This is the final in a series of prose readings and I couldn't bypass “Notes on Grief” by Chimamanda Adichie.

One challenge of prose readings is their personal nature but that can also be their opportunity. If a piece is a beautifully written as this, its resonance is effortlessly apparent.

In secondary school, my friends and I once took a problem to the timid new mathematics teacher, Mr. O., and, glancing at the thorny problem, he hastily said that he needed to go and get his four-figure table, even though the problem didn’t require a four-figure table. We left his office, roaring with teen-age mirth. I told my father about this, expecting his laughter. But he didn’t laugh. “The man is not a good teacher, not because he didn’t know how to solve it but because he didn’t say he didn’t know.” Is that how I became a person confident enough to say that I don’t know when I don’t know? My father taught me that learning is never-ending.


“You have a particular laugh when you’re with Daddy, even when what he says isn’t funny,” my husband said. I recognized the high-pitched cackle he mimicked, and I knew that it was not so much about what my father said as it was about being with him.A laugh that I will never laugh again. “Never” feels so unfairly punitive. For the rest of my life, I will live with my hands outstretched for things that are no longer there.


I’d encourage you to read the whole piece. It is packed with these mini-stories, all of which are interleaved into her reflections on grief. Chimamanda Adichie provides a narrative we are probably familiar with but the (in my view) unique and extraordinary power of this piece lies the emotional weight carried through the memories, unflinching personal honesty, and humour- “Why does the image of two red butterflies on a T-shirt make me cry?”


Top tip for this one: select short sections that reflect your own experience or use the same form to write your own, and then conclude one of the many brilliant lines at the end e.g. “Grief is a cruel kind of education.” (attributed- obviously!)


Full text here: