For more on this topic, see Trauma: Your Lord Has Not Forsaken You

Grief

What is grief?

Grief is a natural and emotional reaction to the loss of someone or something important to you. The loss can be a person, an object, or even a way of life. During a time of loss, emotions can be intensely painful, affecting all aspects of life and relationships. In the midst of this struggle, it is important to realize that grief is normal; it is not an illness and it is not something negative. Grief shows that you cared deeply for whatever it is that you lost.
For some people, grief might be felt in spikes throughout the day, for others it may suddenly come up every few days. Some have compared it to feeling as though they are drowning due to the tidal waves of emotion that affect them at times. Others might say that it feels like it’s an extra weight on their heart or shoulders that they carry around with them wherever they go. Everyone experiences grief differently and on a different timeline; your emotional response to grief may be very different from what you’ve seen or how you anticipate you may react.
The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ experienced many losses throughout his life and taught us that grief is a real and natural emotional response. The Prophet ﷺmanifested his grief on different occasions and demonstrated the permissibility of showing our feelings of sadness when we lose something precious:

The Messenger of Allah ﷺ visited Saʿd ibn ʿUbādah during his illness. He was accompanied by ʿAbd al-Raḥmān ibn ʿAwf, Saʿd ibn Abī Waqqāṣ, and ʿAbd Allāh ibn Masʿūd (may Allah be pleased with them). The Messenger of Allah ﷺ began to weep. When his Companions saw this, their tears also started flowing. He ﷺ said, “Do you not hear, Allah does not punish for the shedding of tears or the grief of the heart but punishes or bestows mercy for the utterances of this (and he pointed to his tongue).”[1]

Consider some of the losses the Prophet ﷺ endured:
  • The loss of both his wife Khadījah (ra) and his uncle Abū Ṭālib in one year, called “The Year of Sorrow”
  • The death of 6 out of 7 of his children during his lifetime
  • The deaths of numerous companions and friends
  • Watching his entire tribe go hungry as Banū Hāshim was boycotted by the Makkans due to the Prophet ﷺ refusing to stop spreading the message of Islam
  • Losing his status and many relationships in Makkan society once he began to publicly proclaim the Words of Allah (swt)
  • What losses are people experiencing now?

    During the current coronavirus crisis, a grief response is completely normal. COVID-19 has been a sudden life-altering experience for the entire globe. In just a few months, the disease has gone from being a novel virus affecting a few people in one city to the entire world on lock-down. There is an overall feeling that the world has changed, which is a tremendous loss. We have lost our routines, a sense of consistency and predictability, a loss of normalcy, economic stability, and connection. Everyone’s life has been affected in one way or another—interpersonally, spiritually, economically, emotionally, and physically.

    And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient, Who, when disaster strikes them, say, “Indeed we belong to Allah, and indeed to Him we will return.” Those are the ones upon whom are blessings from their Lord and mercy. And it is those who are the [rightly] guided.[2] 

    Loss of a way of life

    One of the most profound losses during this time has been freedom. Freedom to go out without anxiety about getting sick, freedom to go out and socialize, freedom to go to work, freedom to engage in public recreational activities/facilities, and overall freedom to experience whatever level of functioning we had before. Suddenly the most mundane, normal tasks can be anxiety-provoking. Even the simple task of going to the grocery store can be filled with changes, worries, and discomfort. Seeing everyone wearing masks and gloves, minimizing interactions, being unable to see others' smiles, and struggling with worries about sanitizing can be a profound reminder of the loss of some of the freedoms and ease we never realized we had.

    Loss of control

    The tumultuous changes that have overtaken the world over the past several weeks have led many of us to experience a lack of control in very profound ways. During a time of so much uncertainty, many people may experience feelings of fear and anxiety. You may even feel frozen and hesitant to make decisions or take a step in any direction. The predictability of our lives is something that is sorely missed.

    Loss of life itself

    Without a doubt, the hardest of losses has been the loss of life. As numbers of people around the world with COVID-19 have been rising, so have been the death tolls. Beloved spouses, children, parents, community members, and friends have been dying around the world. Everyone knows someone who either has the disease or has passed away from the disease, even if it hasn’t directly affected their inner circle.

    Loss of social gathering

    Physical distancing has created barriers between family members and friends causing a sense of loss in social life and connection with others. Although physical distancing is not synonymous with social isolation many people miss seeing their friends and extended family members. This is particularly impactful during this year’s unique Ramadan. Weddings, graduations, and many celebrations have been canceled; these important milestones mean a lot for people and earlier this year it was unfathomable that these events would not take place. Realize that in following quarantine rules during this unprecedented time, you are following the prescription provided by the Prophet ﷺwhen asked about the plague. He said, “That was a means of torture which Allah used to send upon whomsoever He wished, but He made it a source of mercy for the believers, for anyone who is residing in a town in which this disease is present, and remains there and does not leave that town, but has patience and hopes for Allah's reward, and knows that nothing will befall him except what Allah has written for him, then he will get such reward as that of a martyr.”[3]

    Loss of spiritual connection

    For Muslims around the world, it has been very difficult watching spiritual practices curtailed because of the need to socially distance. The Kaʿbah has been temporarily closed and Hajj may even be canceled this year. Friday prayer has been stopped, a weekly ritual and source of spiritual nourishment for Muslims globally. Celebrations of life (aqīqahs) and funerals (janāzahs) have also been diminished in size. Spiritual traditions this Ramadan look very different and it’s a big adjustment for the community as a whole.

    Loss of economic security

    Due to COVID-19, many people have either lost their jobs completely or have had their hours reduced, which of course has financial implications for families and businesses. When individuals are making less money, they are not able to provide for their basic needs like paying for housing, food, and cannot maintain the same quality of life as before. When people are not able to pay for basic necessities, businesses also suffer thereby increasing layoffs and financial implications across communities and nations. Economic insecurity causes anxiety, sadness, fear, and sometimes even panic.

    Loss of structure

    Safety measures to protect the virus from spreading have led to schools being closed and keeping children at home. Although most university and grade school students are now participating in school online, there has certainly been a loss of structure and routine. Parents, especially working mothers, now have to manage working outside the home (or in the home) while simultaneously taking care of their children. These parents now have two jobs—their regular job plus the job of their daycare provider or school. It can be very difficult to manage both roles at the same time along with traditional 9 AM to 5 PM schedules, which can lead to feeling overwhelmed and exhausted.

    Loss of roles and identity

    Many of the losses and changes we experience alter parts of who we are and the roles we fulfill. The loss of a parent may mean that you no longer have the role of son or daughter. The loss of a job may mean that you are unsure whether you can provide for your family, a role you were likely proud of and in which you found a sense of fulfillment. If you were someone particularly active in your community, being unable to do the tasks that you enjoyed may leave you feeling a lack of purpose. All of these losses play an important role in our emotional struggles and the way we perceive ourselves as we cope through this pandemic.  

    What to expect during times of grief 

    Grief involves a struggle to re-establish equilibrium in your life. Creating a new balance involves external, internal, and spiritual adjustments. Some of these adjustments include: accepting the way the loss you’ve experienced impacts your daily life and everyday functioning in the world; confronting the impact this loss has on your sense of self; and processing the effect this loss has on your beliefs, values, and your connection with Allah (swt) as well as others in your life. William Worden* calls these tasks of mourning[4] and while your grief experience will be unique, exploring ways to process and cope with these changes can be helpful in the healing process.

    Denial and shock

    When the entire world is changing around you and life looks like you’re walking through a movie script rather than reality, experiencing a sense of shock is a normal response. Experiencing a feeling of denial of reality is a confusing state of mind that occurs before we fully grasp the gravity of what is happening and can be accompanied by feelings of disbelief or disregard for the reality of the situation.

    Sadness

    Sadness is usually associated with loss. You might feel down and cry more often than you usually do. It may also feel like you have less motivation and find less enjoyment in activities you used to love.

    Anxiety and/or fear

    Loss causes sadness but it can also cause a great deal of anxiety as the world feels unpredictable. Your anxiousness may be experienced as general nervousness, heart palpitations, restlessness, irritability, and/or difficulty breathing.

    Emotional paralysis

    The entire world is undergoing collective trauma with the experience of COVID-19. When we experience trauma individually, we tend to go into one of three modes: fight, flight, or freeze. Freezing up may lead you to feel like you can’t get up and do anything. You might also feel like you can’t make decisions or know what the next step is.

    Guilt

    There are many reasons why someone might feel guilty during this time. There might be spiritual guilt that collective sins led to this happening or not being appreciative of how life was before (seeing that it’s so much more difficult now). Those who are privileged with financial security may feel guilty that others are struggling economically. Those privileged with larger homes may feel guilty that others are enduring quarantine in tiny living spaces. Those with limited resources may feel guilty that they can not provide sustenance for their family members.

    Anger

    Anger is a normal emotional reaction during times of loss. Anger is the body’s natural reaction to threat and, oftentimes, there is no greater threat than the loss of someone you love or the loss of the way you envisioned life would be. Anger can also feel powerful during times when we feel powerless. You may find yourself experiencing thoughts like, “Why is this happening?” If you have loved ones who are not taking precautions against contracting COVID-19, you may experience anger toward them. Those who have lost their jobs may feel anger at being unable to care for their families financially. Anger toward God may also come up during various losses wondering, “I’ve done everything right so why me?”

    What is traumatic grief?

    A traumatic event is an incident (or series of incidents) that causes a tremendous amount of stress and overwhelms a person’s ability to cope. Psychological trauma usually sends individuals into a fight, flight, or freeze response that can manifest itself in aggression (fight), avoidance or running away (flight), or not being able to do anything at all (freeze). When a person experiences Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) they may experience flashbacks, nightmares, and uncontrollable thoughts about what happened. Traumatic grief can be defined in many ways but is usually looked at as an abrupt or extremely difficult loss followed by feeling destabilized and unable to cope.
    While it is anticipated that everyone will be grieving as a result of COVID-19, there are individuals who will be more susceptible to traumatic grief:
  • Children who lose one or both of their parents
  • Medical professionals who lose coworkers
  • Medical professionals who are pushed to work under inhumane work conditions out of necessity to cope with hospital demands
  • Families who lose their homes due to economic insecurity
  • Stages of grief from a psycho-spiritual perspective

    While the different theories and models of grief can never fully convey what a person goes through during times of loss, the stages-of-grief model continues to be one that is useful for many reasons. It normalizes the emotions many of us experience and helps us to grasp them, cope with them, and work toward healing. While the stages of grief below are explored in the “typical” order (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance, and finding meaning), it’s important to realize that the stages aren’t linear and may not happen in this order for many of us.

    Stage 1: Denial

    The denial stage involves feelings of resistance, shock, and avoidance. When a tragedy first hits, an automatic response is often disbelief and attempts to deny the reality of it. The numbness that we often feel during this stage is a survival mechanism- a way to cope when things feel too overwhelming to face.
    Even the most righteous have experienced this emotional response during times of grief. When the Prophet ﷺ died, ʿUmar (ra) struggled with denial: ʿUmar stood up and said, “By Allah! Allah’s Messenger ﷺ is not dead!” ʿUmar (later on) said, “By Allah! Nothing occurred to my mind except that.” He said, “Verily! Allah will resurrect him and he will cut the hands and legs of some men.”[5]
    Some examples of denial in our current situation include:
  • Calling the situation a hoax
  • Blatant disregard for social distancing or quarantine protocol
  • Making jokes that administrations are overreacting and taking away civil liberties for no reason
  • Thinking, “This virus won’t affect me or my daily life.”
  • Denial can be especially difficult because it’s filled with uncertainty and unknowns. There is usually a lot to process, but not much action to take because the future is uncharted territory. Once you start to ask questions like the ones below, it shows that you are beginning to accept the reality of the situation and are moving forward in the healing process:
  • “Will the coronavirus have a direct impact on me?”
  • “What kind of effect will this have on my family, friends, and community members?”
  • “How much is the right amount of preparation?”
  • “Am I overreacting or underreacting?”
  • In this phase, it’s most helpful to acknowledge that nobody has all the answers and that most people are trying to do the best they can with the information they are able to comprehend. Sitting with uncertainty might not feel very good, but it is completely a normal and anticipated human reaction to the unknown. As you begin to come to terms with the reality of the situation, denial begins to fade and difficult feelings may begin to surface.

    Stage 2: Anger

    Anger often arises to protect us from the more painful emotions we feel during times of grief and loss. Anger allows us to feel powerful when we feel helpless in the face of what we have lost. Underneath our anger other deep emotions are brewing—anxiety, abandonment, loneliness, confusion, and pain. You may be feeling angry at everyone around you, at the news you hear every day, and at the changes that you have no control over. Your anger gives you something to focus on during a time when you may feel as though you are floating in an overwhelming sea of nothingness.
    Anger is such a powerful and common emotion that there are a great number of hadiths and ayāt that discuss it. In each of these, the emotion itself is not dismissed or criticized. Rather, the approach to deal with anger is emphasized. Allah (swt) characterizes the believers, al-muḥsinīn (the doers of good), as those “who restrain their anger.”[6] The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ reminded us of one of the most profound benefits of this trait when he said, “Whoever controls his anger at the time when he has the means to act upon it, Allah will fill his heart with contentment on the Day of Resurrection.”[7]
    Some examples of anger in our current situation:
  • “People are being completely irresponsible and deserve to get sick.”
  • “I didn’t deserve to lose my job; this is completely unfair and shouldn’t be happening to me.”
  • Inadvertently, this anger may extend to Allah (swt). You may find yourself asking, “Why would Allah allow this to happen?”
  • “My uncle can’t even have the janāzah he deserves. How is this right?”
  • In this stage, one thing that can be particularly helpful is to recognize that you are not yourself right now. When we go through abnormal events, we tend to think abnormally. Thoughts that never would have gone through your mind are now a struggle; reactions you’ve never experienced are suddenly spilling out full force.
    Remember that feelings move through us. If you are experiencing anger right now, it doesn’t mean you’ll feel angry forever. Allow yourself to acknowledge that you are feeling angry but don’t react in anger. We can do this by:
  • Saying aloud how you’re feeling (to yourself, someone else, or Allah)
  • Seeking refuge in Allah: Two people insulted each other in the presence of the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, and the eyes of one of them became red like embers and the veins of his neck were swelling. The Prophet said, “Verily, I know a word he could say to calm himself: I seek refuge in Allah from the cursed Satan.”[8]
  • Grounding: When your mind is in overdrive, grounding brings your focus to what is happening to you physically instead of being trapped in the emotions and thoughts that are maintaining your anger. The Prophet ﷺ described anger and prescribed grounding as a coping mechanism: “Anger is an ember in the heart of the son of Adām. Do you not see the redness of the eyes and bulging of the jugular vein [when a person becomes enraged]. Anyone who [goes into a fit of rage like this] should cling to the ground [until the anger subsides].”[9] Other grounding techniques based on the Sunnah of the Prophet ﷺ include:
  • Wuḍūʾ: The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said, “Verily, anger comes from Satan, and Satan was created from fire. Fire is extinguished with water so if you become angry, then perform ablution with water.”[10]
  • Changing your posture: The Prophet ﷺ taught us, “If one of you is angry while he is standing, let him sit down so his anger will leave him; otherwise, let him lie down.”[11]
  • Pause and breathe: The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “When one of you is angry, he should remain silent.”[12] When feelings of anger become overwhelming, pause rather than react. Allow yourself time to breathe, reaffirm the fact that it is ok to feel angry and your choice not to react in anger.
  • Stage 3: Bargaining

    A lot of people interpret the COVID-19 pandemic as a personal punishment from Allah (swt) for their shortcomings. While holding ourselves accountable for our mistakes is an important step toward growth and repentance, viewing your personal shortcomings as the reason why so many are suffering can lead to an overwhelming sense of guilt and shame. Guilt often goes hand-in-hand with the bargaining stage. This stage often includes “If only…” statements due to the feelings of regret that come up with loss. The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ advised us against these thoughts that inevitably bring up more pain. He said, “If anything befalls you, do not say, ‘If only I had done such and such.” Rather say ‘Qaddara Allāhu wa-mā shāʾa faʿala (Allah has decreed and whatever He wills, He does).’ For (saying) ‘If’ opens (the door) to the deeds of Satan.”[13]
    Examples of the bargaining stage might look like:
  • “If only we had been more cautious, she wouldn’t have gotten the virus.”
  • “If only I had prayed more, this wouldn’t have happened.”
  • “If only we had gone to the hospital sooner, he would still be alive.”
  • This stage is characterized by an overwhelming desire for life to return to the way it was. With all of the changes that the spread of COVID-19 has wrought on the world, people are missing aspects of their lives that were not even a second thought. As we go through this stage, we may find ourselves focused on the past—a time when we weren’t as overwhelmed or experiencing such intense hurt.
    Bargaining is an attempt to regain control during uncontrollable situations. Focusing on the factors within your control, rather than on regrets and a desire to return to the less painful past, can help you to get through this stage.
  • Control Your Thoughts Through Reframing: Although this current struggle may feel like a punishment from Allah (swt) due to the overwhelming emotions you’re experiencing right now, keep in mind the response of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ when his wife Aisha asked him about the plague.[14] He said, “It is a punishment that Allah sends upon whomever He wills, but Allah has made it a mercy for the believers. Any servant who resides in a land afflicted by plague, remaining patient and hoping for reward from Allah, knowing that nothing will befall him except what Allah has decreed, will be given the reward of a martyr.”[15]
  • Control Your Goals: Focusing on turning to Allah (swt) during these difficulties can be a means of coping with difficult emotions. When the wind would blow strongly, the Prophet would ask Allah, “O Allah, I ask You for its goodness and I take refuge with You from its evil.”[16] Rather than focusing on factors outside of his control (i.e., whether something was sent as a punishment or a blessing), he would focus on turning to Allah in hopes of the best outcome.
  • Rein in Regrets: Hindsight is always 20/20. We can look back at every circumstance in our lives and consider multiple alternatives in the hopes that things would have been different but, in actuality, the only reality is the present moment we are faced with. This moment will only be more difficult if we choose to focus on “what ifs.” Instead, consider what ʿUbādah ibn al-Ṣāmit said to his son: “Son! You will not get the taste of the reality of faith until you know that what has come to you could not miss you and that what has missed you could not come to you. I heard the Messenger of Allah ﷺ say: The first thing Allah created was the pen. He said to it: Write. It asked: What should I write, my Lord? He said: Write what was decreed about everything till the Last Hour comes...”[17] Changing the past is not feasible so channeling our energy into something unchangeable is a recipe for intense pain.
  • Instead of “What if…” Focus on “What is…”: The one thing we consistently have within our locus of control is what we choose to do with the present moment. Shifting our focus away from regrets of the past and worries about the future allows us to take advantage of the present moment. Ibn al-Qayyim beautifully reflects on this, “But then your attention must be directed to your life in the present—the time between two times. If you waste it, then you have wasted the opportunity to be of the fortunate and saved ones. If you look after it, having rectified the two times—what is before and after it, as we have said—then you will be successful and achieve rest, delight, and everlasting bliss.”[18]
  • Stage 4: Depression[19]

    Once our attention shifts away from the past and into the present, the depression stage can hit hard. We truly begin to feel the loss(es) we’ve experienced, which can yield intense feelings of sadness, loneliness and emptiness. This stage can feel as though it’ll stretch on interminably. These feelings even impacted the best of humanity—the Prophets of Allah عليهم السلام. We see the intensity of these emotions in the Prophet Yaʿqūb عليه السلام when he was separated from his son Yūsuf and he grieved so deeply that his eyes turned white due to the extent to which he cried. His intense grief is expressed in the Qur’an, “And he (Yaʿqūb  عليه السلام) said, ‘Oh, my sorrow over Yūsuf,’ and his eyes became white from grief because of the sorrow that he suppressed.”[20]
    When we fully realize that the loss we’re dealing with is real, feelings of hopelessness and overwhelming sadness come up. Realize that experiencing depression in a situation like this is a normal and appropriate response—the loss of someone we care about or the life we thought we’d have is an intensely depressing situation.
    Examples of thoughts that may arise in the depression stage of grief include:
  • “This situation is never going to end.”
  • “What’s the point of getting up every day if my mom is no longer here?”
  • “I can’t imagine living my life without a job. It’s hopeless.”
  • “I never even got to say a real goodbye because I couldn’t be with him when he died.”
  • The earlier stages discussed involve some “running away” from emotions. The depression stage hits when you’re no longer running away and have resolved to feel the loss. Things that can help in this stage include:
  • Remind yourself that feeling intensely sad is normal, appropriate, and healthy when grieving. When the Prophet ﷺ witnessed his young son, Ibrahim, taking his final breaths, he began to cry and was questioned about this. In response to being questioned about his tears and clear sadness, the Prophet ﷺ said, “This is mercy.” Then he wept more and said, “The eyes are shedding tears and the heart is grieved, and we will not say except what pleases our Lord, O Ibrāhīm! Indeed we are grieved by your separation.”[21]
  • This stage, just like the other stages, will not last forever. Remember the promise of Allah (swt), “For indeed, with hardship [will be] ease. Indeed, with hardship [will be] ease.”[22] The depression stage is part of the process of moving forward after a loss. Remember that every moment of sadness and pain, no matter how overwhelming, is a part of the process of healing.
  • Grief and bereavement support groups can be very helpful at this time as talking with others who have experienced similar losses to you can be cathartic and validating.
  • Focus on small steps to take each moment. Instead of focusing on the stretch of days ahead of you with this loss feeling like a looming storm cloud over your future, focus on the one step you can take today to get through the day. When experiencing feelings of depression, putting one foot in front of the other can make a huge difference.
  • Visualize the promise of Allah: There is nothing in this life that can ever replace the loss of a loved one. Visualizing the life you have yet to experience with your loved one in Paradise and what those eternal moments will be like can provide some peace during this difficult time. Allah (swt) describes this beautiful scene, “They will enter perpetual Gardens, along with their righteous ancestors, spouses, and descendants; the angels will go into them from every gate, ‘Peace be with you, because you have remained steadfast. What an excellent reward is this home of yours!’”[23]
  • Make duʿāʾ for the reunion you dream of and find comfort in the promise of Allah, “We unite the believers with their offspring who followed them in faith…”[24] Also remember the statement of the Prophet ﷺ: “There is no Muslim who is stricken with a calamity and reacts by saying as Allah has commanded: ‘Innā lillāhi, wa innā ilayhi rājiʿūn. Allāhumma ʿindaka iḥtasabtu muṣībatī, faʾjurni fīha, wa ‘iḍnī minhā (Truly, to Allah we belong and truly, to Him we shall return. O Allah, with You I seek reward for my calamity, so reward me for it and compensate me),’ but Allah will reward him for that and compensate him with something better than it.”[25] Although nothing can replace the loss of someone you love, living an eternal life of happiness and peace with them in jannah is the best compensation we can pray for.
  • Stage 5: Acceptance

    The acceptance stage of grief can manifest at different levels throughout the COVID-19 crisis. For those simply quarantining and dealing with the new reality of life with physical distancing, increased personal hygiene precautions, and the changes in everyday life, acceptance of this reality still allows for the knowledge that this new norm is temporary. For those who have lost a job, acceptance may entail recognizing this new reality with the hope that alternative means of income exist on the horizon insha’Allah.
    For those who have lost a loved one, this stage is different. It involves accepting the reality that this person is physically gone and that this new reality is the permanent reality. Acceptance does not mean that you’re “ok” with what happened. The loss of someone you love will likely never feel ok. The goal in this stage is to learn how to live with this loss and create a new normal despite the huge piece that is missing. At first, you may find yourself trying to live life exactly as you did before a loved one died. Moving forward in this stage can look like this:
  • Reorganizing roles to others or deciding to take them upon yourself (e.g., paying bills when your late spouse used to take care of that; caring for your late father’s pet; etc.)
  • Accepting and asking yourself: “This is really happening. How can I adjust?”
  • Addressing your needs in this new stage in life.
  • Reaching out to others for help and support
  • Although the acceptance stage is a huge step forward in living a life that honors your loss while still allowing you to find purpose and fulfillment amidst this void, it can still feel really hard. Some things to consider to help you during this stage include:
  • There will still be ups and downs even once you’ve reached the point of accepting the reality of your loss. This is normal.
  • On the difficult days that come up, name the emotion you’re experiencing and remind yourself that this is simply a manifestation of the love you have that can’t be shared physically or verbally with the person you have lost. Use duʿāʾ to channel that love forward.
  • Finding meaning and creating new relationships is not a betrayal of your loved one. Those we love and those who love us want the best for us. You are honoring your loved one’s memory and honoring the gift of continued life that Allah (swt) gave you by finding new meaning in your day-to-day.
  • It was narrated that Abū Hurayrah said: “The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: ‘The strong believer is better and more beloved to Allah than the weak believer, although both are good. Strive for that which will benefit you, seek the help of Allah, and do not feel helpless…’”[26]

    Stage 6: Finding Meaning

    Accepting the reality of a loss in our lives—whether that be loss through death, job layoffs, or divorce—is an essential step in healing. However, sometimes acceptance doesn’t feel like enough. Particularly after the loss of a loved one, many people experience the thought, “There has to be more.” Grief expert, David Kessler describes this next stage as “finding meaning.” He says, “meaning comes through finding a way to sustain your love for the person after their death while you’re moving forward with your life. Loss is simply what happens to you in life. Meaning is what you make happen.”[27] 
    Finding meaning cannot erase your grief; pain is a natural reaction to intense loss. However, it can help ease the anguish and help you move forward. As we see in the different stages of grief, our minds can often lead us down negative spirals that increase our torment—finding meaning can help to mitigate this.
    This stage looks different for everyone. Here are some ways you might consider finding meaning after the loss of a loved one:
  • Remember Paradise: Imagine your deceased loved one in the highest levels of Paradise, at peace and surrounded by everything that brings them joy. Imagine reuniting with them in a place of eternal peace and the feelings that will arise. Picture the scene Allah (swt) sets forth of your loved one in Paradise, “They will have Gardens of lasting bliss graced with flowing streams. There they will be adorned with bracelets of gold. There they will wear green garments of fine silk and brocade. There they will be comfortably seated on soft chairs. What a blessed reward! What a pleasant resting place!”[28]
  • Memories: Recall your favorite memories of your loved one and share them in some way (tell them to your children, write them in a journal, create a memory box).
  • Create Changes in Your Life: The loss of someone or something dear to you can often lead to reevaluating your priorities in life. When the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was asked which of the believers is best, he replied: “The one who remembers death the most and is best in preparing for it. Those are the wisest.”[29] Allowing this loss to push you toward positive changes in your life is one of the most profound ways of creating meaning.
  • Ṣadaqah Jāriyah: This type of charity is something you do one time but yields continuous good deeds because it has ongoing benefits for those you assisted. Support a cause that was meaningful to your loved one like building a school or water well in an impoverished area; plant a tree in your loved one’s honor; care for others with the intent of your loved one sharing in the reward. The Prophet ﷺ said, “The best of what a man leaves behind are three: a righteous child who supplicates for him, ongoing charity, the reward of which reaches him, and knowledge that is acted upon after him.”[30]
  • Continue the Legacy: Was there something your loved one was particularly passionate about? Did they volunteer anywhere or talk about how they wished they could do something to support a particular cause? Consider something your loved one would have loved to see you continue doing as they did and consider ways to do that.
  • Support Others: Be a support for others in their time of loss. After the intense sadness of losing someone you care for deeply, you have the unique ability to empathize with the struggles others face in similar circumstances.
  • Grief in children

    Coping with grief and loss

    How to help someone who is grieving

    When to seek professional support

    Summary

    Spiritual Resources 

    Notes