myself working at the Kenya Institute of Professional Counselling as a Marketing Officer in their Nanyuki office.
That is where my passion for counselling within the education sector started.
We would organise sessions for high school students on how to deal with grief and I benefitted from it, as I managed to release all the pent-up grief.
But in 2011, my grandfather, too, died of heart failure. ‘Why does grief come to me at my weakest?’ I cried out.
I felt like I was lost and alone. I never pictured a day that I will not see my grandparents. I forgot that as I grew up, they were growing old and weak.
I saw an escape in my career. I went on to become a Career Adviser at Zetech University in 2013 and then moved on to become an Admin Assistant in 2017.
Today, I am the Principal and Career Adviser at Spring Hill College in Nairobi. ‘Work hard and always strive to be successful’ was what my late mum would tell me. I still want to make her proud of me from wherever she is.
My turning point came when I became a mother in April 2015 to a beautiful daughter.
I wanted to be a better person for my daughter and so my journey for self-improvement began. I became passionate about fitness and enrolled myself in a gym.
Working out is therapeutic because you get to drain all the negative energy. It raised my self-confidence.
I no longer felt like I wanted to hide by locking myself in the house. I made friends at the gym with similar interests and they have become like family.
Being a single mum has its challenges but it has countless rewards too, and I hope that my daughter will grow up with high self-esteem.
I do a number of side hustles to complement my income. I am also working to complete my Master’s in Development Communication.
I just hope that my story inspires more people to let go of their past and deal with the loss of their loved ones.”