My spouse passed away last month and it was very sudden. How do I cope with their death, especially with how unexpected it was and now being left alone with my two children?
A grieving widow
Dear Grieving Widow,
I must start by acknowledging how difficult this must be for you and I am so sorry you are going through this. Dealing with loss is difficult as it is, but when it is unexpected and young children are involved it can feel even more devastating.
The loss of a spouse is the loss of a partner, beyond missing your spouse, your entire life is going to change, the balance of your life will change and there will be a lot to deal with, but first you must grieve. Grieving is important. Acknowledge all the feelings that come with the loss, the anger, the sadness, the loneliness. Find safe and comforting company to hold these emotions, to cry and express these emotions. Listen to the majlis of Imām Ḥusayn to channel these feelings to relate to the musībaḥ of the Ahl al-bayt (ʿa).
Second you need to take care of yourself; with children it can be difficult to deal with your own emotions. Rely on family members or friends if you can to take some time in your day to work with a therapist or grief counselor. Consider also meeting a family therapist that can help process emotions around the loss for all members of the family. Processing emotions and not suppressing emotions will help you move forward with your life in a healthy way. This is best done with a professional that can help hold these emotions for you and be there as a comfort through this journey of healing.
However it is also important to try to be there physically and emotionally for your other children so that they do not ever feel like: “My parent grieved so much that he/she was not there for me.” Children may not be able to say it or express it now, but it can have an effect on them when they are older. Therefore, while you are going through your grieving and healing process, be there for your children too. They may not understand it but it could be helpful for your healing process. Allow yourself to be content in their presence.
Third, your life will change, the balance of your life will change and there will be growing pains. Things will get easier and a new normal will begin. You just have to deal with the struggle of it all first.
Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi rajeeoon, we come from Allah (swt) and to Him we return We know that one day all of us will return to Allah (swt). It is a guarantee, that doesn’t mean that when it happens we won’t be sad.
Allah, the All-Wise, created us for a purpose and that is to: reach perfection, become the best version of ourselves, and earn a high level in Heaven (Jannah). This purpose can be attained through three main routes:
1. Worship (ʿIbādah);
2. Tests or Trials (Imtiḥān/Balāʾ);
3. Cognizance or profound awareness (maʿrifah).
Tests and trials that happen in our lives help the inner potential of a person manifest themselves. All of us need to understand and accept that this world will be filled with difficulties and tribulations, and how we overcome these tests will determine our fate in this world and the next one.
Sūrah al-ʿAsr (Chapter 103) in the Qurʾān mentions four golden rules that we need to abide by: have faith, perform righteous actions, advise each other to the truth, and maintain patience. To adhere to patience has been recommended so much because life is not easy, and there will be many difficulties that everyone will have to bear.
Though it may seem difficult to do so in times of distress and loss, our innate nature (fiṭrah) naturally yearns for us to call upon Allah (swt) through supplicating to Him (duʿās). It may be difficult after loss, but Allah (swt) encourages us to turn to Him even in those times that we are in distress, and may be wavering between fear and hope; as He says in the Noble Qurʾān: “And supplicate to Him in fear and hope.” (Sūrah al-Aʿrāf (7), Verse 56)
To not call upon Allah (swt) in times of deep despair resulting from illness, loss, etc., is to risk doing harm to ourselves emotionally and spiritually. Especially during those times a believer is encouraged to maintain a strong connection and love with the Lord, and remain in awe of His Divine capabilities.
Allah (swt) so beautifully says in the Qurʾān: “Allah is the Guardian of the faithful: He brings them out of the darknesses into the light…” (Sūrah al-Baqarah (2), Verse 257) Therefore, do not walk the journey by yourself, make sure that you are walking with the All-Merciful Creator. He is the One who is the closest to you, and the One who is All-Knowing, All-Compassionate, so share your pain with Him, and rely on Him to help you through this difficult time. Imām ʿAlī (ʿa) has said: “Whoever seeks support from Allah attains a glorious victory.” Ghurar al-Ḥikam, Ḥadīth 9789.
You may never forget your loss, or “get over it”, it may be difficult to move on but it is important to remember, moving on with your life doesn’t mean you are forgetting. As Nora McInerny, writer and motivational speaker, puts it in her Ted Talk, you are not moving on from the loss but moving forward with the loss. The grief will be there. The impact the loss had in your life will be there as well as the change it brought in you. You are different than before the loss and before the tragedy and that is okay. You will never forget your loss but you can move forward with your loss, carrying that special time you had with your spouse and growing from there.
We wish you comfort and patience during this difficult time.