My Widowhood Journey And How Aromatherapy Knowledge Renewed My Sense of Purpose

Background: How I Became a Widow

On the 12th of March 2020, Hon. Mutahi Kagwe, (Minister for Health in Kenya at the time) made the dreaded announcement that tipped the country and sent many into panic overdrive – the first case of Covid-19 had been positively verified in Nairobi, Kenya.

Just a month earlier, my husband and I were elated to have finally sent our then, 4-year-old twin girls to preschool after an arduous initiation into the world of parenting (and moreso the parenting of twins). This shocking development also revealed that all schools would be shut with immediate effect as the term ‘lockdown’ slowly started becoming familiar to the world.

After this announcement, my heavily nauseated gut gave in; my vomiting episode was certainly not because Covid had reached Nairobi, it was rather because I was about 4 weeks pregnant. The world became chaotic in the months that followed as people lost their jobs, joy, and lives. In Kenya, the pandemic swept through the cities and people feared visiting hospitals to avoid contamination.

Covid seemed to ravage the western world more aggressively compared to our African continent; nevertheless, people were dying and there was no end in sight. I gathered courage and chose to attend pre-natal clinic unlike other women who were in fear. On 13th October, a healthy bouncing little girl was added to our family through cesarean section. As the pandemic ate at the world, this was the happiest moment for me. My husband and I had worked from home for many years; the ‘new normal’ was just normal for us.

The world had never been more eager to say goodbye to a year like it did to 2020, fireworks and prayers went up ushering in 2021 and hoping that Covid-19 would die alongside the old year.  In January 2021, schools were reopened and my twin daughters, now 5 years old, were back at school. At home, we would juggle work with our then 3-month-old infant, and it was wonderful; things were looking up.

In August 2021, schools went on a break. I noted that my twins had developed a minor cold and we medicated them accordingly. While watching updates about the pandemic on international media, reports of a new Covid variant in India referred to as ‘delta variant’ were hitting headlines. The images of desperation in India broke many. News also emerged that this extra deadly variant had been detected in Kenya.

In the second week of August 2021, my husband complained about body weakness and fatigue and sought over-the-counter medication. In the next couple of days, I also developed a cold – even the baby had a mild runny nose.

My husband had visited a hospital for proper checkup but was given more drugs to take. His legs seemed weaker and on the last weekend of August, he decided that we should all take a 2-hour trip to Nakuru to visit his mother in the village.

I packed a few bags and loaded them together with our children into the car. Dad was a bit tired to help at this point. I tidied up and locked the rented apartment; little did I know that we would never live there again. We arrived in the sunny village on a Saturday afternoon to a reunion of sorts. The in-laws were seeing our new baby girl for the first time due to the lockdowns and they were elated.

sad lady
Grief in widowhood

Sunday morning came, and my husband was taken to a hospital in Nakuru by his sisters. The pandemic had seen most hospitals lack beds at this point and even oxygen was a premium commodity.  Before he was taken to hospital, I took some time to rub some lotion on his face because his hands seemed weak. Apart from body weakness, he was not too bad. In fact, he drove himself alongside his sisters to the hospital.

That Sunday morning was the last time we saw him alive. Upon reaching the hospital, he was admitted and put on oxygen. By Monday night, the doctors had confirmed that he had severe lung damage due to Covid-19. They also suggested that he may need ICU care. No visitors were allowed in hospitals during the pandemic. On Wednesday night, the first day of September 2021, my husband lost the battle – leaving behind devastation beyond measure. At the age of 36 years with three little girls, I was facing the unfathomable life of widowhood, grief, and despair.

The Unremitting Battle with Grief

The last few months of 2021 are still a blur even to this day. A year before the tragedy, I had started working on aromatherapy projects as a freelancer. My client had even sent me a sample diffuser and boxes of many essential oils. To remedy the constant feelings of emptiness, panic, and sadness, I began diffusing citrus oils every day. I rented a house in Nakuru and had my stuff from Nairobi brought in. My kids found a new school and we started our petrifying journey without the head and rock of our home.

The scent of bergamot in particular took my mind off the anger and sometimes it lured me into a smile. As if God-sent, my client at this point told me about aromatherapy training and even went ahead to award me a scholarship to do clinical aromatherapy online.

My Aromatherapy Online Training Journey

Back in the day, I had done a correspondence course in the U.K that involved sending my assignments to my tutor via the post office. Online learning was certainly an upgrade! I enrolled at Joyessence Aromatherapy Centre Inc. with an eagerness to learn how natural scents can restore balance and wellness in our lives.

Ema with a diffuser
Ema with an aromatherapy diffuser

From cinnamon to frankincense and chamomile, my days were aromatic to say the least. Even my children couldn’t help but notice the uplifting scents. At Joyessence, Julie Fischer (the owner and director of education) via zoom introduced me warmly and guided me through the steps to follow. The online interface was easy and well-laid out. This form of learning was convenient as I could login at any time and continue with my studies.

From the history of aromatherapy to essential oils and their properties, I was amazed at how much aromatherapy had to offer. The anatomy part brought many high school memories as well. The short quizzes after the topics kept me on my toes and nudged me forward. I was excited to start winning!

This learning process largely kept my mind off the grief. Real case studies allowed me to consider others and their suffering. It then became clear to me that this clinical aromatherapy training would empower me to help others. This higher sense of purpose became a driving force.

By August 2023, I was ready to sit for the final national exam online. The smooth learning process led to success as I surpassed my own expectations to excel in the finals. Now, I’m a certified clinical aromatherapist and I cannot wait to help others become whole. Joyessence Aromatherapy Centre made it very easy for me (a working single mother of 3 kids), to complete the course successfully in under 2 years. The support and guidance from my tutors were exceptional.

Ema Certificate
Aromatherapy Certificate

I’m convinced that my burden of grief was lessened by aromatherapy. The oils inspired a positive outlook whenever I inhaled them. Aromatherapy training at Joyessence has given me the confidence to share holistic well-being with others who need it. My sincere gratitude also goes to Organic Aromas for awarding me a scholarship at a critical time in my life. This was a lifeline for me.

Moving Forward

My research paper brought to light the impact that essential oils can have on grief recovery. Grief is a personal lonely journey that has detours and diversions. I have found that doing positive things daily like inhaling lavender will in time allow you to see the bigger picture in life.

Covid-19 brought a season of suffering for many. However, a season will always pass; the devastation of grief will also pass. Right now, I’m finding great pleasure in blending suitable oils for my clients. Many are stressed at work while others just want natural relief from aching joints. My clinical aromatherapy certification at Joyessence has enabled me to go beyond my trauma, touch others positively and spark collective healing.

Ema and 3 daughters
Ema and her daughters

Beautiful Essential Oil Blends For Grief

If you are facing grief today, I have compiled five essential oil recipes that can help soothe grief and provide comfort.

Comforting Citrus Blend

4 drops of Wild Orange Essential Oil

3 drops of Lemon Essential Oil

2 drops of Bergamot Essential Oil

1 drop of Ylang Ylang Essential Oil

This blend is uplifting and helps to alleviate feelings of sadness.

Peaceful Lavender Blend

5 drops of Lavender Essential Oil

3 drops of Chamomile Essential Oil

2 drops of Frankincense Essential Oil

Lavender and Chamomile are known for their calming effects, while Frankincense helps with grounding and spiritual connectedness.

Heart Healing Blend

4 drops of Rose Essential Oil

3 drops of Sandalwood Essential Oil

2 drops of Jasmine Essential Oil

Rose and Jasmine can help heal emotional heartache, while Sandalwood can help with mental clarity and inner peace.

Uplifting Mint Blend

5 drops of Peppermint Essential Oil

4 drops of Eucalyptus Essential Oil

1 drop of Lemon Essential Oil

This blend is refreshing, invigorating, and helps to clear the mind.

Soothing Floral Blend

3 drops of Geranium Essential Oil

3 drops of Lavender Essential Oil

2 drops of Roman Chamomile Essential Oil

2 drops of Bergamot Essential Oil

This blend is soothing and comforting, helping to alleviate feelings of grief and sadness. Remember, everyone’s sense of smell is unique, so feel free to adjust these recipes according to what smells good to you and brings you comfort.  Always dilute essential oils with a carrier oil if you plan to apply them to the skin.