Friday, May 14, 2021 | Shawwal 1, 1442 H
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The bitterness of loss and grief


A young man fondly remembers his father who passed away due to Covid-19 with so much sadness that he listens again and again to a voice message from his father which he had saved on his phone. The father tells his son what he should do: “Just wait there, do what you are supposed to do. Take rest, more fluids... sleep and sleep... I love you. Goodbye”. The son had received the 15-seconds-long message a few years ago when he was sick with flu.

Listening to the message, the son sighed deeply and said: When I hear this message, I hear my father’s accent and I hear the humour and vitality that can make me smile even when I am sick. The son continued, saying: my dad didn’t leave this message because he thought I needed him to tell me what to do. He just wanted me to know he was thinking of me. I found the message on my phone the night my father died due to complications from coronavirus after he was admitted to the intensive care unit of a hospital. Fighting back tears, he continued to talk and moved one of his arms to get rid of fatigue that appeared on his pale face and added in a tone of sadness — And I was on the sofa in my living room somewhere outside of the homeland, because such a pandemic required that I stay away when everything in me wanted to be with him.

Sadly, in situations like these, many of us feel lonely when trying to overcome many losses and try to address their personal grief. This undoubtedly becomes evident when we do not get support. Then sadness becomes tinged with guilt and confusion. But there are people who may think that there is something wrong with him and wonder why we cannot get out of it?

In fact, our grief and its experience cannot be fully expressed. On the contrary, we need more family members and friends who can support us. What I mean is that we need to learn how to mourn together! So, sadness is not a simple internal reaction that results automatically from the experience of loss, but if I can say it is a way of understanding and acting, it is a way to think with sadness or respond with sadness (to a loss) and it is a method that we learn first from our parents and from other close relationships around us. Not to mention that each of the individuals (deceased relative) suffered from grief for the same person — the suffering of losing a husband, losing a parent, losing a brother, losing a cousin or losing a friend. They did so in a special and perhaps distinctive way, because of their relationship with the deceased, their emotional temper and their own nature of grief.

On the other hand, you might remember and say we were all there for each other and often in the same room together, which is true but at the end of the day, you will be alone in your own experience of grief. Is it not like that? Even if you were fortunate enough to have loved ones who stayed by your side as you cope with a difficult loss, you might still find yourself struggling with loneliness and grief. Perhaps you will agree with me that the bitterness of loss and intense sadness opens the door to loneliness, isolation and other mental illnesses.

Yet when we go back a little further, we are aware that with the development of the pandemic, people have had to face a series of losses such as loss of sense of security, social ties, jobs and financial security as well.

From now on, people may have understood that people will be exposed to new losses that we cannot yet predict. As such, this leads us to become aware that we not only mourn what we lose, but also the ways in which these losses affect how we feel. Somehow, after a period of time, we will notice that while many people will be resilient in the face of the changes brought about by the coronavirus, this global crisis will test others in different ways. As things return to normal, most of us will also return to something normal, but there is a group of people who will be exposed to chronic disorders and they will need support in their recovery.

Dr Yousuf Ali al Mulla, MD, Ministry of Health, is a medical innovator and educator. For any queries regarding the content of the column he can be contacted at:

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