We all expect that our children will outlive us, whatever our age and theirs. However, the sad and difficult reality of life is that some of us will have to organise our children’s burial. How does someone cope? I speak to two mothers, Wafa* (who suffered a miscarriage) and Momina* (whose son died aged only eight days) about their experiences and what helped and helps them manage their grief and bereavement.
Khalida: “Thank you for agreeing to share. Please tell me what were your immediate thoughts and feelings?”
Wafa*: “I had been experiencing spotting and cramping so I had to have a scan at the emergency gynaecology unit where I was told that the pregnancy was looking like a threatened miscarriage: the foetuses (there were two embryos) were not growing as they should be. A scan was scheduled for 10 days later. During that week, waiting around to know for certain what was happening was agony.The not knowing was the hardest part as I didn’t know whether to continue hoping or to prepare myself for the ‘worst’. But no matter how hard I tried, it was hard to let go of the hope. In the end, I knew no matter what happened, I would be satisfied with the outcome as I had trust that Allah I knows best. I had three healthy children masha Allah and felt blessed. Eventually, the bleeding intensified and I had to be admitted into A&E with severe haemorrhaging and had to have a D&C procedure to clean out the womb. The hospital experience was quite traumatic, the heavy bleeding was very traumatic and I felt deeply sad that I was losing my babies…”
Momina*: “I had been doing dhikr (remembrance) and my immediate thoughts were my child is with Allah (SWT) and He has taken him back to Him. I didn’t blame anyone for this.”
Khalida: “What helped you manage your grief and enabled you to accept and move forward with your loss?”
Wafa*: “What helped the most was my understanding of Islam and life. The life of this world is not forever, and I felt certain that if I was patient with my test, Allah I would reunite me with my babies. Also, knowing what an amazing blessing a miscarriage can be in terms of the Hereafter really helped, knowing that the children of Jannah will continue to pester Allah I until He I relents and lets their parents enter Jannah.
The Messenger of Allah (SAW) said, “Indeed the miscarried foetus will confront his Lord if He enters his parents into the Fire. So it will be said to him, “O foetus which confronts his Lord! Enter your parents into Paradise.” So he will drag them by his [umbilical] cord until he enters them into Paradise.” (Ibn Majah)
The other thing that helped was having the love of my beautiful children. Their hugs, kisses and gentle care soothed away so much of the heartache, masha Allah. One other thing that helped was that I started focusing on my training – I was planning on training as a counsellor… Having something to look forward to helped. I had a focus and could channel my energies into that.”
Momina*: “Friends, and other women who had been through the same thing … I met (them) at the Children of Jannah (COJ) online support group … bereavement counselling … other child bereavement organsiations like SANDS … my GP also helped.”
Khalida: “What, if anything, from the Qur’an and Sunnah did you implement that aided you?”
Momina*: “All the hadiths relating to child bereavement and ones explaining your child takes you to Jannah…and hadiths, Qur’anic ayahs, and Prophets stories relating to loss and bereavement and trials.”
Wafa*: “Saying inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’oun – to Allah we belong and to Him is our return – really reminded me that Allah (SWT) only took that which belonged to him. We buried the foetuses which helped. I did not attend the burial, but it felt right and respectful of the foetuses. In some ways it also felt very surreal… I felt like a part of me had already entered the grave.”
Khalida: “What did others say or do which facilitated your mourning? What, if anything, hindered it?”
Wafa*: “My brother’s wife suffered a miscarriage a few months prior to me. We both miscarried at a similar stage in pregnancy and also had similar experiences. My brother spoke to me after the miscarriage and he echoed the messages from the Qur’an and Sunnah which really helped, and it helped because I knew that he understood my loss. I was blessed because alhamdulillah, I felt content with my test and peaceful within myself and so generally, I was quite receptive to whatever people had to say to me and did not feel overly sensitive. Thus, I don’t really recall anything that anyone said that hindered my mourning …I felt so loved and cherished and so grateful to have them in my life. I think also seeing my husband’s love helped … I also got a lot of love, support and comfort from my friends … one who had been through several miscarriages.
I think what could have hindered me is if people acted like I should not grieve.”
Momina*: “Talking about what you are going through, visiting, seeing if you’re OK, helping with things afterwards. Women from COJ group supported me a lot as they had been through it. My husband and in laws didn’t help – they blamed me for it.”
Khalida: “What do you think would have aided your grieving process? What could you or others have done better/differently?”
Wafa*: “Alhamdulillah, I was so blessed to have had the best support and love, and I don’t think there is anything anyone could have done differently. This was all a gift from Allah (SWT). Ultimately, what really was the most critical thing for me was the feeling of being content with my trial and being grateful to Allah (SWT). I found the gratitude to be really healing, and it put things into perspective for me.”
Momina*: “In-laws could have been more supportive instead of being so jealous and controlling over me and my husband. My family abandoned me after a while … the visiting and support stops …that’s when it gets hard.”
Khalida: “How did the bereavement impact on other relationships, particularly the one with your spouse?”
Wafa*: “I think alhamdullilah, in general, the relationships stayed the same or became stronger … I didn’t expect my husband to understand fully what I felt or what I had been through, I felt that he never could as he was not a woman. So although I shared my feelings with him, I did not feel upset if he did not always understand … for understanding I turned to my friends who had children or those who had suffered miscarriages.”
Momina*: “It had an awful impact, as initially my husband couldn’t cope … he was self-harming and had suicidal feelings and thoughts. He projected his anger and frustration on to me, but we gradually came to sharing the grief.”
Khalida: “What would you say to anyone going through a similar loss? What, if any, words of comfort would you like to share?”
Wafa*: “It is very difficult to know what words to share as everyone’s experience is unique. Each person is at a certain stage in their lives and what is comforting to one person can be a hindrance for someone else. I think knowing that it is OK to grieve, to feel loss, to feel pain is important … no loss is permanent and all that is truly precious and worth having will return to us in Jannah, insha Allah. I think most of all, to trust in the love and Rahma of Allah (SWT) … it is not a punishment, or something negative or bad, but is insha Allah another avenue to Jannah that Allah (SWT) has created for us.”
Momina*: “Work through your feelings … you and your partner might hate each other for a while, but it does get easier … you have to shift your focus on to other things. Exercise, volunteer work, going to your job, mixing with other people, socialising, and of course salah, and reading Qur’an and finding peace with your Creator. Have counselling too, that will help.”
The responses from Wafa* and Momina* are in keeping with words I have heard from other mothers as they have battled with their losses whilst in counselling. This says to me that their experiences, although individual and unique to them, are also universal.
To round up, I would like to share something that Momina* stated at the end of her interview: “Child loss is awful. However, there is immense reward for this trial insha Allah”
*Names have been changed to maintain anonymity.
Khalida Haque is a qualified Integrative Counsellor/Psychotherapist with an independent practice, is founder of Khair and is a Counselling Services Manager. She has varied clinical experience that includes working with elders, and feels honoured and privileged to be doing the work she does. Alhamdulillah.