So today I would like to feature a sister in her Iddah, read through to know best what is it about Iddah and how to cope in this period.
What you see on the outside isn’t always a reflection of what goes on within…
There are many faces to grief. Dealing with loss is a daily battle. Some moments are consumed with sadness followed with low bouts of energy and other days are spent muddling through feelings of guilt and confusion. I now understand the wisdom behind iddah (period of isolation) being 4 months and 10 days long. In the initial stages, the grieving wife can enter a very fragile state of mind, swinging between one heavy emotion to the next. It’s messy, it’s confusing and even the most insignificant things can fire emotional triggers. This time is for her own protection, her buffer against external voices and situations, giving her time to centre herself and make better choices.
After iddah, the journey of grief continues although the time for mourning has ended. I’ve come to the conclusion that this journey will never end, but a new way of being can be forged and Allah azza wa jal created us with hearts that can hold space for grief whilst still having the capacity to have a heart filled with joy, love, hope and peace.
Recently, I’ve been hearing a lot comments along the lines of…
“You’re so strong”
“You look like you’re doing really well”
“You’ve really pulled through”
This may sound surprising but for some one dealing with loss, these statements can be quite painful to hear.
I know these words are shared with the best of intentions, perhaps even delivered with the hope of encouragement and support, but on the receiving end it can feel like a one sided observation, one that is incomplete and inaccurate. It almost feels like a denial of the struggles and challenges that inevitably pop up even much further down the line.
Thinking that someone is strong or doing well just from hearing or seeing their outward movements is making an observation based on limited knowledge.
After the time of mourning is over, the recommendation in islam is to rebuild, to push forward, to keeping striving and live a meaningful life. And so you may see someone after loss, putting in their best efforts to move forward, engaging with life, holding the fort, smiling even laughing at times.
The natural assumption is that this person is “strong” and “managing well.”
But what you may not see are the countless nights of broken sleep, the floods of tears, the pangs of grief when those proverbial waves hit; sometimes with a tidal force, at other times like a dull wave. The window that you’re looking through might not give you a full view of the moments filled with intense sadness and the reality that follows when two becomes one.
I trust Allah with every bone in my body, that He Holds me, that He has a plan, that there are eases all around me and many more eases to come InshaAllah. I also choose to grieve privately, to not display my pain with every interaction or in the public eye. Some people grieve publicly and others in private. But grief is grief nonetheless. The struggle may not always be reflected in the outward display, but we must never assume it’s not there.
The prophet (saw) carried on his mission with a relentless force, yet in his private moments with his Lord and even with his close companions he would sob uncontrollably. Not everyone saw his tears of grief but that didn’t mean he wasn’t in pain or suffering.
Being ‘strong’ takes on many forms – crying, pouring from the heart, processing, giving yourself space to grieve are all traits of strength. Not all will be seen or understood but labelling someone as strong because outwardly they seem to be “getting on with things” isn’t the kind of strength that feels authentic or real.
A mindful “how are you doing doing?” followed by an attentive ear facilitates a much more genuine space for understanding, empathy and compassion as opposed to sharing an observation that may only represent just a fraction of the truth.