Finding Meaning and Gratitude When Dealing with Loss

Finding Meaning and Gratitude When Dealing with Loss March 15, 2020

meaning gratitude loss
Photo by Rosie Kerr on Unsplash

All of us at one time or another throughout our lives suffer from some sort of loss. Loss comes in many forms, such as loss of family, livelihood, friends, death, health, and divorce. The tough question is, how do we develop gratitude after suffering from a broken heart or loss?

I suffered loss at a very early age. I lost my mother who could not raise us due to postpartum depression, and a father that wanted to live his life through the military. He was gone for 10 years to Vietnam while I was growing up. He was more like a distant uncle. I only saw my mother a few times in my life. I lost my brothers and sisters when my father took them away when I was six, and my grandfather who was raising me died of cancer soon after that.

I grew to suffer from intense grief at that age, and anger. I also suffered from depression at various points throughout my life, which started at this time. There was no help or empathy back then. I was just told not to talk about it, and the grief internalized.

I greatly admire Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). How he overcame his childhood, losing both of his parents at an early age. I identify with him, although I was mostly an emotional orphan, not really in the physical sense. I at least knew what it was like to grow up with parents.

As I became older, I went through the routines of life, going to school, working, and getting married. I worked as a nurse’s aide, dealing with all kinds of patients: those who lost their dignity and freedom, suffering total loss of their bodies and sometimes their minds. Some of the patients I saw were so incapacitated that they never left their beds, and no one came to visit them.

I never dealt with loss and disappointment that well, and death and the loss of friendships or other things could be very devastating for me.

There are many who, due to wars, have lost their homes, freedom and dignity. Some have lost the most basic and essential things of life, like food, water, and clothing.

My life has turned out very good. I am successfully married for almost 40 years, and I am proud of my children. I am fortunate to have wonderful friends. I have suffered from bipolar illness and depression most of my life and was lucky enough to afford medical treatment and therapy. Many who suffer from mental illness are not so fortunate. Many are homeless, on the street, jailed, or kicked out of the house.

Like Surah ad-Duha says, things are better in the end if we have faith. 

When I was young in the 1960’s, no one understood mental illness or its treatment, and there was a great stigma. Organizations did not know what to do. When I was young, I had the experience of attending a school district that thought my actions were strange and did not realize that I had a mental health issue. I was told it was just a phase. Now, organizations like school districts are getting trained. People now understand the effects of trauma and abuse. People realize that there are those who are disadvantaged in society, and are trying to do something about it.

For me, it is a great sin for someone like me not to be grateful, but I still have a great pain in my heart for losing my siblings to death without really knowing them. My life was so much better than my siblings’ as I was the only one to go to college and I married well.

Surah ad-Duha in the Holy Quran talks in the beginning about grief, when the Prophet (pbuh) did not receive Allah swt’s message for a period of time and felt Allah swt had abandoned him. At that time, he lost faith in himself and was deeply ridiculed, as were his followers. Some were even tortured for believing. Allah reassured him and reminded him that he was not abandoned and that he would always be there for him.

He was also reminded that his situation in life was a lot better than it was before, when he was a child and orphaned, and that he should have empathy for those who have gone through the same situation that he did. He overcame his past. Despite suffering from more losses, like the loss of his beloved wife Khadija and the loss of his children, he went on to accomplish great things.

Certain situations leave us with deep scars, and life can be very painful. Life is like a river, which flows through many twists and turns, and sometimes there are stones and twigs in the way. It is like the waves of an ocean that changes from moment to moment. The ocean can be very calm at times, or like the great waves of a storm.

Our story is our own story. Sometimes we suffer from jealousy, but we never know what is in another person’s life. I am satisfied with what I have.

I am in the final years of my life. Still, I am alive. I get up to the same routine every day. I fix myself up, take medication, we eat and make breakfast. Sometimes we get bored and tired with routine. At least we have a life and a routine. Very soon, one of us is not going to be here and life is going to be different. Maybe in less than 30-40 years neither of us is going to exist on this earth. I wonder what will happen to our property and home. But our children, hopefully, will carry on our legacy and still be here for a while, generation to generation. We affect our children when we are not grateful. We we teach them not to be grateful and to be ignorant of the life that they have, and this is also a bad legacy.

Still, we are fortunate to get up every day, and it is a gift that the sun rises and sets every day. Dawn is always the beginning of a new day.  There is a song by Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam called Silent Sunlight, which says that even if our dreams disappear, we can start again fresh every day, even until the end. My life is very enriched by family. I find joy in writing, painting, gardening, and seeing friends.

Our story is our own story. Sometimes we suffer from jealousy, but we never know what is in another person’s life. I am satisfied with what I have.

Now I hear of some disaster on TV, and hear of another person’s struggle and loss, and I feel empathetic and say a little prayer for them each time. I am grateful many times that Allah does answer my prayers, and without Him, I would not have gotten through many parts of my life.

I believe so strongly though, that throughout my life I have been a survivor and not given up. I believe strongly in the hadith that you should trust in Allah but tie your camel to a tree. We need to learn to have good judgment. We need to motivate ourselves when possible. We have to feel the strength and spirit of Allah to get up every day. Like Surah ad-Duha says, things are better in the end if we have faith. You just have to believe and have faith.

About Stephenie Bushra Khan
Stephenie Bushra Khan is a converted Muslim, a poet, and local artist in Temecula, California. She is originally from Winchendon, Massachusetts. You can read more about the author here.

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