Losing a parent at a young age can be an incredibly challenging and life-altering experience for a young person. It brings forth a unique set of struggles they must navigate while trying to understand and cope with their grief.
In this article, we delve into the inspiring journey of Nana Yaa, who, at the age of 19, faced the heartbreaking loss of her father and elder brother. As she courageously took up the role of the firstborn, she shares her remarkable story of resilience, responsibility, and managing the household’s finances.
Tell me more about yourself.
My name is Nana Yaa. I am 19 years old and currently a second-year student pursuing a BSc. in Chemical Engineering at KNUST in Ghana. In my family, I was originally the second-born, but due to the recent departure of my elder brother, I have taken on the role of the eldest sibling. Now, I am responsible for guiding and supporting my two younger siblings.
Sorry about your loss. How did you take it when you lost your dad?
In the span of just two years, I faced the heart-wrenching loss of not only my father but also my elder brother. Their absence left a profound void in my life that is impossible to put into words.
The news of my father’s passing shattered my world. It felt as though time had come to a standstill. Memories of his laughter, his wise counsel, and his unconditional love flooded my mind, overwhelming me with grief.
As my family began to heal from losing my father, another devastating blow struck us—my brother’s untimely departure. It felt like a cruel second wave of grief, intensifying the pain we were already grappling with.
In those moments, a whirlwind of emotions consumed me. Disbelief, sorrow, anger—the intensity of these emotions was overwhelming. But deep within me, I knew that I had to summon the strength to carry on, not only for my own sake but also for the sake of my grieving family.
When did you realise you had to take up the role of a firstborn and manage the house?
My mom was still going through a tough time, and it was hard for her to support our family. Seeing how it affected her business, I knew I had to step up and find a way to help us financially.
I started looking for job opportunities that could bring in some money and let me continue my education. Thanks to some connections at my church, I landed a gig as a teacher at a nearby school. It wasn’t exactly what I had in mind, but it gave us a steady income to cover our basic expenses.
However, the modest salary from my school job wasn’t enough to fulfil all our needs. I needed to find another hustle. Since I was good academically, I offered private tutoring to students who needed extra help. Trying to balance my school job and tutoring commitments was a juggling act, but I was determined to make it work.
I knew I had to give it my all, not just for myself but for my family. Those sacrifices were all worth it because they brought us closer to a more stable future. I wanted to be a shining light, showing my family that there’s always a way forward, no matter how tough things may seem.
How were you able to manage the house and its finances?
As I stepped into the shoes of the firstborn, I had to figure out how to handle the household and our finances. Initially, it was overwhelming, but I was determined to keep our family strong.
When it came to managing our money, I quickly realised the importance of careful planning. Managing household finances isn’t easy, but my mom provided all the needed assistance to make this possible. I could track our expenses, and by doing so, I could spot areas where we could cut back, save some cash for the future, and buy other essential items.
Tracking our expenses got me to take up teaching and home-tutoring jobs. My mom’s business wasn’t bringing in the same income as before, so I had to pick up these jobs to support us, especially when it came to covering my younger siblings’ educational expenses.
Believe me, it wasn’t always smooth sailing, but we managed to find a balance. We adapted to our new financial situation and learned to make the most of what we had.
How do you fend for yourself now that you’re currently in school and still try managing the house?
I took it upon myself to buy those university application forms, filled them out, and by the grace of God, I was fortunate enough to gain admission. However, I have been incredibly fortunate to have my uncle’s generous support regarding my tuition fees and accommodation.
I established a small business on campus selling tom brown to sustain myself financially. This venture allows me to earn money to cover my daily expenses and educational needs while studying on campus.
Additionally, since my university is located in Kumasi, I make it a point to return home every two weeks to ensure everything runs smoothly. In my absence, my cousin assists my mom in managing the household. Although it may seem sufficient, I feel much more at ease when I am physically present to oversee how things are progressing.
It’s been a tough time for you these past few years. What have been some of the lessons learned?
The journey I have been through has been immensely challenging, but it has also been a transformative experience filled with valuable lessons and personal growth. Taking up the responsibility of being the firstborn in your family, especially after losing my father and elder brother, has shaped me into a strong and resilient individual.
In managing my finances and that of the family, I quickly realised that every penny counted and that I needed to allocate resources wisely, which helped me save.
Equally important, I realised the significance of having a strong support system. My mother, siblings, and cousin have been pillars of strength, providing the encouragement, love, and assistance that helped me navigate my challenges. Their unwavering support has been instrumental in your ability to persevere and achieve what I have accomplished thus far.