When I come across someone going through their own hardship, be it bereavement, illness, struggles in a relationship, or financial loss, I often say to them, “life is not meant to be easy, so don’t be too harsh on yourself if you are struggling to cope”.
Monday, January 14th 2008, 8.30am, marked a moment that changed my life forever; my second pregnancy resulted in my baby girl being stillborn. I can remember every single second of that day. Those heartbreaking memories will stay with me for as long as I live. For me, the remainder of that year came and went as if it had never existed; I sat alone for most of it, overwhelmed by sorrow. Allah’s Grace comforted me through my darkest moments. Alhamdulilah, now five years on, I can see all the blessings that Allah bestowed upon me through that beautiful child – SubhanAllah.
For reasons that I cannot explain, come the anniversary of this date, I will trip up and fall. For most of the year, I can hold my head up high and keep up appearances. I show the world what it expects to see – smiles, laughs, jokes, and conversations. But, when 14th January arrives, I unexpectedly stumble, no matter how content and happy I feel the day before. It’s at that stumbling moment when I have to quickly remind myself of that vital phrase – “Zaida, if life is not meant to be easy, then don’t be too harsh on yourself if you are struggling to cope”.
Monday, January the 14th, 2013 marked five years of my daughter’s stillbirth, and it hit me that much harder as it was, again, a Monday. I cannot explain why it hurt that little bit more, I was simply painfully aware that the day that would have been her fifth birthday, was the same day she had been born.
There is a cruel cliché that always strikes me on this day – “the world doesn’t stop for anyone”. This statement rang true as I carried out all those routine tasks: wake up, pray Fajr, get dressed, make the packed lunches, wake my daughter up for school, make breakfast, and rush out of the door. I reserve my usual chat to the mums at school as we wait for the children to go in, and after that point, my routine stopped.
Rather than walk back to my car and head to work, I walk down to the florist and collect the posies I had ordered a month ago. I then head home and wait for my husband to take me to visit the grave.
During that wait, I sit and silently contemplate. Although the world continues to spin in routine, I sit there in stillness. Undisturbed, my mind will walk through the events of January 14th, 2008 and I’ll sob silently to myself with the occasional voiced cry. As my mind walks through those painful moments, my aching heart will overpower me and paralyse me. I feel the same emotions that I felt on that day, and they leave me just as breathless.
But it’s the stillness and unbearable silence of these days that are so difficult to explain, because neither is in the literal sense. The day doesn’t stop altogether and isn’t spent in complete silence, but instead it’s as if I spend that day in a separate dimension, parallel to everyone else. It’s a momentary shift which happens every year, and it replays itself almost identically every time.
When my husband collects me to visit the grave, our conversation during the journey is as it always is – “How different would it be if she was with us? She’d be so excited about her birthday, and we’d make such a fuss because she wouldn’t have it any other way. I wonder who she’d look like now. I’m sure she’d be a double of her big sister. But… Allah had other plans.”
Silence follows until we reach our destination and arrive at her grave. We clear the previous flowers, lay the posies, and wonder what she may be doing now. We wonder if she has had a moment to miss us yet or if the last five years are hardly a second gone where she is. We wait in that peaceful region of the cemetery until my heart is as content as can be.
The day continues in much the same fashion, in much the same solitude as before, until I am forcefully pushed out of it to recommence life’s routine – the school run begins again and is followed by the mosque run, and although I would appear to be my normal self, I am weeping inside, and it hurts to think of where I was five years ago.
Perhaps I am alone in this experience, but I cannot imagine this to be true. Surely, we all experience a time when the day is spent in this still, silent solitude. Perhaps you are surrounded by people and the hustle and bustle of daily life, and in the midst of it you appear to be doing all the things you would normally do, but the reality you feel inside is so very different. Perhaps you are aware of the stillness and silence that I know, as your thoughts and emotions replay an annual ritual inside of you. Perhaps, like me, you feel guilty as if you do an injustice to yourself for feeling this way again. But, I remind myself “don’t be too harsh on yourself if you are struggling to cope”.
We are all unique and deal with our struggles in different ways, but one thing is universal – be it an anniversary, birth or death, an Eid, a joyous family event, or just another day, we will trip and fall as we feel the pain, as raw as when it originated. But, do not despair; some days are tougher than others. Don’t fight it. Instead, equip your mind by accepting it will be a difficult day, and so, with a struggle, carry yourself through, with the knowledge that at the end of that day, lies a new dawn, inshaAllah.
From your fall, you will stand again, and Allah will make it easy for you as He always does, inshaAllah.