Important Notice and a Caution!
These can be applied to all socio-economic, faiths, genders and cultures of people. Grief and pain Know NO boundaries. However, due to my focus of grief support in the Muslim community and it being an under-served group of grievers” catching up to the emotional effects this can have on the psyche, My post is written with spiritual Islamic reminders. However, This may also trigger strong emotions in people going through the Anger, and “why” stages of grief or those who aren’t religious for other emotional reasons. Please proceed with caution and I hope that this is helpful
There I was, multitasking online, checking facebook whilst catching up on my emails in a separate tab. I noticed an unread email from a sweet sister, I decided to read it since I was home and sat at the computer.
The sister wanted to know about common triggers for grieving parents, and whether greater caution could be exercised around such individuals, in order to ease the pain.
I subconsciously brought my fingers to my mouth and without realising, started nibbling on my nails. This was something I hadn’t done in a very long time. Triggers huh? I guess we’ll add being asked what are triggers, as a trigger.
I pulled my hand away from my mouth and realised I didn’t have any coffee or water, let’s get that.
I thought long and hard before replying, I actually took a few days to even convince myself I wanted to discuss this subject again. It had been a particularly rough week in the grieving parent’s support group; which was followed by the anniversary of my own sister’s loss – as a result, I was naturally very pensive and emotionally edgy. I also had just written an article for the Mariam Poppins magazine on the subject and it was very draining to keep talking about. But, to not talk about it, to not discuss it; that’s worse. We can say THAT is a trigger for me – bottling it all up. Not helping others. That is a trigger.
And so of the other triggers:
Laughter in and of itself is a trigger. Just being able to laugh is such a guilty feeling. Who thought cracking a smile, giggling, or letting out a laugh could ever cause so much pain? Well, it can. Especially harder for the very new grieving parent (The parent who lost their child within the last 3 years or so)
Mommy guilt, I think that’s why.
It’s very hard to feel “okay” about laughing when your child will never, in this dunya, be able to laugh or smile at you. When your child is dead… Gosh- just writing that is so… Final, here, in this life anyhow.
I mean here you are, a parent. You can hug and hold your child, you can smell their sweet scent when you hug them, you can hear them, and then one day, one week, one year later you just can’t. No matter how hard you try, you can’t. You feel bad for your baby (our kids will ALWAYS be our babies regardless of age) because they can’t enjoy this life. They can’t sleep safe and sound in their bed. They can’t laugh or smile and the first few times the grieving parent laughs can, and often does, trigger guilt.
What I need the grieving parent to remember is that there is NOTHING you can do to change what happened. Blaming yourself, being utterly depressed that Allah showed you some of His beautiful Mercy and allowed you to laugh and telling yourself “if only” will just cause you further hurt. You drowning in sorrow will NOT bring your child back. It will not change what happened. You being alive, you inflicting more pain on yourself through “Mummy guilt” won’t change a thing. I know….easier said than done. Not so, I’ve been there. I still am there some days. The guilt is crippling. Remember that Allah is oh so Merciful!! We can’t aid Shaytan against us. He uses our sorrow, depression, pictures, certain clothing, things, television and other “reminders” to drag us down.
Come back to the perfect Oneness of Allah and His book and what His Messenger promised us.
Allah is All Merciful and He has something FAR Better than this Dunya prepared for us. Be kind to yourself. Remember it is OKAY to be sad sometimes. However, also remember your child will InshaAllah be in Jannah, begging Allah to bring you and let you in. It’s OKAY to smile, to laugh.
May Allah aid and comfort us all Ameen.
Your child’s favourite colour can be, and is often a trigger for parents. I’ve been a grieving parent for over eight years, and having worked alongside grieving parents for so long, I have seen this as a recurrent theme. The last 3 years have taught me that we all go through these grieving cycles repeatedly and there are many triggers, it’s not just me that deals with this, it’s other grieving parents as well. To see your child’s favourite colour in the store, on a billboard, on another child; for a moment it’s heart-stopping.
And so, for a moment, you allow yourself to stop, allowing the grief to wash over you again, and with a heavy sigh, start all over again, inshaAllah.
Yes. The store is, and can be a big trigger. Going down the aisle, I was doing good, it was a few months after my daughter’s death and Kraft had came out with the macaroni ‘n’ cheese noodles shaped into cartoon characters. It stopped me in my tracks. I stared at the box for a few seconds and finally blinked back the tears as I thought to myself “Destiny would love these.” I had to talk myself into rationality as I had vivid images of buying a few boxes and saving them in my storage closet, SubhanAllah, the mind is such an incredible organ! It’s very capacity to withhold, learn, retain and manage information and our bodies is simply amazing, but it’s also a very fragile organ; may Allah protect us, Ameen.
Each of us will find ourselves fulfilling a mundane daily routine, and within it, out of nowhere, something almost insignificant, will make itself known, and remind us brutally, of the loss that we have suffered. So remember:
“What Allah has taken away from me belongs to Him. I was only its trustee for a while. He gives to whom He wills and withholds from whom He wills.”
I used to be surrounded by pictures and music, all over before I converted to Islam. Being surrounded by them didn’t harm me, or so I thought. However, it was incredibly difficult to face taking them down; psychologically I had a mental block. I felt if I took them down it was as if saying “I moved on” or “got over it” and so, I refused to do so for a very long time.
Even years later I kept trying to “have ‘good’ days” but kept breaking down, I realised it was the pictures and music; they caused emotions in me too huge to comprehend. Eventually, I found the strength to pull them off the walls and start towards my process towards easing the hurt. Don’t get me wrong I still had bad days but it was easier and even though, to this day 10 years after losing my seven-year-old daughter, I still struggle, but then I remind myself:
“And know that your properties and your children are but a trial and that Allah has with Him a great reward.”
[Al Anfal, 8:28]
The book that I previously wrote was all about being a grieving parent after losing a child while pregnant or expecting another.
Many people don’t realise that that subject is also a “trigger”, it brings huge emotional tidal waves of pain with it. People often use the subject of an expecting child or a pregnancy to mask the absence of the child that has died, as if to imply that a new baby can miraculously compensate for the absence of the child that once was. Sadly, there is nothing that can ever do this; there is no filling a void with anything but that which created that void. When we actually reflect upon this statement, we realise, the only One that can fill any void in our lives, is our Creator – it is He who Knows what we need, no matter our current condition.
I remember I used to dread the subject of what sex my expected child would be. I did not even want to tell them that I was having another girl because I just did not even want to hear it anymore, the well-meaning but hard to deal with comments. Sometimes people don’t know what to say in tough situations and they choose the wrong words, when all they are looking to do, is help. I understand that when a mother loses her child it is very difficult to know how to reply and what to say to make her feel good. Educating people in what’s unacceptable to say is key, otherwise this vicious cycle will inevitably continue.
May Allah grant us patience and His aid, ameen.
The best thing to do to help someone who has lost a child is to hug them, cook for them and their family, come over and bring them paper goods (Napkins, kleenex, toilet paper, a notebook to vent in etc) and make sure that they have enough shampoo and food in the house. Being there for the tears, being there through the silence and sometimes just making sure they have food and water in the house is more than enough support. There is no need to “make them feel better” and often these ill-fated attempts put us in hard positions where we say something nice but it comes out hurtful to the family.
“After this (The Prophet Job’s wealth and kids gone) Shaytan (the devil) went to Job disguised as a man who had come to sympathise with him. In a comforting tone, he said to Job:
“The circumstances under which your children died were sad. Surely, your Lord is not rewarding you properly for all your prayers.”
Job, firm in his faith, replied:
“Allah sometimes gives and sometimes takes. He is sometimes pleased and sometimes displeased with our deeds. Whether a thing is beneficial or harmful to me, I will remain firm in my belief and remain thankful to my Creator.”
… SubhanAllah what a reminder indeed!!
In conclusion, anything and everything can be a trigger depending on the parent. However, it is vital that we start to recognise these triggers, and managing them in our grieving process; some days we will just need to cry about them, and allow them to hit us with the intensity of emotion that they bring, and other times, they will be hope-filled reminders of the beautiful child that now plays in Jannah, awaiting our reunion, inshaAllah.