Dying Matters Awareness Week focuses on having conversations about the end of life in advance - so that people's wishes can be acted on and respected. In his blog, Syed Ali talks about how the death of his father impacted on him and his family, how knowing his father wishes brought comfort, and how the death of a loved one can connect you more deeply with your religion and reminds us that life is precious.
I am a Community Administrator working in Tower Hamlets for the Extended Primary Care District Nursing Team, and also a resident of the borough. My dad had a stroke 2 years ago before he went on to pass away last year. It was devastating and the most shocking news I have experienced in my life as this was the first death my family experienced.
When my dad had the stroke suddenly 2 years ago, he was admitted to the Royal London Hospital. He was there for few weeks until he was discharged. It was really difficult at the time to see him like that, to see him in that state. He was half paralysed on his left side and was unable to walk or do anything. He was referred to Physiotherapy from the EPCT South locality. One of the staff really supported my dad in terms of how to do exercises and looked after him really well.
After 6 months, my dad showed signs of improvements which was a huge relief for my family. Having said that, I believe having your love ones around you at the most needed time is very important. It mentally and physically supports you and it is really good for the patient’s wellbeing.
Last year, we all faced the global COVID-19 pandemic and the national lockdown and this also had a huge impact on my dad. The family were unable to see him and this affected him in many ways. His body started to deteriorate and he became weak and lost weight in the process. At times I was scared that if anything happened to my dad it would be very hard as the government lockdown rules were in place. The COVID-19 restrictions were very strict rules and the transmission of the disease was at its peak.
I was stuck now. I was unable to see my dad for a long period of time and it affected me and my family, even though we spoke to each other on the phone and on video calls.
One thing that I will never forget in all my life is that my dad once said to me if anything happens and if he dies, he would like me to lead the funeral prayer. I knew this was a huge task and responsibility and most dignified act to carry out.
One evening in May 2020, my dad wasn’t feeling well and had really bad chest pain; it wasn’t a normal pain he would usually get. Later that day he was admitted to hospital and the pain just got worse. I was expecting him to come back the following day as he usually did.
The next day morning, we had a call from my brother. He said the doctor had said my dad’s condition was worsening and they thought that he wouldn’t make it. His kidneys were failing and his other organs were shutting down slowly. Later that evening, my dad took his last breath while I was there present in the hospital. Then I made the phone call to my family and gave them the heart breaking news.
I would like to mention some things and express my knowledge from a religious perspective so that it may help someone. I feel Muslims will strive to express grief in a reserved and dignified manner. Loud wailing or prolonged outbursts of grief would be considered inappropriate.
The death of a close relative or close friend is a very difficult experience and the period of grief can leave you feeling empty and alone. Grief is a very personal process, and can take many months or years to come to terms with.
In the immediate aftermath of the death, you may feel any number of emotions. Some of these are shock, pain, anger, guilt, longing, depression and denial.
• Pain – the pain can be physical, mental or emotional.
• Anger – this can be aimed at yourself, the person who has died or at the situation.
• Guilt – this can be about things said or done while the person was alive or in the time leading up to the death.
• Depression – life can seem too difficult to bear, as though it has lost all meaning.
• Longing – wanting to see or hear the person who has died, to actually see or hear them even though you know it is not possible.
These emotions are completely normal. Grieving is a normal process and you should not feel guilty for feeling any or all of the above.
I was privileged to lead the prayers for my dad fulfilling his last wishes. After the prayers, we buried him and made the last final prayers for him and left him:“Surely we belong to Allah and to him shall we return”
Death is an irrefutable fact we can’t deny. Time and again, we lose ourselves in this transient world thinking that we are going to live here forever. As a result, Allah reminds us and shows us signs with the loss of a loved one to show that everything in this world is just temporary.
Losing a loved one is undeniably a grief-stricken and devastating moment, especially for the family and close friends. Although according to Qur’an 2:156, that a soul belongs to Allah and will return to Him in time, it is still a painful moment seeing a loved one passed away. Only those people who have experienced it can truly know the depth of pain it brings when it strikes. It hurts deep down in the core that sometimes you feel numb with emotion.
Lastly, take these pivotal and precious moments of contemplation over the reality of this temporary world and that we will also depart from this transient phase to join God. We are encouraged to think about death over and over again and visit graveyards to keep us back on track and assess our current relationship and state with God. Remind yourself, especially your loved ones and the others around you, that death is just around the corner. As Muslims we feel we must do more to become better servants and faithful followers of God. With our reconnection with God upon a person’s death, that deceased follower may get the rewards for your good works as well.
Feeling a deeper love for someone would also mean feeling deeper grief for that person’s loss. As they say, to grieve is to love. During the death of a loved one, we feel vulnerable, raw, anguished, devastated, and so much more. Pain can be manifested in different ways, and the coping mechanism of an individual differs from person to person.
There is no exact timeline for a healing process or grief, but in time, these sharp pangs may become blunt. But the Qur’an and the Sunnah (Saying of Prophet Muhammed) can help us deal with these emotions more appropriately. Following these steps will not only help us recover in time, but it will also help the soul of our bereaved loved ones and ours as well. In addition, seeking counselling can help you through the grieving process.
Supporting People Coping With Bereavement
The below resources can help people who have been bereaved and advise on ways friends and family can support someone who is grieving the loss of someone.
Photo by Sidik Kurniawan from Pexels Leather prayer book embossed with gold