This case-story is a part of series of articles on Mental Health and our experiences in Kashmir to inform and help people better understand mental health issues and reduce the stigma attached to this word. Saima Shah with the consent of the client and on behalf of the client decided to write this story of colossal trauma and regaining control in life.
As I moved closer to the finish line, I could see dad with his arms wide open waiting for me to hug him tight. My heart was pounding. I could barely breathe. But dad’s arms were waiting for me, I had to make it, he was there. He was there for me. His daughter had to win this race. Yes, I was my dad’s elder daughter. I was an athlete. But something changed my life forever. Seems strange, doesn’t it?
Long long time ago, I turned fifteen, what cherished days, what a perfect family! An adorable younger sister, an affectionate mother and my hero – my dad. I remember, as if it was just yesterday, summer days, Urs at Hazratabal. The shrine looked like an ocean of peace on the moonlit night. We went there for Isha prayers. On our way back we bought some fresh, crispy paranthas and halwa. Giggling and chatting in the car, we ate the paranthas. That night after reaching back home, I made a quick prayer, saying “Oh Allah! May my family live happily forever”. Yes, my family was happy, very happy. My sister, such a mischievous little brat, she would sit on my dad’s back and make him run around the whole house like a horse. My mother, a serene, composed lady. She was so patient with all three of us. She would cook different food for each one of us, because we had different choices every time. However, on Sunday we all used to relish eating yakhni. Do you think something is missing here? Do you think we should have had a brother? Well, I don’t think so. Our parents always gave us this feeling that ours is a complete family. Rather, they never felt the need for a son. My father never hesitated in teaching me any of the skills that usually only boys possess. For example, at the age of eight I started playing football, at ten I could change bulbs, at twelve I could fix minor problems of electronic appliances. No, there was no identity crisis. I knew I am a female. It was only to make me more capable and I enjoyed doing such things.
During winters my dad used to go to Kolkata for business. So wintertime was boring. We three used to miss his presence. Days and nights seemed to be longer. As March approached, things seemed brighter again. I waited for dad to come. More eagerly to see what all gifts he had brought for us. But I did not know that Allah had something else stored for us. That winter, Dad did come back but there were no gifts. Do you want to know why? Well, here begins the story. When my dad was leaving from Kolkata he called mom from the airport and said that this time he would buy gifts for us from Delhi. I heard them speak and snatched the phone from my mom. I didn’t let him speak, I just said, “Daddy, you are my hero, you are the best father on earth”.
After a couple of hours, we were surfing channels when a newsflash caught our eye. A plane had crashed. Wait a second. Which plane? It was the same plane on which my dad was travelling. There were three survivors. He was one of them. He was on T.V. being interviewed. But, I could not recognize him. His face was swollen. His lower lip was covering his chin. I could not understand a word of what he was saying. I felt as if his eyes were searching for us. He looked hopeful. He was brought back the same day. He was taken to the hospital directly. When we reached the hospital, all I could hear is 80% burns, 80% burns. After being hospitalized, my dad was alive for twenty-one days, but during these twenty-one days I have seen him dying every single day. Those twenty-one days played havoc with our minds, our hearts and our souls. Our entire world had fallen apart. We were no longer a complete family, no longer a perfect family. Grief was not known to us before this. We thought we were born to perceive bliss forever. Till then, we were unaware about the words coping, surviving, handling, and managing. From here began the struggle of three females to cope up with the agonizing loss.
For long time we could not see ourselves enjoying the things that were so trivial but used to mean a world to us. We could not forget for a split second how Dad was always there around the corner to bloat with happiness on seeing his family together and happy. This tragedy left us devastated and sorrow filled our lives in an unimaginable way. Life for all three of us starting losing its meaning. I could not bear to look at my mom while my own loss was wearing my soul out. And then my little sister’s searching eyes also tore my heart.
But today when I look back at those times I believe that worse than all that could have happened. My mom could have lost her balance and I and my little sister’s lives would have gone haywire. But, we had four possessions with us; these were dad’s friends, his memories, our grandparents and dearest of all – Allah (SWT). These were our assets. Together they became our support system. It has been ten years since my hero left us but he has such compassionate friends that even today they are there for us. I made sure that my mom still would not feel the need for a son. Though it was very hard, as we had no male member in the house anymore. But, with the help of my grand parents and uncles I learnt everything from driving to running a business. However, I could not continue with sports because I could not see myself running a race without getting a hug from my father at the finish line. Maybe I made sports a medium to let go of him. Maybe by leaving sports I made myself accept that he has left us.
But all this did not happen out of blue. Dad’s best friend’s introduced me to a mental health counsellor who helped me through this gigantic grief, helped me find my strengths yet again and gave me the courage to re-structure my life. I visited the counsellor for 9 weeks and the help I received also indirectly helped my family tremendously.
Now Dad resides in our prayers. Sending eisaal-i-sawaab to him brings us enormous contentment. It gives us reassurance that wherever he is, he is at peace. His presence can be felt. His aura is engraved in our hearts. Though we know his body and soul have left but he gave us such glorious memories, that we can cherish them and live with them throughout our lives. Today I feel, that ‘yes, such a dreadful loss can be coped with’. We just need to look around ourselves and identify our assets. I am sure Allah has bestowed each one of us with some assets. Let us stir our souls and become assets for others and for us as well.
(This is a story of one of the Mental Health client’s who used to come for counseling when she started becoming very depressed after this tragic event in the family. Saima Shah is a Mental Health Counsellor working with Medecins Sans Frontieres and worked with this client to help her put the pieces together and get on with life again. Médecins Sans Frontičres (MSF) or Doctors Without Borders is an international humanitarian medical aid organization working in more than 70 countries worldwide. Médecins Sans Frontičres is neutral, impartial, independent, and not linked to any political party or governmental body. Our teams provide emergency medical assistance to people in need, irrespective of their nationality, race or religion. In 1999 MSF was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.)
Lastupdate on : Tue, 27 Apr 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 27 Apr 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 28 Apr 2010 00:00:00 IST
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