TALES OF COURAGE: How my grief manifested in a rare mental disorder

Wednesday March 18 2020

Neema Muthee. PHOTO | COURTESY

Her name means ‘grace’. But Neema’s life hasn’t been full of grace until a year ago when she fought chronic depression- a condition her counsellor diagnosed was as a result of Prolonged grief disorder (PGD).

Life took a new twist when Neema Muthee, in her early twenties, lost her mum to cancer and experienced the pangs of death for the first time. The year was 2013.

"It was hard to believe she was gone and I felt so lost and didn't know how to deal with the situation. I tried finding comfort in my brother and dad who were also struggling to cope."


In 2014, she moved in with her boyfriend and began a marriage life she was barely ready for.

Life was rosy at first until she lost two pregnancies that almost broke her. She was eager to be a mum.

However, her desire to have a kid was fulfilled at the third year of their marriage. She was beginning to adjust to life as a new mum when a fight ensued between her and the boyfriend, leading to a breakup.

"I didn't know where to go or how to start life alone all over again."

While she was still trying to get over her failed marriage, she was hit by another death of a close family member. This time the loss was too much to bear. Her dad, whom she had grown so close to was gone.

“I became so lonely and sad. My world was shattered, and I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere, nor had anyone to confide in. At some point I wanted to end it all.”


Neema withdrew from friends, stopped working, ignored calls and messages and lost enthusiasm for life. Her world came crumbling when she couldn't deal with the losses in her life

“I looked back at my village and most people still had both parents. I couldn’t understand why God chose to take our parents. I over dwelled on death to the extent that life lost meaning.”

One day she bumped into one of her late dad’s friend who asked her how she was holding on. She broke down in the street and started crying.

She poured out her heart and told him how she couldn’t bear the situation. It was during those moments of sadness when his dad’s friend connected him to a counselling psychologist.

It wasn't until she started therapy that she found solace. She stopped being bitter due to the loss of her parents and began focusing on her life.

"My clinical psychologist helped me unwrap my childhood traumas and the losses in my adulthood. I found a safe space to grieve and felt relieved when I unburdened. "

It was through therapy that she learned that PGD had resulted from her inability to face the deaths she had experienced.

"Therapy for me was life-saving. I began to feel more alive and enthusiastic about life."


The death of both her parents changed her life, and she began seeing life differently during therapy. She is now determined to leave a great legacy by inspiring people who are going through mental health issues. 

Due to her experience, Neema began various initiatives to help other women cope with losses. Daughters Without Mothers is a foundation for women to find a safe space for grieving without judgment.

There's also Mwanga Sister’s Circle for helping other women grow against all odds, and Tears that Heal support group- A safe space for men and women who have lost their loved ones to go through bereavement and healing.

She also works as an image, etiquette and authenticity coach.

Her final words?

"Don't be ashamed of seeking therapy when you're at the verge of giving up. There's no shame in venting, and it makes you feel better instead.

I'm a testimony that therapy works, and there's no need to bottle up the demons you're battling."