I experienced the saddest moments of my life, as the unthinkable happened to my family, when Samar, my 18-year-old daughter died ten years ago. I never thought that what happened to some parents would ever happen to us. But it did. The death of my youngest daughter was the biggest blow I had in my entire life. Yet as a mother of two other children and a wife, I had to give strength to my family. It was not easy.
Samar’s 10-year anniversary was on September 4. It has prompted me to share with parents, particularly mothers, how I survived those painful years.
I never got angry with God nor blamed him for taking my daughter away from me since the beginning of my grief journey. Instead, I looked for verses in the Holy Quran that would comfort my broken heart.
Honesty with oneself and others
As far as my feelings were concerned, I was always honest with myself as well as with others. I did not hide my pain and my tears. I explained to others that to cry is normal and I did not mind my uninvited tears whatever the situation. I also never pretended to be okay and sometimes answered to the question, “How are you?” by “ Trying my best” or, “I could be better”.
Counting my dead child
When asked how many children I have, I always replied that I have three: a son, a daughter and another daughter in heaven. Sometimes my answer shocked people and at times it provoked sympathy or curiosity.
Mentioning my child’s name
My daughter, Samar, is not a memory but she is alive in my heart, thoughts and my daily life. I make sure that everyone knows that this is how I feel. This is not the norm where I come from but I made it clear that this is what I wanted. I never avoided bringing up her name;, in fact, I brought it up often. I could at times see how it annoyed some, but this did not deter me from doing so. I wanted to mention Samar’s name and have her name mentioned.
I assured those who mistakenly brought her name up that I am thankful that they did since Samar’s name is music to my ears. I also encouraged the few friends and acquaintances who wanted to talk to me about Samar or share a memory to do so.
I am blessed to have my two other children, Omar and Qadar. I am always thankful to having them particularly when I think of other mothers who experienced loss of an only child or two or more children.
Expressing my love to my living children
I continued to love and express my love to my living children as I did for Samar. As their mother, I had to continue being the one they had prior to our loss. I also wanted them to feel that she is with us all the time. I kept her bedroom’s door opened and displayed her photographs around the house.
A blog for my child
Having a blog in Samar’s name (www.samaralansari.com) for me to post on it and to have it as a platform where family, friends, her peers, her teachers, and strangers were able to share their feelings and also to comment on posts was extremely helpful to me. The blog was created few days after Samar passed away. It is true that after ten years, the posts are mostly mine but I know that this blog is still viewed by many and had an impact on some.
Reading about loss of a child
At the beginning of this journey, I started searching for books about the loss of a child and read many only to realize that parents experience and react to losing a child in different ways. I also learned that everyone’s grief journey is personal and I can confirm after those ten years have passed that it is very true.
Writing poetry was a gift that helped me express my feelings. I never wrote poetry before losing Samar. My first poem in Arabic was written a month after her death. It was a balm to my heart in my deepest sorrow. A year later I started writing in English, for which I am thankful, as it enabled me to share my feelings with others around the globe.
I decided to publish my poetry and had my first poetry book in Arabic one a year after losing Samar. In 2009, I published my first English collection of poems, Summer Rays: Solace for Bereave Parents and recently my second English poetry book (fifth in total), Longing for Summer: A Season of Grief . I also posted few of my poems on the Grief Blog and later became an author in the Open to Hope Community Website. Interacting with bereaved parents and sharing my feelings with those who experienced such a loss was very comforting.
Some of my poems were published occasionally in the local newspapers to keep my daughter’s memory alive and to educate the community at large on how bereaved parents feel. To the majority, I had over exposed my personal life and to the minority, they welcomed it.
Dreams and signs
Seeing Samar in a dream has always made me happy and, also when someone told me that she /he dreamt of her, it made my day. I encouraged those who dreamt of Samar to share their dreams with me if they wished. I felt that my daughter wanted to send me messages through those dreams. I also started noticing certain signs that I believe, were from my beloved daughter like having a hotel room bearing her birth date and month. The dreams and the signs brought comfort to my aching heart. I even started writing them down and read them from time to time.
In 2010 I decided to have a Facebook page for Bereaved Arab Families and Friends. I thought then that it is time that Arab bereaved parents have their own page, similar to the Compassionate Friends page. I must admit that the majority of the posts are mine and it is rare that someone writes on this page. This does not discourage me as I am confident that I am helping others.
Samar’s Annual Calendar
Samar’s annual calendar became my November project. I had to think of a different theme each year. I usually give the calendar to family and friends in December. It is well received and some even look forward to getting it and ask me about the time I will be finishing it.
Samar’s Annual Awards
In April, the month of her birth, I prepare the two annual awards in Samar’s name that will be received by two students from her school. One award is in economics and the other in football. I present the former personally at an awards’ ceremony in May and the latter is presented on my behalf by the physical education head. I am grateful that these awards are helping students in their university applications and that Samar’s name will always be mentioned at least twice a year at her school.
Having two palm trees in Samar’s name, one at home and the other in school is also comforting. I watch the tree at her school growing when I go on my weekly visit to the school tree with my husband and when I have a school board meeting. The dates ripen in July and August, and I distribute her trees’ produce to friends.
Samar’s birthday and anniversary
I have special preparations for the two special dates, her birthday in April and death anniversary in September. Flowers will be everywhere in the house with different colors for each occasion. I have my own rituals on those dates as well.
I hope that bereaved parents find what I wrote helpful in their grief journey. This journey is for life; it is personal and I am sure that each bereaved parent would find her/his own way to survive and find means of comfort to soothe the longing and the pain of the most dreadful loss.
Randah Ribhi Hamadeh, Author
Longing for Summer: A Season of Grief
Samar Rays: Solace for Bereaved Parents
Samar Is With Us (Arabic)
Samar: The Sun That Does Not Set (Arabic)
Samar: Sunset and Sunrise (Arabic)