Losing someone we love can be one of the most deeply painful experiences to ever go through in life. If we knew it was coming, our senses would be alert as we waited for an inevitable outcome. Or if it came out of the blue, it may feel like a life taken too soon.
It carves a very deep hole inside us and the effects on our physical and mental health can be damaging.
After the initial shock, we can often be faced with disbelief, which can prevent us from grieving and sometimes it is paused as we deal with people around us, grieving too, with us and for us. We can go into survival mode and it might not ‘hit’ us until later when we come to the realisation that where there was once someone we loved; are now only memories.
You’re surrounded by people and yet you feel alone as though on the edge of a precipice, trying not to fall in as you stay afloat for those depending on you, those who need you to not succumb to darkness under the weight of heavy thoughts.
Whilst most painful situations heal with time, the long term effects of grief can include waking up months later with the reality that your loved one is no longer there, it can hit you with a fresh wave as though it just happened. It is as though your memory has to catch up with reality. Consuming thoughts can create further issues with memory and the inability to concentrate on tasks can in turn affect our self care, work performance, relationships and any other responsibilities, creating a catch 22 as we create more things to feel low about.
The effects on our physical health can be detrimental too and it is even more important to take care of ourselves during this time as our immune system is weaker and can become susceptible to illnesses of varying degrees. This can be explained by the fact that we may have little or no interest in eating thus leading to nutritional deficiencies and an inability to sleep can lead to bouts of extreme overthinking and worrying, leading to exhaustion both physically and mentally.
Also reaching out for the support we need is crucial. It may not be something we have ever faced before and so we may not know what we need, but we can ask people just to be there for us. A hand to hold. An ear to listen. Eyes that understand.
A loss like this can make a person re evaluate their own life and the way they have been living it, their choices, successes, failures, beliefs, their significance on the people and world around them. For some it can bring about panic, that it will all come to an end one day and make all their efforts seem hopeless and it takes sensitive encouragement to help a person to not just carry on living for the sake of it, but to really live, because of how precious time is, and how every single moment with loved ones, with our passions, doing significant work, how it all matters so much more. There is one less soul on this earth who meant the world to you and you owe it to them to create a beautiful life in remembrance, to be present and to grieve for as long as it takes, but to not miss the love and beauty that still envelopes us.
As Muslims, we know that we are in the dunya to be tested, but what does that really mean?
“We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger, and the loss of wealth and lives and the fruits (of your toil), but give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere, who say—when afflicted with calamity—“To God We belong, and to Him we shall return!” They are on those whom descend blessings from their Lord, and Mercy. Such are the rightly guided.”
~ Quran 2:155-157
These calamities are sent to us to remind us to turn to Allah if we have been lost, to help erase some of our sins as we are compensated for our discomfort, and we are rewarded for the patience we show in the face of these adversities. Most importantly, with the departure of those around us we are reminded that this life is just temporary. It is a reminder to live in the way we would want to die. These hardships are not meant for our suffering but they are sent for our own benefit, even if we cannot see what the good is, we trust that it is there and without that faith to hold onto one might get lost in the darkness and hopelessness.
Our hope lies in our faith and understanding that we don’t truly lose anything. Whatever is taken from us, Allah SWT will give us back and greater than what we lost. When times are difficult we remember the promise of Jannah, where we are promised eternal happiness, and most importantly, where there is no loss and we will be reunited with our loved ones.
Just remember, grief is of this world and so it is part of our test, so that we may all be rewarded with Jannah. The bad comes to bring us ultimately to good in the end and not just any good, the ultimate everlasting eternal good, so maybe this can give you a little comfort.
This is the hope that comes from Islam, with this darkness, Allah SWT has also given us the light that will guide us through it. May Allah make it easy for all those who are grieving, Ameen.