Don’t judge our grief
Today is Mother's Day, but my heart aches as a grieving mother. The beautiful child who introduced me to the world of motherhood is no longer with me. I cannot bear to celebrate this occasion, as it feels like a cruel reminder of the tremendous loss that I have suffered. The wounds that I carry within me are raw – a constant source of pain, one that is impossible to put into words. The sorrow that I feel is beyond words and might be unfathomable to anyone who has not experienced such pain.
My beloved daughter, Mehwish Masha Al Mubdee, passed away last year in a way that feels out of order. As a mother, I believe that children should never die before their parents. Masha was only 4-months-and-23-days old when she passed away in her sleep. She had several complex congenital heart defects, and even now, I am uncertain whether she suffered from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or an acute pulmonary embolism, since we chose not to perform an autopsy.
As her mother, I can proudly say that I did everything humanly possible to save her, from the moment her condition was diagnosed. But, sometimes, I wonder if my efforts caused her more pain or brought her any relief. The people who have offered me the most valuable support and compassion during my journey of grief believe that Masha passed away peacefully and embraced a painless death. However, since she was too young to speak, I am unsure whether she went gently into that good night.
All that remains now are memories of the precious moments I shared with my little daughter. We were able to go through one of her three bypass surgeries before she left us, and in the following days, we made the most of our time together. We celebrated our first Eid outside of Bangladesh during her treatment; went for walks, did some online shopping, dined out, and even enjoyed some cosy TV time together. We listened to music, danced around the room in front of the mirror, and giggled together.
I vividly recall the night before she passed away. We were watching a vlog about budget-friendly trips to the Maldives, dreaming of exploring the world with her by our side. It was a moment of hope and happiness amidst the pain and uncertainty of her condition.
But the next morning, she did not wake up. We found her cold and bluish body lying between us. Since then, and for a lifetime, she would no longer be in my arms, in front of my eyes, or in her daisy-print bed. As she left us at such a young age, many people do not have any memories of her, or they may have forgotten her over time. It's natural for people to believe that the intensity of grief decreases over time, but does that mean that I am no longer a mother? Has there been any change in my maternal identity? Or do people really think that she is no longer my priority?
I yearn to say that grief knows no bounds of language, time, or situation. At times, it feels like a dream, like the one I had this morning, where I held and caressed my beloved daughter. It was a tender moment – perhaps you experience it with your children every day. I sometimes talk to my imaginary baby girl lying on my lap and attempt to lull her to sleep with our very own lullabies. On Fridays, I converse with her grave and share updates on my life, just like you would with your child during a holiday. However, the difference between you and me is profound. To you, it may be just a bad dream, but I live with these nightmares every day.
For the past few days, I was crushed by the Mother's Day advertisements, marketers' messages, and social media posts of new mothers with their little one's hair in a ponytail, posting about how their children have brought them happiness and completeness. But can we hope for even a little bit of compassion from you?
You might say, "Everything in the world happens for a reason." But can you explain why my precious child was buried underground for the rest of their life?
You might say, "Allah has accepted her as the daisy of heaven." But how can you justify the only flower from my garden being picked too soon?
All I am asking is that you show us some compassion, it is the least you can do for us. Compassion might just be the medicine the world needs most at the moment.
It's also disheartening that grieving mothers are often subjected to unfair and contradictory perceptions. If we express our pain openly, we may be seen as being attention-seeking, but if we keep it to ourselves, we're criticised for not grieving enough. If we find it difficult to move on, we're accused of being stuck in our grief, and if we cope and carry on, we're judged for moving on too quickly. There seems to be no acceptable way for a grieving mother to behave or feel. But don't you feel this constant scrutiny and criticism is unfair?
Individuals who make such statements are usually those who haven't experienced the trauma of watching their child battling for their life in a hospital. They are the lucky ones who haven't held their fragile baby, whose body turned blue in their arms. They haven't gone to check on their children, only to find them lifeless and cold in their beds. While one may say, "God needed another angel," it is worth noting that God did not request their child from them.
On this Mother's Day, may I make a request to this world? Please refrain from judging us or offering unsolicited advice. Those who haven't experienced the devastating loss of a child cannot fathom the intensity of our pain. We have battled relentlessly, doing everything within our human capacity to save our babies, but we have been unsuccessful. Our hearts are shattered, and the wounds are still fresh. We implore those around us to show us compassion, as judgement only exacerbates our unending sorrow and anger.
Nilima Jahan is a staff reporter at The Daily Star. She can be contacted at [email protected]