navigating grief

by Aqeela Naqvi

No one ever thinks they’ll be the one to lose a friend, family member, a someone, young. No one ever thinks they’ll be that someone that is lost young. But many of us do – and many of us are. Between losing and loss, what pieces of ourselves do we discover? What pieces do we leave behind?

It’s a hard process, navigating this road. Mostly because no matter how much you read about it, no one can really teach you how to deal with grief. No one can tell you how to feel, or if what you feel is okay. It is a solitary sea. And no one can show your hands how to reach into empty places to create ships from air.

Navigating. Learning what faith is, hanging it on the balance, and finding in comparison the worth of your own. Looking into the shadows of yourself that had been too easy to ignore before. Battling yourself in arenas of your soul that, until now, you never knew existed. There are some days you see clearly, and others where your vision is blurred. You exist in a constant back-and-forth between the place you know you should be, and the place you currently are – struggling, suffering defeats, but refusing to be defeated. And learning, always learning.

And in the moments between your head breaking the surface and becoming submerged, there will be those who will attempt to sideline your emotions – will tell you there are only calm seas where you clearly see torrential rains and crashing waves. Who will tell you to stop feeling it instead of dealing with it – as if you would not have already wished the maelstrom away if you possibly could. Who will cram ‘you shoulds’ down your throat until you cannot breathe – because, perhaps to them, silence is an easier remedy than having to hear the strange raggedness of your breath.

But ever has it been that the men furthest from angels perpetually masquerade as them. Forgetting that angels do not feel pain, and thus, cannot be the teachers of healing. Forgetting, that no man has asked for grief – only for the strength to withstand it. And it was the One who granted man that strength, who made man his own greatest teacher.

Because while the world may attempt to simplify your struggle, there is only one Hand that lays on your head and says, Come child, let me hear of your sorrows. And even if the words that come out of your mouth are bitter, there is only one Embrace that opens and says, Let me tend sweetly to your wounds. Not just the knower of the solution, but its Creator, there is only one who will not thrust it in your face with a superior brow. Seeing the mud on your boots, only One who will not turn you from the door, who will not recoil, but will offer you a coat and say, Hold my hand, let us walk in the rain, let me show you the face of healing.

When nothing’s shaken you, it’s too easy to assume the ground where you stand is firm. When you haven’t known darkness, it’s too easy to assume all you’re filled with is light. Your faith is only as strong as when it’s being tested – and for some of us, we find we aren’t nearly as strong as we had thought all along. It may be hard to admit it, but shying away from it in order to externally ‘save face’ only internally denies the spirit room to grow.

Because telling someone to move on is not the same as moving on. Telling someone to understand isn’t the same as understanding. Dictating grief is not human. Helping someone understand it is.

And letting us feel pain, and not tossing us to the waves for it, but through it, helping us find the shore of ourselves, no matter how slowly we get there – that is above human. That is Divine.


“The angels praise God perpetually, but an angel is not broken-hearted. How valuable is a broken heart? I do not know. Every vessel, when broken, loses its value to some extent. But a human heart, when broken, becomes more valuable than before…”

—Ayatullah Shaheed Dastghaib Shirazi