What is Grief?
Grief is a natural and emotional reaction to the loss of someone or something important to you. The loss can be a person, an object, or even a way of life. During a time of loss, emotions can be intensely painful, affecting all aspects of life and relationships. In the midst of this struggle, it is important to realize that grief is normal; it is not an illness and it is not something negative. Grief shows that you cared deeply for whatever it is that you lost.
For some people, grief might be felt in spikes throughout the day, for others it may suddenly come up every few days. Some have compared it to feeling as though they are drowning due to the tidal waves of emotion that affect them at times. Others might say that it feels like it’s an extra weight on their heart or shoulders that they carry around with them wherever they go. Everyone experiences grief differently and on a different timeline; your emotional response to grief may be very different from what you’ve seen or how you anticipate you may react.
The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ experienced many losses throughout his life and taught us that grief is a real and natural emotional response. The Prophet ﷺ manifested his grief on different occasions and demonstrated the permissibility of showing our feelings of sadness when we lose something precious.
The Messenger of Allah ﷺ visited Saʿd ibn ʿUbādah (RA) during his illness. He was accompanied by ʿAbd al-Raḥmān ibn ʿAwf, Saʿd ibn Abī Waqqāṣ, and ʿAbd Allāh ibn Masʿūd (may Allah be pleased with them). The Messenger of Allah ﷺ began to weep. When his Companions saw this, their tears also started flowing. He ﷺ said:
أَلاَ تَسْمَعُونَ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لاَ يُعَذِّبُ بِدَمْعِ الْعَيْنِ، وَلاَ بِحُزْنِ الْقَلْبِ، وَلَكِنْ يُعَذِّبُ بِهَذَا ـ وَأَشَارَ إِلَى لِسَانِهِ
“Do you not hear, Allah does not punish for the shedding of tears or the grief of the heart but punishes or bestows mercy for the utterances of this (and he pointed to his tongue).”
Sahih al-Bukhari no. 1304
During the current coronavirus crisis, to grief is completely normal. COVID-19 has been a sudden life-altering experience for the entire globe. In just a few months, the disease has gone from being a novel virus affecting a few people in one city to the entire world on lock-down. There is an overall feeling that the world has changed, which is a tremendous loss. We have lost our routines, a sense of consistency and predictability, a loss of normalcy, economic stability, and connection. Everyone’s life has been affected in one way or another—interpersonally, spiritually, economically, emotionally, and physically.
To grief is normal, but one can take great inspiration from the amazing rewards Allah The Almighty offers to the one who bears it with patience.
وَلَنَبْلُوَنَّكُم بِشَىْءٍ مِّنَ ٱلْخَوْفِ وَٱلْجُوعِ وَنَقْصٍ مِّنَ ٱلْأَمْوَٰلِ وَٱلْأَنفُسِ وَٱلثَّمَرَٰتِ ۗ وَبَشِّرِ ٱلصَّٰبِرِينَ
And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, 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.” Those are the ones upon whom are blessings from their Lord and mercy. And it is those who are the [rightly] guided.