How to Deal With Grief and Heartache as a Muslim

Death or heartache is an inevitable part of life and because of this fact, we may already be familiar with the process of what happens to a person who passes away; what we do when we hear the news, the funeral process and what follows after that etc. In Islam, we bury the dead as quickly as possible, putting our sorrow to one side to undertake these named duties. It’s only when the dead have been buried and people stop visiting – the silence becomes overwhelming and you’re forced to deal with the feeling of loss alone.

It can hit almost instantly. Some experience it in waves while others even become numb to it altogether. But the most important thing is that you acknowledge that you are in fact, grieving, no matter how you wish to express it. A lot of times, grief and sorrow can go undetected because it isn’t something that is spoken about as openly as it should be, especially if you live in a household where there aren’t opportunities to speak about mental health in a practical way. 

So if you’re looking for a little bit of advice on how to navigate those feelings associated with heartache, keep reading.

The Idea of ‘Sabr

It can be easy for some to brush off the feeling and say: “Don’t cry, you should have Sabr,” but in times of distress, this line can feel the most painful. It’s like you’re being told that religious duties should override your emotions when this is not necessarily the case. The idea of Sabr being just about keeping a ‘cool head’ during times of overwhelming emotions is not all it is. There is more to it than that.

When the Prophet (PBUH) came across a necklace Khadija (RA) wore years after her death, it was narrated that his eyes began to swell with tears and he began to mourn recounting the loss of his beloved first wife.

Allah created us to be emotional beings, with eyes that tear, eyebrows that furrow, and a smile that can frown. He did not create us to be robots nor should we act like it to show we have Sabr.

So let’s think of Sabr a little differently.

In Islam, our idea of Sabr is almost like a glue that holds the pieces of our lives together. It moulds the way we see things the way Allah wants us to see them. Sabr isn’t something that should silence your emotions, but instead, it should be a way to navigate through them and understand that there is a bigger picture to it all – that our life is a transient journey from Allah and back to him. 

“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.” [Quran 2:155–157]

Sabr is to have positive thoughts of Allah, even when it can seem the hardest.

“Indeed we belong to Allah, and indeed to Him, we will return” is not just a customary proverb at the time of loss because that’s what we were taught, but rather it serves as a grounding reminder to the ones living that those who have passed are on their way back to the One who created us in the first place. 

When someone you love has passed away, they are with the Most Loving. When we feel that no one can begin to understand the pain and loss, also know that we can never possibly understand how much Allah loves his creation. That you may love them but Allah loves them more. And it’s when we begin to internalise this idea of Sabr. That is what ‘beautiful patience’ encapsulates. And it is something that Allah honours because it is extremely difficult to do, it’s an internal battle that He alone truly sees.

“So endure patiently, with a beautiful patience” [Qur’an 70:5]

99 Mercies 

The Prophet (PBUH) said: “When a person dies, all his good deeds come to an end except three:

  1. Ongoing charity 
  2. Beneficial knowledge
  3. A righteous child who will pray for him.”  

There are countless ways we can still help those who have passed away, it can be as simple as planting a tree that will benefit others or building a water pump. Whatever it may be, there should be a comfort in knowing that whenever an insect finds shade under its leaf, a bird making a nest, or someone quenching their thirst, know that all of it is recorded as charity for them and you.

The Prophet (PBUH) also said, “Allah has one hundred mercies, out of which He has sent down only one for jinn, mankind, animals and insects, through which they love one another and have compassion for one another; and through it, wild animals care for their young. Allah has retained ninety-nine mercies to deal kindly with His slaves on the Day of Resurrection.” [Riyad as-Salihin 420]

We will never know what Allah has in store for any of his creations nor should we guess something negative and become overwhelmingly worried about something that has not yet happened. But if we ponder on the above Hadith into the context of our lives and realise just how much mercy Allah gives us all on a daily basis, from just being able to breathe, or eat, even the love we give to one another, is all just from one part of His mercy (which is already difficult to imagine in its entirety), and to imagine that He has reserved 99 more mercies out of pure love for us is practically impossible.

So always have positive thoughts of Allah, his decree, and make sincere dua for people you have lost.

Seek Professional Help

“Just because you carry your pain so well, doesn’t mean it stopped hurting”. 

Dealing with grief from a spiritual perspective is important but we shouldn’t be limiting it to just that.

Seeking practical help in the form of therapy, counselling or medication, is not something that should be seen as a ‘taboo’. Getting professional advice is a healthy way of releasing, healing and returning back to some sort of normality in your life.

Even if you feel you’re dealing with it on your own doesn’t mean you cut yourself off from people and not get the help you need. As mentioned before, some cultures and households may not have ever placed an emphasis on mental health and speaking about these emotions, so if you don’t know whether you need further help or not, it’s best to seek out some advice from a professional as they will be able to determine a more accurate diagnosis.

Do not suffer in silence.

Final Thoughts

Losing someone we love is hard but your tears doesn’t mean you are void of Sabr. So whenever you’re feeling like your sorrow is never-ending, know that there is relief and your loved ones have not departed but rather are returning back to the Most Merciful.

Spend some time in prayer during the last third of the night, when the world is asleep and it is only your Lord eagerly waiting to listen, respond, and accept your prayers.

May Allah make it easier for us all.