What to leave behind and what to carry forward

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I surprised myself while talking to a friend for hours yesterday afternoon. It was all about my regrets and the memories of those who are no more in this world. Ali Farzan, my only son who left for the other world just before turning ten, kept on coming up. Four years after his departure I claim to be back to the mainstream, but that conversation betrayed the claim. The second surprise came in the mosque in the evening when I reminded Allah Mian my love and yearning for Ali Farzan. It was the same monologue I made the day Ali Farzan left me. While looking back, I used to consider that conversation as a complaint to the Almighty. In past four years I thought I had gradually come out of that intense moaning, but that conversation with the Almighty in the mosque negated my declaration.

These two instances resulted in two questions – Where am I standing in my trauma after these long years? What should I discard and what to take forward from that loss?

Overall, I find myself much more content these days and view it is as a sign of recovery. I keep thinking about the steps I need to take to move forward. I feel the warmth of people around and receive the vibes of jubilation in happy crowds. I ponder on things and events around. All these are indicators of moving forward. I am over the days when memories of Ali Farzan were my only engagement from dawn to dusk. I am done with the complaints of emptiness in my life after his departure. I am through with the escape from life and people. And yet I ask myself, if all this is true, why had I behaved like that yesterday. Perhaps it is the timing. Eid is approaching and the fond memories of shopping and celebrations with Ali Farzan pop-up. Also, these are the last days of Ramzan, I feel close to Allah in this holy month. In the grip of that feeling I remove all the filters and open my heart to the Almighty. So, the vulnerability might have sprung from the point of time. And I must take such episodes as a part of recovery. As someone said, healing from trauma is not linear and such days will come but will go also.

Regrets are the most painful aspect of loss. You regret what your loved ones wanted but you did not do those things. You regret what you tried for the loved ones but it did not work. You regret the absence of the loved ones in the present. I was not unhappy for any of these while talking to the friend yesterday. I have stopped thinking what Ali Farzan would have been doing today. It was very hard to discontinue considering that but it was one of the big steps I took to move forward. I do have guilt of not fulfilling some of his small wishes because of my limitations or because of my proclaimed wise motherhood. Being an educationist, I thought I knew how to prepare him for worldly success. That preparedness deprived him of many freedoms and leisure. Maybe that onus was playing in the claim of love for him made to Allah Mian in the mosque. While talking to the friend, the long list of regrets ended when I was asked to plan a day if given a free choice. I made a list of all the prank ideas I have. So those complaints had less to do with the loss and more to the disciplines I find my life enchained with. The departure of Ali Farzan has resulted in one positive change in my life. Less interest in worldly gains have led to less surrender to social rules. For instance, previously I was social because of my desire to keep everyone happy. After the shift, I have given up that desire and stick to people I am happy with. This freedom from self-imposed social responsibility has resulted in even dreaming of pranks. All of this makes me think I am growing up after the loss.

Some part of recovery from loss is natural – you heal with time. Some part of it is intentional – you make considerable efforts to come back to the crowd. The list of things to discard is one such effort. After working on that list, I am making another – of things to take forward. Why should I shut down tender feeling associated with motherhood? Why should I take a back seat and deprive myself of the joys of life because of the pain that will stay in my heart forever? Why should I look sober because I am a grieving mother? My son would have never wished these for his mother. His pure love for me was a wonder and his care for me was a blessing. I must take care of myself as he did when he was holding my hand while crossing a road. I must retain the love which sprung in my heart from his company. I must reclaim the joys in life like I claimed in his presence. Ali Farzan’s mother should be content and smiling if she wants him to remain joyful somewhere else.


Isbah Ali Farzan belongs to the field of educational assessment. She has worked for UNESCO, American Institutes for Research, Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority, and The Aga Khan University-Examination Board. She is a recipient of Commonwealth Distance Learning Scholarship, Endeavour Executive Award, and the Fulbright Scholarship. These days, she is doing her PhD from The University of Memphis-USA.

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