In a Skype session organised by the Muslim Sports Association for the Positive Minds And Healthy Living Workshop, I led an interactive lesson on What keeps us going during grief? The reason why I chose this topic of grief was because, many people, due to the COVID-19 have experienced some sort of grief, whether it is from the loss of a loved one or loss of income or health. Others are seeing the isolation as a trigger of grief from the past.
We have reached the month of Dhul Hijr and many sisters amongst us had planned to go Hajj this year, spending months and even years preparing for this event, but due to the COVID-19, Hajj has been cancelled for international immigrants. This disappointment has inevitably left many people in a state of grief.
At some point in our lives, whether or not it was during this Pandemic, we will all experience some sort of trauma, a calamity, a test or loss that will leave us grieving.
Personally, I’ve had my fair share of trauma and loss, including the loss of my daughter in 2015, the loss of my father in 2016 and experiencing the ill health of my sister in 2017 as well as a near to death situation many years ago. These situations have all left me grieving.
All these experiences are from Allah (SWT) and we must remember that. Allah (SWT) says in the Qur’an in Surah Ankabut, verse 2; “Do people think that they will be left alone because they say “We believe” and will not be tested”.
Therefore as believers, we shall all be tested in some shape or form and we will all experience some sort of grief at some point in our lives. As believers, we believe the emotions and physical hardship we experience are from Allah (SWT) and He has allowed us to experience this for the betterment of ourselves and our souls.
Grief has touched the lives of people from the very beginning of time. It has even impacted the best of humanities, the Prophets of Allah (SWT).
It is mentioned in the Qur’an in Surah Yusuf, Verse 84; “And he (Yaqub) said; “Oh my sorrow over Yusuf” and his eyes became white from grief because of the sorrow that he suppressed”.
The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) throughout his life experienced many episodes of grief and there was one particular year, known as the year of sorrow, which was particularly difficult. This was the year when the Prophet and his family were boycotted from their society and his beloved wife Khadija (RA) passed away after enduring suffering and then the Prophet’s uncle, who raised him and supported him, Abu Talib passed away. That year, the Prophet went to a city called Taif to preach Islam and he was rejected and treated very badly by the people of the City, they made young boys chase them out of town by throwing stones at him and causing him harm and injury. The Prophet was devastated and felt intense grief that year.
Grief is the physical and psychological response of the body to trauma. It is actually a healthy response to loss and a natural way for the body to heal from a wound.
People grieve differently, some will feel physical pain in the heart or bones and this is a result of inflammation to the heart muscles and bone tissue. The inflammation can alter the muscles in the heart and cause pain. This is often known as the ‘Broken heart syndrome’.
Others will respond by crying, weeping, feeling angry, feeling guilty or sad, some people may feel depressed or anxious.
Grief can transform your daily lives, your daily routines. You may start to question your capabilities, strengths and relationships.
Sometimes, the body isn’t able to respond in these natural manners and so the central nervous system becomes dysregulated and hyperactivity. When this happens, the body goes into survival mode and shuts down. This stops us from thinking clearly or makes us forget things.
When this happens, we start questioning our ability to do things and sometimes we start to question our faith.
Experiencing grief does not mean that you are discontent with the decree of Allah (SWT) and it does not indicate a weakness in your Imaan. In fact it is a reaction from Allah (SWT) to strengthen you as a Muslim.
There are limits to mourning and weeping and feeling sad is acceptable in Islam.
The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) wept and mourned when he lost his son Ibrahim. Allah’s Messenger (SAW) took Ibrahim, kissed him and smelled him and later he entered Abu Saif’s house and at that time, Ibrahim was breathing his last breaths and the eyes of Allah’s Messenger (SAW) started shedding tears. Abdur Rahman bin Auf said; “Oh Allah’s Apostle, even you are weeping. He said, “O ibn Auf, this is mercy”. Then he wept more and said “The eyes are shedding tears and the heart is grieved and we will not say anything except that what pleases our Lord. O, Ibrahim! Indeed we are grieved by your separation”.
The limit of grieving must not reach the point where we wail, tear our clothes and say things which we later regret.
There is also a time limit for grieving, so we do not pass the limit of grieving. We are given the time limit of three days to grieve for loved ones and four months and 10 days grieving for a wife for her deceased husband.
Allah (SWT) said in the Qur’an in Surah Baqaarah, Verses 155-157; “And we will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient, who, when disaster strikes them, say “Indeed we belong to Allah and indeed to Him we will return”.
Therefore at times of grief, we must remain patient as that is where the largest portion of reward lies.
Some people cope with grief by pushing the situation away, they may dismiss their feelings and emotions because it makes them feel uncomfortable. Some people may try to distract themselves and pretend everything is OK.
As believers, we cope with grief by turning to Allah (SWT) for help and comfort.
Allah (SWT) tells the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) in Surah Al Hijr; “We know how your heart is distressed at what they say, but celebrate the praises of your Lord and be of those who prostrate themselves in adoration”.
Like all other wounds, there is a cure for grief and that is to become mindful or bring Khushoo into our worship. This type of concentration activates the prefrontal cortex of our brain and helps us focus more.
When we are mindful of Allah (SWT), when we recite more Qur’an, do more dhikr and perform more salah, this helps us deal with grief in a reasonable way.
However, there are some people who struggle to engage in the worship of Allah and find it difficult to feel uplifted. This is not an indication of the state of the heart, but it is an indication of the state of your brain. The brain will find it difficult to focus on the trauma, but we as believers can try to reprogram our brain by being mindful of Allah (SWT).
To conclude, bereavement affects people in different ways and grieving is an important part of the healing process. People grieve differently and cope with grief differently, but generally, there are four stages of grief.
1). Initial shock, denial and disbelief of the situation. It’s often hard to accept that your loss is real.
2). Secondly, the physical and psychological pain that comes with grief.
3). Adjusting to life after the situation and dealing with grief by remembering Allah more.
4). Putting less emotional energy into grieving and putting it into something new or positive.
Here I want to expand on point four, for me, after the loss of my daughter during late pregnancy, I grieved for a while, I cried, felt lost, felt guilty, felt sad and experienced all the feelings that came with grief. I turned to Allah to help me deal with these emotions, I just wanted to feel better and feel some sort of normality. I turned to the Qur’an and Hadith for comfort and I started to channel my emotional energy by writing a book about what Islam says about losing a child. I promoted my book on media, on radio, on TV and on social media and I reached people from all walks of life. I felt my grief was channelled in a positive way because I was able to help others.
This is my book and it is available on Amazon and other online platforms