Where do Grieving Muslims Go?

If you can imagine singing it to the tune of Whitney Houston’s “Where do broken hearts go?”

grief

On a serious note, I’m sitting here watching “Secret Millionaire” on Fox. If you’re not familiar with the show, I’m giving you some homework. You can do a search to find out what it’s about. Anyhow, I’m watching a group of inner city Black women attend a grief counseling session at a church. They’re all struggling to cope with the loss of their relatives- sons, husbands, children etc. I started asking myself, where do Muslims go when we’re suffering? Have I ever attended a masjid that had a support group for me; as a convert (being the only Muslim in my family), as someone who has experienced divorce, the murder of my older brother, financial loss and so much more? I know sisters who have been homeless, on drugs, near prostitution, suffering from tremendous grief as a result of divorce or the death of a spouse or family member. I also know sisters who are single parents. They’re struggling to make ends meet, raising kids by themselves as the righteous brother moves on to his next victim wife. But I digress…

Where do we go? I’m sure there must be some masajid in the United States that have programs to assist people with the aforementioned. However, my experience has not been such. What I have seen is the following:

1) People seek assistance outside of the Muslim community. Sometimes this is done because of problems referenced below and other times done it’s out of embarrassment. The person doesn’t want to be fodder for gossip in the community so they go outside of it for help. Sometimes during the process of seeking assistance from non-Muslim sources the person becomes estranged from the Muslim community. At that point they may leave Islam, find another masjid/community or decide to live as a Muslim on their own with very little interaction with the community and other Muslims outside of their family members. Sometimes they experience discrimination and revictimization at the hands of non-Muslims who are convinced that Islam is the root cause of the trauma the person is experiencing. As a response the person might leave a program that is helping them, actually believe the non-Muslim care provider (blaming Islam) or stay and take the abuse.

2) People suffer in silence. Perhaps they ask Allah for assistance, perhaps they find personal ways to cope with their pain, maybe they try to ignore it and will one day suffer a nervous break down. Really, I don’t know because it’s being done behind close doors.

3) Engage in self-destructive, wreckless behavior in order to cope with their pain. This includes taking drugs, drinking alcohol, food addictions, promiscuity, and/or a complete abandonment of Islamic values. The person may become abusive towards others as well. I have seen it happen to people in the Muslim community. The sad part is that we are so quick to judge. We have no idea what the person is going through or sometimes we do but don’t care. We’re not trying to help them. We just know they’re not following the deen to the letter and that’s all that matters to us. I find this to be especially true when a sister- after experiencing a crisis- decides to take off her hijab.

4) People may seek assistance from unqualified and untrained Imams or members of the Muslim community. They are given bad advice. For instance, a woman who is the victim of domestic violence is told to go back to her husband. She might be told that Allah hates divorce, it shakes his throne, so she must try to make her marriage work. On the other hand, a person may not be given enough advice. They might simply be told to make du’a and trust in Allah. (Which is true but sometimes you want to hear more than that, you know?) As a result the person may eventually opt for #1, #2 or #3 on this list.

As I said, there are probably masajid out there that have programs for a person to attend. I’m also sure there are positive ways people choose to cope with pain, grief and loss. However, many of us are slipping through the cracks. So often the Muslim communities lack the kind of support systems that would be beneficial to its members. Even worse, I’ve seen MALE perpetrators of crimes (legal, Islamic and moral) continue to work in the Muslim community, sometimes occupying prestigious positions. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say things like, “It’s not my business”, or “He’s a good brother he just has some personal problems” or “No one else is willing to do what he does for the masjid.” Too often nothing is said AT ALL. People just pretend everything’s fine. Unfortunately, by choosing not to address perpetrators of crimes (again, legal, moral and Islamic) we’re sending a message to the victim(s) that their behavior is acceptable.

So, where do grieving Muslims go? I’m not really sure…

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13 responses to “Where do Grieving Muslims Go?

  1. as-salamu 3lakum
    you’re touching on something critical here sis…
    i think a lot of muslims, especially muslim women suffer in silence because of familial/marital problems and depression. my mother and her two sisters have become estranged from one another because of their issues and because of the side affects of coming from a very judgemental/gossipy and ignorant arab muslim community. they also lost their brother due to murder and this has never really been dealt with or discussed. counseling and support is definitely needed but many muslims feel very uncomfortable seeking this from the outside especially when they are not used to getting it from within especially from what i know about palestinians. the whole idea is pretty taboo in nature because a lot of arabs are just too proud to admit how crazy they really are anyway lol. but yeah, i think getting counseling from the outside can be a good option as long as you get a good feeling the person is open minded enough to understand that the religion and the issues are two separate things. also, this really makes me want to look into going to school for psychology and counseling so that i can help muslims especially for some of the problems you mention here for the sake of Allah, and for the sake of sisters being able to know that there is help and they’re not alone.

  2. Assalam-alaikam,
    An important issue to raise which would affect many. I am not sure to what extent the mosque would have a role in supporting these people. I think mosques in America are much more sociallly active than in the UK, where they are usually somewhere the men go pray.

    When I lost my gran recently, the whole community pulled together. Various friends brought meals for the next few days, one woman helped with the bathing, another had helped gran undress when my dad initially took her to the hospital because only my dad was there. Another friend arranged plane tickets for family travelling back and others loaned money. Whilst the family was away lots of people came to visit and made telephone calls to check on us and everyone has made it clear that we must come to them if we need anything.

    I suppose I was lucky that I come from a long-standing Muslim community, it must be much harder for reverts or people far away from other Muslims. I wonder if the answer is that each of us have a role to look out for the Muslims around us. We have to remember though that a lot of people are very wary of getting involved in other people’s business because of the “mind your own business” attitude that sometimes prevails – people want privacy when it suits them and for people to come running when they need them.

    This doesn’t excuse such situations where a person is clearly in hardship or need and needs assistance and people around them can see this.

  3. I gave up on other Muslims looking out for me, even when I reached out for help in times of crisis. On rare occasions you meet an exceptional person who will stand by you through thick and thin. But often, they bounce out. Seems like the family and ethnic ties between Muslims from immigrant communities are functional. But even the ethnic ties between converts don’t help build solidarity, nor do we really look out for each other. Depressingly, most converts [especially women] grieve or suffer in isolation. Al-humdulillah, I’m in this for the worship of Allah and love of his Messenger, not for what Muslims do. People want to blame islamaphobes, but really it is Muslims who are the worst detractors of Islam. 😦

    Can I cross post this?

  4. mnt, walaikum salaam. As you noted many cultural and familial barriers in the Muslim community prevent some from accessing services. I know there is certainly a stigma in both my cultural communities towards accessing mental health services. Unfortunately, there are not many religious and culturally appropriate services out there for us to use. We do need more Muslim therapists, life coaches and psychcologists. At the same time people must be willing to go to them.

    Umm Salihah,

    Walaikum salaam. You are one of the fortunate few who have a support system. To be quite honest, even if I wanted to speak with some of the people in my community I worry about my business being put out there. (And my fear is not unfounded since it has happened to people far too often).

    As a convert I have learned that I am ON MY OWN.

    Margari,

    I’m with you! I just have to ask Allah for assistance and be willing to go it alone or find help outside of the community. I have some sisters I can call on but you know what, some of them have their own problems and situations. They’re not in the position to help me even if they wanted to. I’m also done trying to get help from imams. At best they can listen to your problem for all of 15 minutes (with no follow up or focus) and worst they’re m.i.a.

    Feel free to link me anytime.

  5. This really hits home for me. Thanks.

    I feel that I could never really go to the Muslim community to talk about my problems.

  6. AOA,

    Thank you for bringing up this issue. We live in a society where the muslims are following non-muslims in almost every way that there are not that much people who take these issues seriously. This is something that I wanted to do, inshallah, when i have the ability to help others. Well, it seems like you know why the Muslims don’t really rely on other Muslims for help. Why don’t you help out a mosque and give them some suggestions. Maybe you have. So, it would be great if you can help out a Masjid or centre with these services. Maybe you could be of benefit to others you what i mean, especially women. The thing is, us youth need to be serious and stop getting caught up with things like, thug life, hip hop, and focus more on the helping out people and in the end we are earning good deeds.

  7. Ameen Sister Margari! I came to the deen for Allah (swt); otherwise, I would have been gone a long time ago 😦

  8. Salaam… This has been a question of mine for so very long… And because of the memories of slight burning aromatic hair, bruised soul and publicized life “business”…I too have learned that I am on my own out there for the most part…

    I saw myself in many of your examples and not to be able to share when things had hit the fan was like swallowing glass.

    The only thing that keeps me in Islam is the love for Allah SWT- and it is not as many would want me to be…it makes a few more than uncomfortable that I smile in the face of adversity- hard as it has been my love for Allah makes me smile and enjoy this life he gave me with all its wrinkles and smooth patches…

    But oh how I would love to be able to truly trust in someone’s ear once in a while…

    May Allah guide those who would be those ears and allow them to be available to parched mouths…Insha’Allah

  9. Salaam aleikum,

    Well to be honest, Muslims are getting there…in terms of social services- shelters, soup kitchens, etc.

    One thing you can always do is make dua. Here are Duas directly from the Sunnah for times of Grief: http://duapower.com/prayersofhappiness/index.html

    Pass them on to anyone who may need them.

    There are practices in Islam that are to account for this. We are a community, and as such should be there for each other. A grief session doesn’t seem to do justice in my mind, because they are total strangers…rather in Islam we are told to visit the sick and attend funerals just as the Sahabas used to do. Build that community, so that people aren’t strangers to each other and a ‘grief session’ isn’t necessary.

  10. Yes ,muslims defintenly need brothers and sisters who they can turn to.Just yesterday I was told by brother that sometimes he thinks commiting suicde.The brother is about 50yrs.old and very lonely at times.He is on a fixed income.He was seriously hurt on his job about 10yrs.ago.Unfortunely brother to maintain his medical coverage from his formeremployees he has to fight tooth and nail.He would like to get married but he can not maintain a wife on the .After all his bills are paid he barely has any moneyuntil the next month. The community that he attends brotherhood barely exist.And also he is a AfricianAmerican in a community mainly made up of muslims from subcontient and MiddleEast.Basically he is a lone ranger.Many reverts feel know sincere brother and sisterhood from many of the muslims who settle herefrom abroad.On top of that they may have many of there own issues inside there qalb they have yet to address.Mental health issues are serious .This a much needed post.Imams are not all time the solution.Professional men and womantrained in this type of work should be able to adminster it our communties.

  11. Pingback: Grieving Muslims and Predators in the Community « Just Another Angry Black Muslim Woman?

  12. asa.
    more than likely, they/we/i go to non-muslims for support. which may, depending on the problem, serve the useful benefit of humanizing us to non-muslims.

  13. Asalamu Alaikum Wr Wb,

    May Allah reward you for this insightful post. I believe it hit the nail directly on the head and addressed some of ‘our’ problems as an American community of Muslims. My only concern is that we should get caught up in pointing the finger and whistle blowing rather than referencing active initiatives and resources available.

    Secondly, I want to remind myself and my brothers and sisters that we are a product of our society in the sense that the society we live and exist in is an individualistic one. One which rarely looks outside of its own borders except for self benefit. How then do we think we can escape selfishness in our own community.

    My advice to myself and my peers is to take immediate self initiatives to help others, no matter how small it seems. Let’s be less judgmental and more empathetic! Lets raise our children to become unselfish active service providers of their communities, firstly through volunteerism. Let’s have short pockets and long arms! Let’s pursue education, without thinking of the big homes and fancy cars we can purchase in the end, but rather the need in the community that our degrees can fulfill. Let’s not acquire our degrees then abandon the very communities that needs us the most, for communities that are affluent and less needy. I can suggest a hundred more but will stop here. Ultimately, I believe each of us can do with some introspection to get through this harsh last days. In the end, we have failed each other!

    So, back to your question of where grieving Muslims go…
    Grieving Muslims can start by looking within, followed by looking for help where ever they may find it. Grieving Muslims can pay it forward as soon as they experience the tiniest bit of relief. Grieving Muslims can become more involved in the process, rather than point fingers (unless the pointing of finger is coupled with solutions). We have to acknowledge every little progress made in this area and shadow those that are successful. We also have to assist in any ongoing initiatives. I will list some resources below, may Allah grant us the ability to increase our list of resources. If you can’t find one that fits, you should consider starting your own.

    http://www.muslimmentalhealth.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=8&Itemid=56

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=120752667
    Asma Hanif at (410) 466-8686 or send donations directly to PO Box 31529, Gwynn Oak, MD 21027.

    http://faithculturalwellness.org/

    http://muslim-mothers.meetup.com/

    http://www.fcwcenter.org/cmac/safmat

    http://www.cafemom.com/group/97/forums/read/11906320/Divorced_muslim_women_support_group

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