Grief is a funny thing. There’s days when you carry on with life as close to normal as can be expected, and then totally out of the blue, the pain hits you again right between the eyes.
As part of a very large extended family, I’ve obviously had to deal with death and attended many funerals through out my life. Whilst at those farewells, tears were shed, and there was sadness naturally, the impact of the loss wasn’t as close to home. Afterwards, life carried on…
But now with my grand-dads passing, the loss is so much more magnified. That empty space that he used to occupy seems even larger, and the ache feels as fresh as the day he left us.
As a muslim, I believe this separation is temporary, and that ultimately we will be reunited in Paradise. However, that doesn’t stop the sadness that accompanies death, and I have found that because of the promise of an eternal hereafter, many muslims feel it wrong to even express the pain of separation they feel.
One of the things that have always given me solace throughout my life, is reading. And so, in looking for a remedy to the grief I feel, I started re-reading the biography of Nabi Muhammed (saw) for there can be no greater example for us. He too had to deal with extraordinary losses throughout his life. His father dying before he was born, losing his mother at the age of 6, then his grandfather shortly after. Later in adulthood, loss of his wife Khadija, his uncle, his children, and towards the end of his life, his youngest son Ibrahim. When Ibahim fell ill, and it was clear that he would not likely survive Muhammad was informed.
His reaction to the news is reported as:
“He was so shocked at the news that he felt his knees could no more carry him, and asked `Abd al Rahman ibn `Awf to give him his hand to lean upon. He proceeded immediately to the orchard and arrived in time to bid farewell to an infant dying in his mother’s lap. Muhammad took the child and laid him in his own lap with shaking hand. His heart was torn apart by the new tragedy, and his face mirrored his inner pain. Choking with sorrow, he said to his son, “O Ibrahim, against the judgement of God, we cannot avail you a thing,” and then fell silent. Tears flowed from his eyes. The child lapsed gradually, and his mother and aunt watched and cried loudly and incessantly, but the Prophet never ordered them to stop. As Ibrahim surrendered to death, Muhammad’s hope which had consoled him for a brief while completely crumbled. With tears in his eyes he talked once more to the dead child: “O Ibrahim, were the truth not certain that the last of us will join the first, we would have mourned you even more than we do now.” A moment later he said: “The eyes send their tears and the heart is saddened, but we do not say anything except that which pleases our Lord. Indeed, O Ibrahim, we are bereaved by your departure from us.”
[The life of Muhammed; American Trust Publications; by Isma’I’ll al-Faruqi;1976]
And from this I learnt:
To feel sadness and pain is normal. To cry upon the occasion of death is normal. To feel sorrow at loss is normal… To have faith that it is part of Allah’s plan is comforting. To believe in an eternal hereafter is comforting. To know the promise of paradise is comforting.