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Matching grief with comfort

A rare initiative, The Grief Directory aims to connect those who need and those who provide…

Matching grief with comfort

The darkness following the death of a loved one, the despair and helplessness together with the huge responsibilities that follow the death of a family member — the sun does not rise for a person who has lost a child. Each new day is an unkind reminder of a life that could have been. There is no closure for a mother, only a piercing pain accompanying the love felt for a child since birth.

Few amongst us would have the courage to direct their grief and loss into a resource that would help many find the comfort they need in their darkest hour. Fatima Ali Haider has done exactly that.

She has translated her loss into an organised forum — to help others cope with loss in a way that will ease their journey just that little bit— through The Grief Directory.

The Western model of support groups, aimed to help afflicted people cope with life, are essential in that society since by and large immediate and extended family are not available — as is the case in a society like ours. Sadly, the old values of communal living and support are now dying here as well.

The Grief Directory is a take on our old values with a modern twist. It is built on the same Eastern values of community help and empowerment with an aim to connect those who need and those who provide.

The Grief Directory aims to help people lessen some of their burden by allowing them to pass on some responsibility to those who want to make a difference. The care of an affected family no longer remains the responsibility of just one family. It is shifted to many others who are willing to shoulder it. This lessens the strain and exhaustion of all family members since many more are willing to be a part of it.

Volunteers can help in any capacity they wish — from providing legal, medical, financial counselling, banking and babysitting services to finding employment, help in buying household equipment, relocating, house maintenance and simply being there to share a meal and offer company.

A volunteer may also help The Grief Directory directly by helping with its website management, accounts and documentation.

The concept can also be said to be analogous to that of a wedding registry in which the couple create a list of all those items that they need to start a new life. The Grief Directory, however, deals with people with less happy dispositions. These people may express their need through regular mail or an email which is then matched by the skill of a person from the resource pool.

Given the makeup of our society where emotional well-being is yet to be considered an important part of overall well-being, there are unspoken needs that are still waiting to be voiced. Fear of what people will say and what effect expression will have on other members of the family are dilemmas that families face every day. For this purpose, a third party may also communicate on behalf of a grieving family or person. Since the dialogue is not between two people, the aspect of emotional dependence is taken away. Communication is between the aggrieved and a resource which does not rely on personal relationships, networks and emotionality.

For greater outreach in a society with low literacy, computer literacy and internet availability, families may also communicate through the old ways of communication. Both parties may communicate in Urdu (forms to be translated soon) and use regular mail instead of email. A volunteer who remains to stay anonymous on the form may do so.

Fatalities in terrorist violence in Pakistan have exceeded 50,000 as of Feb 1, 2015, according to data collected by South Asia Terrorism Portal. The socio economic effects of this cannot be underestimated. Where family breadwinners have been direct victims, financial setbacks have occurred due to lost family income. Psychological problems have set in within children and other family members. Academic performances in school are suffering and affected parents, spouses and siblings are grappling with the task of rebuilding their lives.

Pakistan needs The Grief Directory more than any other place in the world. It not only benefits those who need help but also gives a direction to those who want to help but do not know how to. It gives a sense of purpose to the latter since they can now focus on a tangible area instead of groping in the dark to support an affected person or family.

As long as there is life, there is hope — hope to fit the pieces of a broken puzzle into whole again. To mend hearts and lives, please contact The Grief Directory at [email protected] or visit them on Facebook.

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