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Mourning the death of Nelson Mandela, 1918 – 2013

Nelson MandelaSouth Africa’s first black president, the man known as the father of freedom, Nelson Mandela, has died at the age of 95.

Flags are flying at half-mast there today as the world absorbs the news of his passing. We can expect an outpouring of public grief for the man who led a nation to democracy and helped to end racial apartheid.

Tributes led by Obama

US president Barack Obama was one of the first to pay tribute saying, “we’ve lost one of the most influential, courageous and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this earth.”

Our own President Michael D Higgins said Mandela “is one of history’s greatest leaders; a man whose unprecedented courage and dedication broke down the cruel barriers of apartheid in South Africa”.

Long walk to freedom

Mandela’s journey started with his activism against apartheid as a member of the ANC (African National Congress). He was ultimately imprisoned for decades until, after much political pressure, he was released in 1990, eventually becoming the leader of a democratic South Africa.

Nobel peace prize

After much struggle and ultimately achieving the goals he’d set, Mandela was awarded the peace prize in part for his ability to reach out to his former oppressors. His ability to solve problems and resolve differences, as well as his lack of resentment, came from his belief there “could be no democracy without reconciliation”.

In mourning

When someone dies we all have different reactions ranging from shock and anger to unexplainable behaviour like hysterical laughing.

Loss and grief can be one of the hardest things we go through, but there are ways to manage your grief. One of the most important things to remember is whatever you’re feeling is OK. Allow yourself to experience these emotions, no-matter how close or not you were to somebody. The sense of loss is real even if you didn’t know someone in person, as will be the case for many people with Mandela.

Rest in peace

In his own words, “Death is something inevitable. When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace. I believe I have made that effort and that is, therefore, why I will sleep for the eternity.”

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