Not Ready to Say Goodbye: Dealing With Grief and Loss | Blog
Published: September 12, 2022 • Updated: October 20, 2023
Author: Ustadha Zaynab Ansari
بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْمِ
In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
But here we are getting ready to write letters to my father and read them to him as he is placed in hospice care. The children call him “Jiddou” in honor of his Lebanese heritage. I’ve always called him Dad. But these names don’t convey the depths of our love for him, nor do they convey how grateful to him we are for all he has done for us, nor do they make up for all I wish we could have done to cherish our time with him. Alhamdulillah, he is still with us. He still comprehends what is going on around him and recognizes faces even though the names don’t readily come. He can still speak a little even though the tumor is causing tremendous swelling in the brain. And he still wants to get better. We all want him to get better. But we have come up against two things: A terminal diagnosis and the qadar of Allah, both of which have brought us to this moment of trying to figure out how to say goodbye to a man who means everything to us.
When my husband died in 2015 in a motorcycle accident, I was in a state of shock. In the weeks after his death, I walked around in a daze trying to understand how my life had been completely turned upside down. I remember talking to someone who rattled off a list of the most common causes of death, noting that sudden death ranks highest on the list of traumas impacting the surviving family. For me, that helped to explain why I was feeling the way I was. I was simply not ready to say goodbye to my husband and the abrupt nature of the loss meant that I wasn’t at all mentally or emotionally prepared for it. So I consoled myself by telling myself that some types of loss are “easier” to handle than others. I remembered saying that surely in the cases where a loved one falls ill, the family is better equipped to deal with the finality of the situation. And now here I am in just that situation. And I can say this: Loss is loss, no matter what, but there are lessons I have learned that I am trying to apply to this experience. And, no, it doesn’t make it “easier” in the most common sense, but it makes it possible to navigate this with more patience and awareness. With the tips below, I’d like to offer some advice to families dealing with the pain of a terminal diagnosis:
1. It’s not your fault. It’s not their fault.
2. We will all leave this dunya some way or another.
3. Help your loved one to remember this reality.
أَسْأَلُ اللَّهَ الْعَظِيمَ رَبَّ الْعَرْشِ الْعَظِيمِ أَنْ يَشْفِيْكَ
As’al Allah al-Adheem rabb al-arsh al-adheem an yashfik
I ask Allah the Magnificent, Lord of the Magnificent Throne, to heal you
4. Provide appropriate spiritual counsel.
5. It’s okay to smile and even laugh.
مَن كَانَ يَرْجُوا۟ لِقَآءَ ٱللَّهِ فَإِنَّ أَجَلَ ٱللَّهِ لَـَٔاتٍۢ ۚ وَهُوَ ٱلسَّمِيعُ ٱلْعَلِيمُ
وَمَن جَـٰهَدَ فَإِنَّمَا يُجَـٰهِدُ لِنَفْسِهِۦٓ ۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ لَغَنِىٌّ عَنِ ٱلْعَـٰلَمِينَ
وَٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ وَعَمِلُوا۟ ٱلصَّـٰلِحَـٰتِ لَنُكَفِّرَنَّ عَنْهُمْ سَيِّـَٔاتِهِمْ وَلَنَجْزِيَنَّهُمْ أَحْسَنَ ٱلَّذِى كَانُوا۟ يَعْمَلُونَ
“Whoever should hope for the meeting with Allah – indeed, the term decreed by Allah is coming. And He is the Hearing, the Knowing. And whoever strives only strives for [the benefit of] himself. Indeed, Allah is free from need of the worlds. And those who believe and do righteous deeds – We will surely remove from them their misdeeds and will surely reward them according to the best of what they used to do.” [Qur’an, 29:5-7]