Friday, February 08, 2008

My children and bereavement

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.

37 comments:

azuradec said...

a big hug from me

idham said...

D ...

Great support from the counsellors...well captured and shared by you. I am touched. What you wrote of little D brought me back to 1969. Griving the loss of my father then was lonely, a roller coaster of self pity, and 'made belief self talk - like I was talking to him, but I was talking to my pillow'.
See my mother ( now arwah too ) missing and grieving him made me stronger somehow - for I wanted to bring strength to her. So, both mom and son grieved privately in the darkness and stillness of the night - both tried to be strong for the other.

I wish well for u and the children - may you balloons rise beyond the horizon.

Last night we had Ustaz Hasrizal of http://www.saifulislam.com at our house giving a presentation on 7 habits of effective Muslim - the way he described the six Alam ( roh, rahim, dunia, bazrah, masyar, syurga ) really seeped in InsyaAllah. He i good!

God bless.

IDHAM

TillDaLastFlowerDies said...

salam D..

the entry touched me...

hugs...

Kak Teh said...

salam D, Insyaallah they will cope. As for you, let the balloon go when you are ready. Only you can determine the time. Take care D.

rara_avis said...

thinking of you

Kak Lady said...

Salam D...apa khabar...lama rasanya tak masuk sini...Moga d & anak2 sihat sentiasa ...

Sayu rasanya hati membaca kisah anak2 yang kehilangan org yg mereka kasihi ketika masih belum memahami apa2...especially little D...

'Mommy, why does Allah make us and then make us die?' sikecik akak pun pernah bertanya demikian...

Insyaallah...lama-lama mereka akan faham...cuma D kene lebih tabah mengharungi segala yang mendatang...

ms istanbul said...

Hi D,

I think in Channel 4, once they had this series, about coping with the loss of their mothers to cancer. It is similar to what your lil ones went tru. I love the programme!

ANyway, I strongly believe that this country has more means/channels of support. It is whether we take the effort to find and utilise them.

Take care yeah!

ps: Football VIP style is very cool! *winks*

F Manchester said...

A'kum D. I'm embarrased to admit that this is my first entry to your comment space though I've been reading/following your blog most days for many months... why?... cause I wasn't clever enough to notice the wee 'reflection(s)' bit at the end of every entry- stupid I know, but please don't laugh.... I might not be alone...

Anyways, this entry has touched me too! We're here if you need anything...

F Manchester said...

A'kum D. I'm embarrased to admit that this is my first entry to your comment space though I've been reading/following your blog most days for many months... why?... cause I wasn't clever enough to notice the wee 'reflection(s)' bit at the end of every entry- stupid I know, but please don't laugh.... I might not be alone...

Anyways, this entry has touched me too! We're here if you need anything...

IBU said...

Salam D

Keep strong dear. Like you said, most times, children seem to heal faster. For adults, the healing may take time. Whenever u r ready, D! Hope to see the color of this blogscreen evolving to other cheery pastel soon.

Take care.

wanshana said...

D,

Yes, I agree with K. Teh. Let the balloon go when you're ready...

When you do let it go, the sadness goes with it, insya Allah...but, the precious memories will always be there for you and anak-anak.

Take care.

U.Lee said...

Hello D, your beauitiful eloquence here really touched me deeply as I can share the sorrow you feel for a loved one.
HE will always live in you, in your memories, and HE is in your children now.
Tears can come at anytime as the love you have for HIM is eternal.
One can resist tears and 'behave' very well in the hardest hours of grief. But then someone makes you a friendly sign behind a window, or one notices that a flower that was in bud only yesterday has suddenly blossomed, or a letter slips from a drawer... and everything collapses.
You take care D, life has to go on.
Best regards, Lee

Kak Elle said...

Hi d whats to be said has been said when the time comes do let go your balloon...

a big *hug* from me.

silversarina said...

sememangnya kenangan bersama sukar dilupakan namun kehidupan akan berterusan, kaunseling amat baik sebagai pemangkin ke arah kebaikan... salam sayang buat anak-anak dan d juga.

anggerik merah said...

D...Tq for sharing..

D.N.A.S said...

Hi D,
you are a strong woman. I believe sharing all these with the readers is part of your therapy. I like the idea of letting the balloons go; it's a good way to introduce 'redha' concept to the children.
*hugs*

kc said...

i read this piece with choking feeling...

ADIEJIN said...

u'll be fine. am very sure of it.

Raden Galoh said...

Salam sis. Again, you've touched my heart with this beautiful writing. I can only offer you this vitual hugss and I pray that you continue to brace this life with determination and confidence that Allah is very near to you. Seek His help and guidance, insya'Allah you'll find peace. I've never experienced bereavement so maybe saying this is easier that doing it. I just would like to convey that I'm here with you so my do'a is for your family too.

Time will heal, as they say. Don't force your emotions, let time heal you. Take care sis.

Helena said...

D, I just had to stop the tears from dropping down my cheeks.... a very touching entry this is.

U and the kids are very lucky to be there, getting all the right counselling to move forward. The balloon thingy tu betul2 buat i terkedu....

U r strong D, I know taht your kids will be just fine.... U too dear.

Take care you hear? *hugs*

Anis Zainal-Pacleb said...

hi D, hv just discovered ur blog. can't stop myself from reading all the previous entries and neither can I stop the tears from flowing... you hang on there dear and may ALLAH swt bless you and the kids.... insyaallah....

mad redo1 said...

As someone who lost my daddy when I was only 5, I could perhaps relate to what Little D is going through. I am thankful that my mother was there to take over the dual role of being both parents at the same time.

Insha-Allah, you will be able to do the same.

Tadika Intan Gemilang said...

Salam....
D, dont worry.... You're doing well. Tabahkan hati, kuatkan semangat. Ingat, you're not alone!

Anonymous said...

I recommend a book entitled "After Death,Life! by Ruqaiyyah Waris Maqsood with the byeline: Thoughts to Alleviate the grief of all Muslims facing death and bereavement.

Distributed by Goodword Books, New Delhi India.

Salam
A
ps. we've met, many years ago when you guys lived in Shah Alam

ROFI said...

Dear D,

My prayers for you and family.

anamiraa said...

take care sis!

bangkai said...

I, too, have grappled with the "Why create me and then make me die" question for a long time. Then one day, in a Eureka moment, I realised that no explanation was necessary: It is His will that this is so. It just like asking for an explanation as to why leaves should be green and the sky should be blue. It is His will.And our lot is to submit to his will.

Hope this helped.

Rd said...

Salam D,

I have read this entry before but did not know what to say..and now I just read it for the second time. It touches me deeply..

Take your time D..

Love,
RD-Littlemuffins

elara said...

My heart bleeds for you (not in jest)

Gagak Merah said...

Makes me realized that i have been focusing on the wrong things al this while i guess. Makes me appreciate what i have now rather than wishing for something i dont have... u entries makes me realize all that with ur entries. Thank you for sharing..and may Allah bless u and the little ones. Amin

MULAN said...

sabar sis, be strong & take care..

my dad passed away pun masa dia amat2 diperlukan. i'm the eldest & macam2 nak kena handle masa tu..

Anonymous said...

saw u & the kids in tesco the other day. wanted to say hi, but... didnt managed to somehow.. i'm the shy type to begin with, so no wonder la kan. nways, i thot the kids look fine & u're not doing too bad urself. u take care now..

maklang said...

Salam D...take care..meh sini maklang peluk sikit...muah..muah...

Nadia said...

Kak D,

I particularly love your explanation to the kids from the Islamic viewpoint. Before I came to that point in your post, I saw red...alamak kalau counselors mestila diaorg pakai concept belon pegi heaven sbb org dah meninggal pegi heaven...so..I really like how you handled in mashaallah.

We lost a baby once...died in utero at 24 weeks..we named him and buried him and the kids were already attached to him since they attended his ultrasound etc...and until this day they still include him as part of their 'siblinghood'.

I always bring the concept of seeing him again in Jannah whenever they mention him. Kind of like a 'reunion' which will be very sweet because life there will be forever. You probably already used this with your kids though...and I know it's different because in my case, it's a sibling they have never met or played with, and in yours, it's a father whom they have grown up depending on, somewhat.

For me, it consoles me a lot to know that this son whom I never got to nurse or hear cry is waiting for me, to intercede for me and my husband on the day of Judgment biiznillah. I guess for you, you could also be consoled by the fact that husbands and wives will be reunited in jannah biiznillah if it is already written as such, and how sweet that reunion will be inshaallah when we will have no imperfections on us whatsoever.

I recall a lecture by Imam Johari in Houston texas last year, he mentioned how if we tak puas hati dgn spouses kita skang, don't worry. he said (and it's funny too)"don't worry about him being a little fat now, in Jannah he'll be perfect."

When my baby died, i thought to myself, oh boy, this is it, this is the begining..after this I might get even harder tests up ahead...(with the assumption that every afairs of a muslim is good.." and that is raises our status or wipes away sins...so that if Allah gave me that test, must be I have that innner strength to bear it, so lepas ni ..naik lagi la level of difficulty tu agaknye...and for me the hadith of when the angel went back to Alllah and allah tanya what did my slave do?" and angel ckp he said alhamdulillah and allah ckp "build for him a house in paradise" mmg tears gushed out of me ..I call that hadeeth hadeeth te apple of my eye..sbb translation in english dia ada allah ckp mcm tu ..somethng like :I take away the apple of his eye'.

but..hmm rambling pulak jdnya post ni :P sorry ye kak D. but..till we all 'balik kampung'...inshaallah kita sume 'raya' sakan in jannah. Ameen!!!!!

Dont be sad said...

Asalaamu alikum wa rahmatullah,

Subhan'allah...reading this was heart melting and bought to my eyes tears.

May Allah give you and your children beautiful patience and may be shower your will his blessings in these difficult times.

Dont be sad

myheartbleeds said...

Salam D,

Found you blog today. To tell you the truth, I was so glad to have found you. To know that I am not alone. It will be exactly a year tomorrow that my hubby has answered Allah's call.

You say that your children are doing fine and it is you who is not. Same here. My kids have moved on... me? hmmmm

I will be frequenting your blog for sure. Take care. Allah is listening...

Minci said...

this is the first time I've heard of bereavement counselling for children. I think its very good too.. from what you've described, i do feel that your children are very very brave for their age..

and with time, you'd be able to be like them too..

*hugs