Loss of a Child is the Hardest Goodbye

I had always dreaded goodbyes, feared separating from my family all my life and was destined to face the hardest separation of all. Since the day I started going to boarding school, my only fear in life was separation as I went to boarding school at the age of six.

At my first boarding school, I had my older sisters with me and two years later my younger brother joined the boys’ school and I was able to see him during school days as the young boys came daily to our school until grade 3. I remember that I spent all my breaks with him and felt very sad that he had to leave at the end of the day while my two other sisters and I were fortunate to stay together. It broke my heart to see him leave every afternoon and I looked forward to seeing him the next day.

My nightmare as a child was that the summer vacation will end and we will no more be together as a family as we had to go back to school. I remember my sleepless nights as the second half of the vacation started announcing that the end of the holiday is on its way. My only joy then was to be at home with my parents and siblings. Nothing more!

After finishing elementary school in Ramallah, I went to another boarding school in Beirut, leaving behind my siblings except for my eldest sister who went to university in Beirut and was able to see me at weekends. The fear of having summer vacations end grew more.

During the summer holiday, I spent most of my time at home and hardly had the joy that young girls would have in going out. I was satisfied by being around family and by reading novels. My family and books were all what I needed.  I did not aspire to go out as my joy was by spending my time with my family.  I learnt to play backgammon, my father’s favorite game, so that I can play with him and spent time in the kitchen with my mother helping her. I did not want to lose any of those moments without my family.

Fear of separation from my family stayed with me as I went to university and when I started working in Bahrain. Sometimes our destiny is to stay separated. I hated saying goodbye to my parents and to my siblings and shed tears at every goodbye.

Little did I know then that the hardest goodbye was few years ahead and I would be shedding tears all my life. I got married in Bahrain and continued to live away from my family. My tears never stopped when I said goodbye particularly to my parents. It took me several days to recover and settle after coming back home.

I had three wonderful kids, and they and my husband were my new family. I could not imagine separating from them unless I had to. I was compelled to leave my two older kids with my family when I went to do my doctorate defense in the UK. My son was going to turn three that month and my daughter, two years in three months. I was eight months pregnant with my third and youngest child, so I guess I can say she came along with me.

I cried my heart out leaving my two children during the five days I was away. I had sleepless nights and called them daily to hear their voices. As time went by and even after having my own family, I kept on crying while saying goodbyes to my parents and siblings.

The day then came when my eldest child had to leave to university in the UK followed a year after by my second child and it was very painful. I knew of course that it is for their best but I could not help but suffer. The time came when my youngest daughter had to leave to university to join her siblings and keep the nest empty. I was so scared of this separation and she was worried about me.

However, destiny had planned a forced goodbye for me, a separation unlike any other! My daughter died at the age of 18 in a car accident two weeks before going to university and I had to face the worst separation ever and the hardest goodbye!

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Randah Hamadeh

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Randah Ribhi Hamadeh is the Vice Dean for Graduate Studies and Research and Professor in Family and Community Medicine, College of Medicine and Medical Sciences, Arabian Gulf University, Kingdom of Bahrain. She received her Doctorate in Community Medicine from the University of Oxford, United Kingdom and her bachelor and master degrees from the American University of Beirut, Lebanon. She is married and the mother of three; Omar, Qadar and Samar. Dr. Hamadeh started writing poetry following the death of her 18-year-old daughter, Samar, in a car accident in September 2006. She authored one grief poetry book in English: Summer Rays: Solace To Bereaved Parents and three in Arabic: Samar Is With Us, Samar, the Sun that Does Not Set and Samar—Sunset and Sunrise. Several of her poems from her English poetry book, Summer Rays: Solace to Bereaved Parents have been posted on her daughter, Samar Al Ansari’s blog (www.samaralansari.com) and the Open to Hope Community website. Her poems have been used in the Compassionate Friends newsletters and several grief blogs. In addition to the blog that was created in memory of her daughter, Samar Al Ansari, Dr. Hamadeh has opened a Facebook page in 2010 for Bereaved Arab Families and Friends (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Bereaved-Arab-Families-and-Friends/1178621782744550) to provide a venue for bereaved Arab families and friends to get support and comfort wherever they are. Dr. Hamadeh can be contacted by email (randahhamadeh@hotmail.com) and Twitter (@UmSamar).

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  • Such a story of good-bye. From the time you were just a little girl and had all of those separations. It feels so lonely to me. It is a search for peace which is the ultimate home.

    The absence of your beautiful Samar is painful to me on many levels: your sorrow and mine. Your good-bye was abrupt and mine was long; both were and are an agony.

    How brave that you now use your loss to help Arab families who otherwise might not have the compassion you share. You are a wonderful blessing, Randah. I send you hugs from the USA.

  • Mary Jane, Thank you for your touching comment, your kind words and continuous support.

  • Karlien Jordaan says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss:’(

  • Maggi Crowston-Boaler says:

    I’m torn to pieces by my grief at the death of my elder son. I simply don’t know where to turn……

  • Azza says:

    Dear Dr. Hamadeh: I felt your pain and wanted to post a comment. What comes to my mind whenever a calamity hits is Prophets Muhammad example – when he lost his son, Ibraheem, he cried but said what meant the following: “the heart is sad, and eye is tearful, and for your loss, Ibraheem, we are very sad, but we only say what pleases Allah… Oh, God, give me patience and give me the full reward in my loss..” Recall that on the occasion of Isra and Meraj, ascent to heaven, Prophet Muhammed met Prophet Ibraheem and he had so many young children around him, so he asked who are these children. Prophet Ibraheem replied these are the children who died young in their lives, they await for their parents in the day of judgment to give their parents cool water where other people would be thirsty on that day. Turn to Allah and inshaAllah He will give you the peace and contentment until the day you meet your daughter at the gates of Jannah. Have you listed to Hamza Yusuf lecture on the 17 benefits of tribulation? It helped me greatly when I listed to it a few years ago. Fe Amani Allah.