On Monday, my children had their last session of bereavement counselling in school. I must say that in the UK, a lot of support is available for the public. This is something worth taking note of. Bereavement describes the sense of grief and loss one experiences when someone close dies. Often, when this happens, one goes through a process of mourning which involves a sense of numbness, confusion and sadness. With children, it is sometimes difficult to identify what goes through their minds. I remember as a child, I was not specifically overwhelmed by the notion of death, but to an extent, it did lure me into a degree of self-pity and low self-esteem.
Ergo, when the teacher suggested the idea of counselling for the children, I pounced on the opportunity because I felt that they could do with whatever that was available. Here, thousands of miles away from home, we are alone without much emotional support. My children are rather reserved (hmm... I wonder who they follow after..) and very shy. I prepared them for the sessions and reminded them that they had to express their emotions and let everything out.
Basically, it comprised of 5 sessions, and each conducted on a weekly basis. A counsellor from elsewhere came in to conduct the hour-long sessions, with various forms of exciting and intriguing activities for the children. They were allowed to express themselves, and most of the time, it didn't even specifically have to do with their deceased dad.
In the first session, they were each given a box known as a memory box. They were allowed to decorate the box in whatever way they wanted, and also keep memoirs of their dad in it. I helped them out with it - putting in their dad's spectacles, driving license, postcards (written to them), Swiss knife, perfume, and photos.
During one of the other sessions, they made sand jars where they used chalks to colour salt, which were then put in jars in layers. The activity evoked more memories of their dad as it reminded them of similar jars/bottles we had bought on our trip to Egypt years earlier.
But in the last session, they were each given a balloon filled with helium. They wrote a message each for their dad, later attached to the balloons. Lastly, they released the balloons, letting them go... up into the air. The activity symbolised an act of letting go of all the sad feelings they had of their dad, and to move on with their lives.
When I fetched them from school that evening, Little D was all excited and cried, Mommy, we let the balloons go and it will reach daddy. I drew a picture of him on the balloon!
Princess said it a little differently, I think the balloon has probably flown to another planet. Or maybe to daddy's grave.
I couldn't help being teary-eyed. However, I took the opportunity to try and explain to them, what it actually meant in the Islamic context. Do you really think the balloons have reached daddy? (and I got exclaims of 'No' and headshakes). No, my children, those balloons will not reach your daddy because that is only material. It's like putting flowers on his grave, it won't reach your dad. But what it actually means when you let the balloons go is that you are letting go of the sadness in you. It is time to move on. It is okay to keep all the memories of daddy and always remember him. We remember him by reciting words from the Holy Quran because that is the only gift we are able to give him now.
So far, I think my kids are coping well with the loss of their father. When friends and relative ask, I tell them the truth, the kids are fine, Alhamdulillah. It's their mommy who isn't.
Life is a journey full of lessons. Little D still does not understand the concept of the Almighty inventing humans only to take them back later. Last night he asked me yet again, Mommy, why does Allah make us and then make us die?
Regardless of how many times I have explained this, he is unable to grasp the concept. Perhaps, one day he will, when his mommy can get a better explanation than the one she gives him at present. I tell him that God is the Almighty and He can do whatever He wants. With humans, He creates them and then tests them by sending them to earth. Their level of faith is put to trial and only rewarded in the hereafter. I even tried to make Little D understand by comparing it with his toys; how he gets to decide what happens to his army of soldiers - to bomb them or to become saviours to those wee helpless 'creatures'. Humans are only mere creations or 'counters' on the 'board' called earth.
I have another month of grieving period to go. Then, I too will get myself a balloon and release it into the air.