“This is mercy”: Crying when losing a loved one

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Tears. They flow from the eyes. But it is amazing how much they can lighten the heart.

Have you ever felt your heart ache in ways you never knew it could ache? Have you ever felt like you couldn’t breathe because of the intensity of the grief you were feeling? Have you ever felt suffocated by the fog of emotions that seemed to be hanging over you? Have you ever felt like your heart was about to burst into pieces? Have you ever felt your vision was blurred because of the tears that kept flowing or those that you kept trying to blink back?

These are real feelings in moments of grief.

Know that you are not alone.

The Prophets of Allah also lost those they loved. They lost their children, they lost their parents, they lost their spouses, they lost their homes, their health and their possessions. They were saddened and they grieved. It hurt them enough for the tears to flow and for their eyesight to be weakened (Yaqub (عَلَيْهِ السَّلَام)) and for the year to be called the ‘Year of Grief’ (the year Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) lost his wife and his uncle).

They let the tears flow, they let their hearts grieve, but they controlled their tongues and their hands.

They knew it was a test of Allah (swt). They knew there was a wisdom behind what had happened. They trusted Allah (swt) and His plan. They accepted His decree. But that did not mean that they did not feel the pain. That did not mean they didn’t miss their loved ones. That did not mean that they did not cry.

Anas bin Malik (رضى اللهُ عنه) narrated: We went with Allah’s Messenger to the blacksmith Abu Sayf, and he was the husband of the wet-nurse of Ibrahim (the son of the Prophet). Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) took Ibrahim and kissed him and smelled him and later we entered Abu Sayf’s house and at that time Ibrahim was in his last breaths, and the eyes of Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) started shedding tears. ‘Abdur-Rahman bin ‘Awf (رضى اللهُ عنه) said, “O Allah’s Apostle, even you are weeping!” He said, “O Ibn ‘Awf, 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 Ibrahim! Indeed we are grieved by your separation.” (Sahih Bukhari)

At another occasion, narrated by Usamah bin Zaid (رضى اللهُ عنه): The daughter of the Prophet (ﷺ) sent for him as her child was dying, but the Prophet (ﷺ) returned the messenger and sent her good wishes saying, “Whatever Allah takes away or gives, belongs to Him, and everything with Him has a limited fixed term (in this world), and so she should be patient and anticipate Allah’s reward.” She again sent for him adjuring him for the sake of Allah to come. The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ), accompanied with Sa’d bin ‘Ubadah, Mu’adh bin Jabal, Ubayy bin Ka’b, Zaid bin Thabit and some other men went to see her. The child was lifted up to the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) while his breath was disturbed in his chest. On seeing that, the eyes of the Prophet (ﷺ) streamed with tears. Sa’d said, “O Messenger of Allah (ﷺ)! What is this?” He replied, “It is mercy which Allah has placed in the hearts of His slaves, Allah is Merciful only to those among His slaves who are merciful (to others)”. (Bukhari and Muslim)

What is forbidden in Islam is wailing and slapping one’s cheeks while grieving. It is the culture the Arabs had of women screaming and wailing loudly upon a death or at a funeral.

So, if someone ever makes you feel guilty for crying or tells you that a Muslim shouldn’t cry or shouldn’t feel sad, remind them of how the Prophets and the righteous also went through tests in their lives and cried and felt pain. But they held onto Allah. Their tests, losses and grief did not shake their faith in Allah. They did not question Allah’s plan. They trusted Him and accepted His decree.

Grief can often be all-consuming. It can often have physiological reactions: quickened heartbeats, shallow breaths, lost appetite and lost sleep etc. Sometimes the situations we are in also make us more vulnerable to certain reactions. For example, in the case of losing a child before or shortly after birth, hormones make us more vulnerable to many such physiological reactions. It is true that depression can be clinical and physiological.

There are moments we feel like we will never see the light again, when we feel we will never get out of this pain or we will never again experience joy. Moments when we feel suffocated by the waves of emotions that crash over us. Moments we feel like we are drowning.

In those moments, there is only one thing that saves us. And that is holding onto Allah, holding onto tawakkul (trust in Allah).

Asking Allah to heal you

It is important to seek social support during such times. It is important to surround yourself with those who love you. Seek support. Go to counselling or therapy. Be around people who remind you of Allah’s plan, who give you hope. Talk to others about what you feel. Read the Quran and hadith to give peace to your heart. Allah encourages us to use the means and the medicines He gives us.

But above all, turn to Allah (swt). No one else can understand your pain like He does. And it is possible you will never be able to open up to anyone else like you can to Allah. No one else can heal your heart. Pour your heart out to Allah. Let the tears flow. Cry your heart out to Him. Ask Him to heal you. Ask Him for strength. Ask Him for peace. Ask Him to calm your heart. He WILL heal you heart. He will give you strength and peace. InshaAllah. You will feel much lighter after this too.

The Prophets turned to Allah to complain of their grief and pain. After years of sorrow over losing his son, Yaqub (عَلَيْهِ السَّلَام) said:

“I only complain of my suffering and my grief to Allah, and I know from Allah that which you do not know.” (Yusuf 12:86)

After losing his health, wealth and family, Prophet Ayub (عَلَيْهِ السَّلَام) turned to Allah (swt):

And (mention) Ayub (عَلَيْهِ السَّلَام), when he called to his Lord, “Indeed, adversity has touched me, and You are the Most Merciful of the merciful.” (al-Anbiyaa’ 21:83)

Insha’Allah you will get out of this. Your heart will heal and be whole again. There might still be scars as signs of all you have been through – marks that strengthen you more than before. You will still grieve. You will still cry. You will still remember the loved ones you lost. But you will be stronger.

May you come through this test with a relationship and trust in Allah stronger than what you had before.