Rafed English

Childhood Trauma

The son aged seven was among the small group of relatives. friends and work-colleagues from a small local community who clustered around the grave. He was watching as the corpse of his father in a white shroud visible through the gaps between the wooden planks disappeared from view by the growing pile of soil. Except for one dim bulb light temporarily hung from a tree branch near the burial place, the cemetery was engulfed in darkness.

The young father was in his usual jovial spirit of a hurry for the work-place that morning when the boy bade Khuda Hafiz to him to catch the school bus which was to arrive any moment. That was the last time that he saw the father alive. That death in the family and the burial was the first experience of the boy in his life.

For the first time, he 'found' how heartless the relatives and friends of his father were. They took away 'his father' in a hurry to bury him and that too with well-rehearsed rituals and as promptly they dispersed, leaving him behind helpless in that awful and dark cemetery while his mother was wailing uncontrollably in protestation back at home. All this was as if they all had set themselves ready in advance for him to collapse and lay dead at the work-place.

Cold And Cruel

The boy at that tender age saw life as deceitful and betrayer. the community cold and cruel, and the world therefore bitter and wicked. He would rather keep his feelings of bitterness against the world to himself than convey them to his young widowed mother only to add to her agony of grief. Perhaps the mother too was part of all the wickedness of the community seeing her trying to make him resign to the sudden disappearance of his father.

The boy would feel anger well up inside him at the solace being offered to him by the relatives because he thought them to be cynic or hypocrites having seen their enthusiasm in the burial. He avoided contacts. He prolonged his absence in the school. The presence of female visitors at home gave him the pretext of a somber recluse in his room.

The scenes of the burial would flash vividly to torment him. The innocent scene of the old person shifting his thick reading glasses back up to the nose-bridge again and again as he went on with his hoarse recitation of the burial "talqeen" kept coming back to his mind again and again. He did not want to wipe the scenes off his mind because by doing so he would also be wiping off his bitterness which he did not want to.

All the indications were that the child has developed not depression or grief -but worse -a typical trauma, which when originating in childhood. is difficult to erase from one's mind completely even after the reality of this life becomes clear. It always keeps haunting in the adult life. It obscures the vision of the goodness of many aspects of, this world.

It rebels at the thought of death being mercy. It becomes less easy to resign to the reality of this world which is attendant with the vicissitudes of life some of which are bitter and have to be accepted as normal. The indications of a trauma vary from person to person who is afflicted according to the degrees of the stress and the circumstances which cause it.

Death Is Mercy

It is essential for the parents to realise that death can visit anyone of them suddenly and much sooner while their child may not have been prepared by them in advance about the reality of this world. He has to be made to understand and accept that this mortal life is a blessing only because it offers the soul an exit in the form of death to an eternal blissful life; hence death is mercy to be awaited and embraced. Death as a subject should not be taboo for discussion with the children in the family. What a moving saying of the holy Prophet in which he points out that death itself is an effective preaching (for those living.)

Apart from the discussion. the most effective preparation is to arrange for the child to have his first experience of witnessing the gusal (body washing), kafan (shrouding) and dafan (burial) of a member of the community, not closely related, under agreeable circumstances while the father is with him explaining the significance of the series of rituals.

Hadhrat Ali (a.s) has also said: "People are the enemy of what they do not know". No wonder that the boy thought the world which is characterised by the death of near and dear ones is enemy because he was not let to know about death -as being an avenue of freedom for the soul from the interim and constrained mortal life to the eternal blissful life.

Adapted from the book: "Child" by: "Mohamed A. Khalfan"

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