Social Diary Magazine explores the process of loss
and grief from the perspective of the bereaved.
By Mahvish Akhtar
This is one of those timesI am about to bleed all over these pages. Im about to discuss issues that are not generally talked about—grief, pain, sadness. July and August are usually tricky months for me. There are memories of much loss and sorrow over the years that gathered up and somehow took the shape of these months.
My son was three years old when he passed away. It was a long time ago; he would be about 15 if he were alive today. However, we are not here to talk about him. We are here to talk about what he left behind. The hurt and the emotions that none of us were prepared to deal with.
Just a few years ago, my 20-year-old nephew drowned on a trip on the 4th of July weekend. This kid I had watched grow up into a handsome man. His childhood was spent around me. I had been in touch with him that whole weekend, until I wasn’t. The same weekend, we also almost lost his big brother, who jumped in the water after him to save him. For a couple of days, we were unsure if he was going to survive as well. He did. I am not here to talk about them either. I am here to talk about the hole in our hearts that is still gaping but unseen to the naked eye. My nephews had their incident in July. My son passed away in August years before that. So every year this time, not wanting to, and not realizing it, there is a heavy load on me. I can’t name it. I can’t explain it and I sure as heck cant talk to anyone about it.
We don’t discuss what happens after we go through grief, loss, and pain. When everyone goes home. When the doors close, when the trays of food stop coming, and the phone calls and texts fade away.
This is the time when everyone has gone back to theirlives. They have pretty much assumed that the person grieving has done the same, or at least should do the same.
This is the time reality truly takes hold of the person going through something difficult. This is when theyneed their loved ones around them.
Im no expert. All I know about is my pain and what I needed from my loved ones through it all.However, not in the way that you might imagine. To understand what a person’s going through in a difficult time, its important to understand the different types of sadness, troubles, and grief.
Grief is an emotional response to loss. Loss has a way of manifesting in more than emotional and psychological ways, such as behavioral, physical, social, spiritual and so on.
You don’t have to have lost someone to death to be in pain. Anyone’s feeling is their own. No one can tell them that what they are feeling is not legitimate. Pain can come from losing a job, a friend, moving from one place to another. Grief can be caused by someone leaving your life, even it was a mutual decision or made without any grievances. So, it is essential to note that not everyone’s pain and suffering looks the same. Everyone’s feelings and ways of dealing with the pain and their plight are very different and will seldom look alike.
That is why it will be essential to letthe person who is in the situation guide you as to how they want you to help.
What to say to a grieving person:
Here is what not to say to a person who is sad and upset, “get over it,” “move on.” Or “you can’t think about the same thing forever,” “cheer up.” While you read these lines, Im sure you are thinking what is so wrong inasking people to put their lives together, or in at least letting them know that it’s a big beautiful world out there and they can’t ignore itover one heartbreak or loss. Nevertheless, we do have to stop and realize that, that one incident or one person might have been their entire life, as they know it. We might be asking them to accept the change that was always with them. Something that has been a part of them that is no longer there. Now they are having to figure out how to live a life they never imagined, moving on can never be an option. What does “moving on” from your children looks like anyway? How do you heal from that? You don’t. You make an arrangement with that pain to let you survive.
You ask the hurt to sit somewhere quietly and only bother you when you’re alone.No one can truly know what it feels like to move away from a place willingly but still miss it and want those memories to be real again. That’s a different kind of loss that goes unnoticed. That is the kind of loss people confuse for fulfillment.
What to say to a grieving person:
That’s why telling a person in any of these situations to “move on” or find things to “distract them” will usually backfire. They will pick themselves up for themselvesand the sake of their living loved ones but how and when they do it will depend on when they are ready, that no one else can decide for them. All anyone can do is just be around when they most need it.
In most cases,the best thing to say is nothing. If you know something that needs to be taken care of, take care of it. Get things done, pay bills if they need to be paid. Do laundry, cook dinner. If there are little kids, babysit. All the while, if you do feel, words are essential, and some people do need words. You can say things like, “how can I help?” and “Is there anything I can do for you?” or ask more specific questions such as, “can I take care of such and such for you?”
The pain comes back because it never really goes away:
Every year it feels like I’m back there in that exact moment these events took place. I can’t explain to anyone how it feels. Its hard to talk about it. Even harder to hear comments like, “hasn’t it been years now? You do have two healthy boys, just be grateful”.
These comments make it difficult for people like me to grieve in the days that we want to think about the ones we have lost. In the same way it becomes harder to avoid triggers. Triggers related to painful memories that brings flashback or takes you to events and places you don’t want to be. Sounds, smells, places, even people can be triggers.
It is highly possible that you have been through something very similar and you dealt with it in a completely differentmanner. That does not mean that the other person in a similar situation doing it differently is doing it wrong.
We have a tendency to judge. We want people to stop being sad so we can stop thinking about it. There are so many terrible things happening around us and in our own lives, its hard to take other people’s burdens as well. Most of these are not conscious decisions. However, if these thoughts do come to your mind, it is better to stay quiet. It is better to not offer any solutions if they will not be helpful. A person in pain as we all know already has a lot to deal with. Whether the wound that caused the pain is fresh and still bleeding or tough and stubborn weighing on the hearts like a rock.
Remember,Allah is gentle and merciful. HE likes gentleness and kindness.