Written By: Nina

Those initial months after I walked out of my marriage were like walking through a deathly dream; dazed and not quite conscious. But conscious enough to feel the searing pain. It was as though I could see everyone but no one saw me, I could hear their muffled voices but nothing made sense.
In the wake of any loss, a series of firsts are mandatory.
In my case it was the first time I donned a hijab. It was my first Ramadan without the ex. My first time having to face family and friends who looked at me with curiosity, pity, or judgement. Or all three.  My first time losing family and friends who couldn’t see past their own discomfort enough to see mine.
My first ‘Eid alone.
It wasn’t that I enjoyed Ramadan and ‘Eid a lot during my marriage, it was the fact that I knew my place and had a sense of belonging. Even though it was difficult, I knew the drill. I could pretend I was doing what I thought I was supposed to be doing: Playing the dutiful wife, keeping up (Oscar-winning) appearances. The line between pretending and reality is so very fine it blurs before you can blink.
Subsequent days marked many more firsts in my life. They each marked and measured one thing: the huge change in my life, my utter loneliness and how ill-equipped I was at handling it all.
Initially I was frozen, locked in a nightmare-like paralysis, conscious but unable to move, ridden with guilt, trying to start a life again when really, I was clutching at the wrong straws, doing most of it wrong and in all honesty, failing miserably.
Somehow I made it through that first Ramadan. I mindlessly made it racked in grief and numbness.  My breath would catch over and over. Minutes felt torturous, hours endless. I don’t even remember that ‘Eid, it has vanished from my memory.
Teetering between a new-found Islam and an inexplicable desire to jump back into the abyss of my old life, I clung on only to God. The only sure knowledge, that He would catch me. Little did I realise that He already had.
As the months rolled on, I became accustomed to my life alone. I had lost in a heartbeat the life I thought I owned. My home, my things, my child’s toys. The family I would visit, the friends I would see over a BBQ or dinner. The invitations and gatherings. My job, colleagues, the bus routes and the markets I frequented alone on days off and the trains I would joyfully ride to the places I had grown to love.
Ironically I never missed him, not for a minute. He had damaged me to a depth I could not quite fathom. No, it was the routine, the pace, the sense of belonging even through the misery and horror – I had a place. I had now lost it.
I felt displaced as I slept on my parents’ floor, dealt with their grief of watching their girl fall apart, all the while trying to sift through my own grief. My home gone, my independence lost. Nothing felt familiar anymore. Not even myself. I was broken.
I began comfort eating, put on weight, shut myself off and lost what little was left of my confidence and self-esteem.
I could repeat only one thing ‘Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raaji’oon’. I held on to it as though it were a life line.
I knew only the basics of my deen at the time. A newly-practising, unknowledgeable Muslim, I only knew with absolute certainty that I believed my Lord was merciful. I had never doubted His existence.
I learned the story and du’a of Umm Salamah. A good woman, whose beloved husband died and left her devastated. At that moment she uttered only,

‘Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raaji’oon, Allahuma jurni fi museebati wakhlif li khayran minha’.
To Allah we belong and to Him is our return, Oh Allah recompense me for my affliction and replace it with better’ (Sahih Muslim)

Umm Salamah went on to marry the Prophet ﷺ. It blew my mind that her faith at her time of calamity bore such a sweet beautiful reward. I held on to this du’a with the last shreds of hope I had, whispering it under my breath whenever I felt hopeless. 
I learned slowly that if I didn’t make an effort nothing would change. I enrolled into short courses and took my child to mother and baby events. Truth be told I think I was too weak to want to live, but I was forced to do it for that little child who clung onto me day and night. I couldn’t leave him to rot in my sadness and so the fight began.
Step by uphill step.
To be continued in part two

Nina is a British expat loving her experiences abroad as a wife, mother and teacher. Nina has a passion for complementary health, deep reflections and a daydream over a good cup of tea! She hopes to turn her skills and experiences into a means to help other women in the near future.

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