Rafed English

The stages of mourning

Adapted from: "The Uprising of Ashura and Responses to Doubts" by: "‘Ali Asghar Ridwani"

Mourning or crying has an exterior (outer manifestation) and an interior (inner manifestation). Its outer appearance is physiological, and is a result of psychological influences by means of external or internal stimuli, such as thought and reflection. These psychological effects enter the physiology of the brain and the nerves and activate a special part of the brain which sends messages to the lachrymal glands to stimulate the eyes to become active. The result is that tears flow and this is what is known as crying.

The interior or mental manifestation of crying comprises its internal psychological effects. The psychological view, to which we concur, is that crying establishes affectionate and benevolent feelings.

Crying is emphasized in the traditions [hadiths], to the extent that it has been said that crying, causing others to cry or even being in a mood of lamentation when a person attends mourning ceremonies for Imam al-Husayn (as) is a source of both worldly and heavenly benefits. Here that which is implied is the internal effects.

The internal psychological consequences of crying are divided into four types. The first is directed at the self and its repressed needs. This type of crying can intensify depression and can also cause an individual’s social abilities to be disturbed or confused.

However, the other three types of crying are encouraging and motivational because they have an inverse relationship with sorrow and depression. The first kind of crying is as a result of real sorrow caused, for example, by death; but the other three types do not possess real sorrow for present events, even though they take place in present-day mourning ceremonies. The four types of crying are as follows:

1. Crying as a result of relationship and affection

This type of crying takes place due to problems or when tragic events, like bereavement of a beloved, come to pass. Crying of this kind does not usually happen out of one’s own volition, but occurs involuntarily. This type of crying, in the terminology of psychologists and mental therapists, is termed psychological emptying or emotional release of the aroused feelings and is related to the individual and his repressed or unfulfilled needs.

2. Crying as a result of belief

This type of crying is that of a person who sheds tears during supplication while evaluating his present and future deeds and circumstances. This type of crying has its roots in faith and ideology and is not related to fears about this world and our day to day life.

3. Crying to seek perfection and excellence

Sometimes crying is a result of seeking virtue and moral perfection, like the crying which takes place when a teacher, a moral adviser, a prophet, an imam or anyone of high moral calibre departs this life. This type of crying views things from this perspective that we, in the deepest recesses of our hearts, have a strong admiration for perfection and spiritual growth.

We are overwhelmed when these types of perfection are available, and we become distressed when they are lost. The crying that takes place in mourning ceremonies is sometimes of this type.

4. Crying for the persecuted and oppressed

In this type of crying, we feel sympathy for one who is being treated unjustly or inhumanely like when we cry because of the harsh oppression that was imposed upon the Holy Prophet (S) and the Holy Imams (as), especially the brutal oppression which was committed against the Doyen of Martyrs, Imam al-Husayn (as), and other numerous hardships that the Ahl al-Bayt (as) suffered.

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