20 Apr Emotional well-being under lockdown Part 2
What is happening?
As we enter another week of self-isolation and social distancing, we are now more than before having to deal with the devastating loss of life. We are becoming more aware of people we personally know, or know of through friends and family; who are either infected, being affected or in some cases have lost their lives. It is incredibly sad, but also again invokes those anxieties, that something uncontrollable and deadly is so near us.
This week we would like to focus on trying to come to terms with those anxieties, and how you could address them, in your family and with your children.
Death and loss
Bereavement and grief can affect different people in different ways, and it is often a devastating experience, that can have profound effect on a person’s life; particularly in their emotional and physical well being, relationships etc. Whereas death and loss may have been a faraway concept for us before, it now seems much closer home. There are new conversations we are having to have with our children.
Children may find it harder to express themselves through words, and instead they may have a change in their behaviour and mood.
Younger children in particular may find it difficult to understand the concept of permanency in death, and may seem better at one moment and struggling the next.
Some of the most common symptoms could include:
-shock and numbness – this is usually the first reaction to loss, and people often talk about “being in a daze”.
-overwhelming sadness, with lots of crying.
-tiredness or exhaustion.
-anger – towards the person you’ve lost or the reason for your loss.
-guilt – for example, guilt about feeling angry, about something you said or did not say, or not being able to stop your loved one dying.
Islam and grief
We as Muslim’s are advised to have steadfastness, trust and faith in Allah’s will. However, despite this it does not mean that sadness and grief are signs of disbelief. Although signs of excessive wailing etc are discouraged, grief is a very real, valid and human emotion for a person to have, to feel loss, sadness and shed tears.
Our Prophet (pbuh) had dealt with many close deaths of loved ones, and there are hadith’s referencing his grief. This shows that grief and the bereavement of a loved one is a valid and sometimes an uncontrollable emotion. There is guidance on how to help yourself to move forward from it, and understand that everything is from the will of Allah.
“This is mercy…The eyes are shedding tears and the heart is grieved and we will not say except what pleases our Lord…” (Sahih al-Bukhari Book 23, Hadith 62)
It is recommended and encouraged to discuss loss, and deal and talk about the loss, as evidenced when our Prophet (pbuh) asked a child about their feelings when they lost their pet bird, this validated that child’s very real loss and grief, as well as encouraging them to talk about their feelings
“It is proven in al-Saheehayn (al-Bukhari, 5778; Muslim, 2150) that the brother of Anas ibn Maalik through his mother was called Abu ‘Umayr and he had a bird whose name was al-nughayr. The bird died and the child grieved for it, and the Prophet (pbuh) tried to cheer him up by saying, “O Abu ‘Umayr, what happened to al-nughayr?”
Our Prophet (pbuh) was aware of the bird’s death but asked the child despite this encouraging them to talk about their feelings.
Making the unfamiliar familiar:
Discuss your children’s worries with them, sometimes doing this directly may be difficult and often children can find it hard to talk about their feelings on the spot. Children are not little adults, and their understanding depends on their developmental stage. Try to cater it around an activity, a game, taking turns and asking questions punctuated within it.
Activity: for young children, ask them to draw a house, and to fill their house with all the things they like, and then draw what they dislike outside their house. From this activity you can work through any worries they may be having. For instance, they may draw someone being sick, talk about this, stay with this worry, reassure them but also discuss the very real reality of the consequences. If they are old enough to understand death, they may have questions about what happens, talk to them about this. Talk to them about a hadith that people who do pass away from an illness, can be granted martyrdom. Without devaluing their worries, you can talk them through their worries and reassure them that you are there for them.
Activity: for older children, give them time and space to discuss their worries. For instance, play a game of football and ask them questions during it. The game can maybe help them feel less in the spotlight, and more at ease to discuss worries. There may be worries about family or friends being affected, scary things they read in social media posts etc.
Try to keep routines and some structure in place this will help some children to alleviate concerns that things are not in their control.
Every child is unique and will cope with the death of someone important in their own way. There is no magic formula but things that help include:
-Clear, honest and age-appropriate information.
-Reassurance that they are not to blame and different feelings are OK.
-Normal routines and a clear demonstration that important adults are there for them.
-Time to talk about what has happened, ask questions and build memories.
-Being listened to and given time to grieve in their own way.
Discuss COVID19 with your family members, make it familiar (but not all consuming), and not something unspoken in the home, which may further increase anxieties and worries. Inform your family members of the FACTS of the illness, and how they could keep themselves safe.
COVID19 government guideline precautions:
-Stay at home – only go outside for food, health reasons and essential work.
-Stay 2metres/6feet away from other people at all times when outside.
-Wash your hands as soon as you get home.
-DO NOT meet friends and family.
There are links below for activities that you can do, or tips on discussing difficult issues with children during this time; and other references:
(Please note; Noor Ul Islam is not responsible for the contents of the third party links provided here)
Written by Rafia Yousuf (Psychotherapist) & Nazmin Rahman (Social Worker)
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