Going through any major loss, particularly the loss of a loved one is a very difficult time in life. Sadness is not the only feeling that this loss brings; there are other strong feelings which are aroused and people pass through various stages. This can all feel very chaotic and over whelming and it always takes time to overcome the loss. It is true that everyone’s experience is unique but whether you are bereaved or supporting a friend or a relative who is grieving, you might find it helpful to take a closer look at some of the feelings and experiences people go through after a loss.
One of the initial responses to loss is shock. Disbelief, numbness and denial are all natural reactions protecting the bereaved from experiencing a flood of emotions all at once. Anger is another very strong feeling that might be experienced when grieving. This could be towards the self or others including health professionals or even towards the deceased or God. This can often feel confusing or result in feelings of guilt. Guilt in grief can be due to many reasons; one may feel guilty about not doing enough or about saying or not saying something when the person was alive. We are not perfect and chances are that there could be guilt or other feelings around difficulties in the relationship we had with the deceased. Later on one may feel guilty about feeling better, having a good day or even not thinking about the deceased as often.
This does not mean that you love them any less. Do remember that Allah (s.w.t) is helping us to slowly get back to our lives so that we can continue to function well and we need that to move towards our spiritual goals.
Yearning and searching for the loved one, sadness, crying, exhaustion and fear are also part of this process. Having someone to talk to and feel supported is important. Family members also benefit from talking to each other about the deceased. The pain and sadness of grief may hurt a lot but suppressing it is not helpful. The mind needs a rest too and therefore sometimes distraction might be good, however one also needs to feel the pain and cry when it feels natural. Tears have a healing effect. The body and mind will feel strong afterwards. It won’t help to rush this process and expect to get over it too soon.
Connecting with Allah (s.w.t) for strength and patience should not be underestimated. We also pray for the departed soul and keep our eyes on His mercy to bless them. Reflection is another important part of the process especially for us as Muslims. This is a time when we are less attached to material things. This gives us a different perspective and a better opportunity for reflection on this world and our life, both here and in the akhirah.
As Muslims we also stay connected with our loved ones by sending them gifts in the form of good deeds. This could include a variety of actions from recitation of the Quran to an act of kindness.
For those who are supporting others, it is very important to let the bereaved take their time and not rush to rescue them from strong feelings. Being supportive and allowing them to process the loss rather than distracting them from talking about their loved one will be valued. We must let them take one day at a time and be patient. Those who have lost their children including infants, disabled or unborn children need to be supported and comforted with sensitivity and their grief should not be taken lightly.
Anniversaries or other important dates are likely to be a difficult time as memories come to the surface again. Supporting them with words of kindness will be appreciated as many friends will have forgotten their pain by now. In addition to accepting the reality of the loss and processing the pain, one will eventually have to adjust to living without the deceased. Life will be different in terms of everyday functioning, one’s sense of self and how one views the world but with the help of Allah (s.w.t) it will get easier. He never leaves us alone.
If you are grieving for a loved one, it might feel right now as if it will be like this for ever but that is not the case. You will eventually find a new place in your life for your loved one, remembering them in a way that will benefit both of you InshaAllah!