– When a wife turns into a widow.
My husband and I would visit ladies who had lost their husband. Going for ‘afsos’. Never in our wildest imagination could one think that it could happen to us too. It was always something that happens to ‘other’ people.
So, when the ‘W’ word happened to me. It was the greatest shock. The realization comes much later. One is not able to get in sync with the loss of one’s husband. It is extremely hard to realize and adjust to. I won’t even try. Because only a widow can know what it means.
In Pakistan, it takes on another whole dimension of horror upon horror. On the other hand, great consolation and help is also given at the same time. You find so much help, empathy, and sympathy that it does help you get over the initial tide of it. All the minor and major aspects of details are totally handled by one’s near and dear ones.
“Bhabi, just tell us what you want, then leave it all to us!” Was what I heard from my husband’s close friends. They just took over everything. Qasim bhai, Hamdani bhai, Naveed bhai, Ehsan bhai, Shehzada bhai, Ishtiaq bhai, and many others. My uncle Jaffar was everywhere, helping me in any way he could. Whatever was left out, was taken over by my neighbor, and total strangers. All I had to do was meet the people who came to hug me and give me support. All my friends were with me all the time. My daughters, were there to lean on, and take over. My close relatives were there too.
It was all like a haze, yet I realized, there were too many issues on hand. So, here is what I’ve learnt through my experience:
- Be calm and collected. Accept it as Allah’s will. After all, death is a reality. My friend Tahira came and gave me this advice, which helped me immensely. “Do not question Allah’s verdict. Just ACCEPT. Do not question His decision like “Why?” Nor think in terms of “If only….. “ or in urdu we say ‘Kaash” or “I wish….” Remember, whatever happened, when it happened, and how it happened, did so by the will of Allah. If you can accept everything then this is your first major step taken. This advice helped a lot.
- Make your own decisions yourself. You can consult, whom you want. But do not let people decide anything for you. Decide not to ask anyone’s help.
- You would be faced with a barrage of problems and issues. But stay calm. Go with the flow. Accept all people’s help. But nothing beyond the call of necessity.
- Just look up at Him, who took your husband, He will certainly have other things planned for you too. Wait and do whatever He wants for you. Remember, He lives in your heart. As Bulle Shah said: ‘Rab dilan wich rainda.” God lives in one’s heart. So, find out how to do what your heart tells you to do.
- There would also be a barrage of ‘similar’ incidents that will be related to you. Hence your well wishers will be after you to ‘do this’ and ‘do that’.When people advise you, listen to all. Remember, times have changed, from what they were ten, twenty or thirty years ago. (when the advisor’s incident took place.) Remember, we are in a better world today. A thing which was impossible twenty years ago in Pakistan, is more than possible today. It will get even better tomorrow.
- Yet, be appropriate in your dress, mannerism and behavior. Do whatever you want to do. Yet, be realistic and practical.
- In Pakistan, all assets of a person are frozen on his/her death wherever they are. So, now, you are totally without any help from whatever, your husband did for you. All that saving you did, to help your husband in running your home, is all gone now. As it was in his name, and you cannot have any access to it. You can get it, if you are lucky, but everything will take a lot of time. First the ‘succession certificate’ will have to be made by a lawyer.
- Try to get back to your normal home routine as soon as possible. Your family has its own way of living. Make sure you get same foods cooked, and timings of meals, and living style should all be getting back to normal. Your children have lost their father, let them not lose their mother, their home and family as well. Only you, the homemaker can make sure their home is not lost also. Remember, you will have to set the environment of your home.
- Try your best to have your own place, and to be independent. So that you and your children can continue to live your own lives with no interference from anyone. Nor would you be a burden on anyone. Once you decide, the next steps will follow. Don’t say ‘I can’t do this or that.” Ask yourself “how can I do this?” Even start the family outings within a few months.
- Remember, concept of ‘mourning’ is un-Islamic. It is natural for a woman to feel like grieving and you must grieve. However, let it be in private or with very close associates and family.You don’t have to show your sorrow. If you feel like crying, go ahead. But mostly, be cool and calm. No need to let people feel that you are bewildered and upset. They will consider you “weak and incapable”.
This is why it is important for every woman to do the following, though some of these I wasn’t able to do. But I want the women of today, to learn from other’s experiences :
- Have property and assets in your own name in your husband’s lifetime. This is why, those people who put property in Haq Mehr, do a wise thing. If its cash. Invest it, and DO NOT TOUCH IT. It is meant for your security.
- Have a bank account in your name. Make sure you keep a sizable amount in it. Also, have joint account with husband. (While you do that, make sure the ‘either or survivor’ is ticked).
- Remember, Islam allows a woman to keep 100% of her own income in her own name, to be used as she wishes. DO IT.
- Also remember, if you have children, your share will be 1/8 only and ¼ if you have no children. That is your status. So, much for all your investment in your husband’s accounts, and assets.
- In your husband’s life-time, avail every opportunity to be active in management of finances and property belonging to both of you. Prove to your husband that you are capable and interested. When he asks you to pay attention to your lifetime investments, do so. Leave everything and give full attention. Mostly, men do not involve wives, as they think they will not understand. Prove to him, that you are capable of resisting financial temptations to handle future of investments for you and your family.
- Read up books by Suzy Orman ‘The Money Class’ and others, and books like ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’, in order to learn good financial management.
- No one is bothered about the Islamic injunction of taking care of a widow. If they do, watch out, they may have hidden agendas. Though, if you are very lucky they will help you genuinely.
- Pakistanis’ interpretation of Islamic Shariah law is all about grabbing. The parts where the woman owns her own property are conveniently ignored by all. Be firm and determined to hold onto all your assets.
- Show everyone that you are calm, and fully capable of handling your issues. Do not take anyone’s ‘help’. There are many people who will take advantage of this situation..
- Don’t trust anyone, especially when a person says “I’ll handle things for you, how can you go to courts, and get this work done.” Why not? There is nothing wrong in going to courts, or meeting lawyers, or getting work done. All you do, is keep an ‘abaya’ at hand. Don’t you go shopping? Don’t you get stuff done for your children and husband in your normal life? What’s wrong with doing your own thing? Nothing! Believe me, I got used to it all. It is not so bad. In fact, quite interesting.
- Give Sadqa at every step. Do it in Allah’s name daily for your husband, and for yourself and your family. Sadqa can be in form of food given to the needy. Also, it can be in the form of doing something useful for someone in need. Look around and find someone worse off than you, and go out of your way to help that person.
- Read Holy Quran’s Sipara daily. Read the translation only, if you don’t get time. You will get great peace after reading how the prophets handled their own problems. You will read lots of beautiful prayers too.
- Remember one thing: all your life, when you thought it was your parents or husband taking care of you? Well, even then it was God taking care of you through them. Now, He will just continue to take care of you, as before. Things will change, but your Source will remain the same. Have complete confidence in Him, who has taken care of you all your life. You think He won’t now? – When you need Him the most?
- Take care of yourself, as you took care of your husband. Use the extra time on your hands, to spend it on looking after yourself. Exercise, diet, and well being is important – otherwise, you won’t be able to take care of everything and everyone.
- Remember, you are still a complete family – just a single parent one now.
- Read these three ayat, regularly:
- La Illaha Illaho Anta Subhanaka Inni kunto min azzualimeen.
- La haula wala Quwata illa billa he
- Hasbi Allah o wa nemal wakil.