How To Deal With Sadness and Trauma

Yesterday I spoke to my mom on the phone and she informed me of some news that brought down my mood. She told me about some recent convert Muslims who committed violent crimes in America. This caused me to feel sadness and emotional pain because it seems that Muslims today are bombarded with negative news stories about people of our faith.

So, yes, I felt sad and experienced negative thoughts such as, “Why does this keep happening to us?” and “Why is it so hard to try to represent my faith as the kind and good religion that it is?”

This brought back memories of 9/11. At that time I was in college and was very active in the Muslim Students Association. I would stand at booths in front of the cafeteria and pass out pamphlets about Islam and try to clear up misconceptions about Islam (such as that Islam supports terrorism or oppresses women). When 9/11 happened, I felt so sad, as an American and as a Muslim.

I feel that this current time is traumatic for Muslims in so many ways.

So yesterday’s news from my mom was a real downer, and I had to pull out my toolbox of “coping skills”. So here are some tools to use when you are feeling down and dealing with something traumatic:

  1. As always, be aware of yourself. Be aware when your emotions are taking a downturn. If you are not aware of your inner world, then you will not even know when to start using coping skills in the first place, and you may do something that you regret.
  2. Turn to Allah (swt) and make duaa/talk to Him. Some Muslims are not aware that you can talk to Allah in your own words. Some Muslims think that you need to recite Arabic to talk to Allah. Please understand that a duaa can be a personal conversation with Allah. Here is an example of a duaa I made last night:

“Oh Allah, please help me in this time of sadness. Please help me to be a better Muslim to You and to have the right manners before You. Please help our ummah in this difficult time.”

  1. Give yourself time. It takes time to return to inner peace when you are feeling really down. Don’t rush the process. Give yourself time to grieve and heal.
  2. Talk to others. Seek support. Don’t isolate yourself.
  3. Remember that everything that happens is by Allah’s permission and will. As Muslims, we must accept Allah’s will, i.e. His Divine Decree. Consider this verse:

“No disaster strikes except by permission of Allah. And whoever believes in Allah – He will guide his heart. And Allah is Knowing of all things.” (Holy Quran 64:11)

  1. Remember that Islam teaches us to be patient. Consider this verse: “Do you think that you will enter paradise without such trials as came to those who passed away before you? They experienced suffering and adversity and were so shaken in spirit that even the Prophet and the faithful who were with him cried, ‘When will Allah’s help come?’ Ah, verily the help of Allah is near.” (The Holy Quran 2:214). Understand that it is normal to be “shaken in spirit” sometimes. Even Prophets were “shaken in spirit” at times. Just be patient.
  2. Work through your thoughts by understanding the thoughts that are causing your feelings. Learn to replace your negative thoughts with positive thoughts. Example: I was thinking that many people will look at Muslims in even more negative ways. After some time, I replaced this thought with: “I think that people will now be more interested in meeting Muslims who are trying to make this world a better place and who are good people.”
  3. Tap into your inner wisdom. Islam encourages us to use our reason and to learn from life. You have had many life experiences, and each one is a teacher. Connect with your inner wisdom and reasoning to find the best way to deal with your sadness.

What are some of your coping skills for dealing with sadness?

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