Grief: Navigating this painful journey
As we travel this journey of life it is inevitable that we will be faced with difficulties. Loss, is often the main issue behind the feelings of grief.
That feeling of loss can come from a number of sources, 1 these include estrangement, financial or worldly losses, illness or injury, relinquishment, institutional losses and the ending of a relationship, it is not limited to the passing of a loved one.
However, the one area in our lives that we can all relate to is grief around the loss of a loved one.
In the VOI show 2 that this blog is based on the presenters discuss a number of factors
1 Some personal insight into grief and discussion around grief in general
2 Studies focusing on the impact of grief on the individual and the family
3 How bereavement is dealt with in different faiths
For more detail on the above areas please listen to the VOI show 2
As mentioned earlier, all of us will go through the grief process, with loss of Grandparents, parents, siblings and close family and friends. Of course the nature of our relationship to the person who dies will determine the extent of our grief. Also important to recognise that we all process grief differently.
A child’s understanding will depend on many things, including their age, stage of development, family background, personality and previous experience of death. Children don’t develop at the same rate – they’re all individuals 3
For the purposes of this blog we will focus on the grief and bereavement process in Islam.
The Islamic process of mourning has been clearly laid out to avoid any excesses in our own behaviour.
Loved ones and relatives are to observe up to 3-days mourning period. Death is the normal part of living another form of existence in the
hereafter. Muslims are discouraged to wail or cry in a very loud way or carry out other means of expressing their displeasure with acts of God. It is encouraged to get back to normal routines as quickly as possible. Mourning is observed in Islam by increased devotion, receiving visitors and condolences, and avoiding decorative clothing and jewellery. Widows observe an extended mourning period (iddah), 4 months and 10 days long, in accordance with the Qur’an 4
During this time, she is not to remarry, move from her home, or wear decorative clothing or jewellery.
When one dies, everything in this earthly life is left behind, and there are no more opportunities to perform acts of righteousness and faith. The Prophet Muhammad(Peace and blessings be upon him) once said that there are three things, however, which may continue to benefit a person after death: charity given during life which continues to help others, knowledge from which people continue to benefit, and a righteous child who prays for him or her. 5
As believers we understand that we are all destined to leave this earth and this physical body.
It says in the Holy Quran:
We have ordained death for all of you; and We cannot be prevented 6
However, we also know that that death is not the end. The Holy Quran tells us:
Then We raised you up after your death, that you might be grateful 7 2:57
He it is Who gives life and causes death, and to Him shall you be brought back 8 10:57
Having a clear understanding that this life is temporary and that the eternal life follows can help us cope with our grief. For those of us who are willing to do good in our worldly life and follow the commands of the Lord, a great reward is promised.
The Holy Quran says: 9
He will forgive you your sins, and make you enter the Gardens through which streams flow, and pure and pleasant dwellings in Gardens of Eternity. That is the supreme triumph. 61:13
My own personal experience with grief is that it can galvanise us and help drive us forwards to be the best we can be in the time that we have. However, it can also be quite destructive and lead us to years of unhappiness, unproductive and destructive behaviour.
This is where the messages in the Holy Quran and the teachings of Islam can bring comfort.
This is not the end….. This journey of life is but temporary, everything we do in this life will meet its reward or otherwise in our next eternal life. Having an understanding about this and faith is critical in dealing with loss and grief.
May the Lord give us all the strength, understanding and faith to be able to cope with our future losses.