A mother’s greatest fear is to bury her child, to let go of a daughter or son before their time. This loss is beyond words, and the pain is visceral, clenching at the core of a mother’s heart.
Myrvatte felt this very pain when she lost her son to stray bullets minutes after he left his home to visit some friends. Caught in the middle of a recently-erupted conflict between residents of the Jabal Mohsen and Bab-al-Tabbaneh neighborhoods in Northern Lebanon, Myrvatte’s 20-year-old son was ripped away from her seven years ago and she stayed in total isolation for three years after that. She would never again hear Moussa’s voice or feel his warm embrace, and for the first time since he was born, she felt alone.
Moussa was her future, and the person she thought who would finally take care of her. For years, she had been the caregiver of her whole family, the person who always said “yes” to requests, and put others before herself. With a sick husband and three married daughters, each caring for their own families, her son was her only hope.
Overcome with grief, guilt, and self-blame, she slowly began to isolate herself from her social circles. For the first three years, she only left her home to visit her son’s grave. She neglected her relationships with her daughters, her routines, and, with time, she even neglected herself. The stray bullets had not only taken away her son, but had robbed her of her happiness, putting her in a state of severe depression. She was suffering from crying spells for most of the day, excessive sadness and feeling blue She was isolated and lonely. Furthermore, she had to face and deal with panic attack symptoms, stomach aches, and excessive fears and worries.
When Myrvatte visited Restart Center and began therapy, she felt heard for the first time in years. Finally, someone sitting across from her empathized with what she went through, listened to her, and did not ask her to change the subject. Myrvatte’s therapist normalized her experience, validated her feelings, and explained how unresolved grief can impact a person’s life – the toll it takes on the mind, body, and psyche. Suddenly, her crying spells, social isolation, panic attacks, and stomach aches all made sense. From that point on, she and her therapist went on a journey that would lead Myrvatte out of the helpless and hopeless world she had lived in for years.
Through her therapeutic journey, she learned to accept her son’s death and challenge her thoughts about the mistakes she felt she made in raising him. “I should have let him be his own man, instead of telling him what to do, who to be, and how to live,” she would say.
She learned to forgive herself and let go of the guilt she feels towards her son’s death. Myrvatte and her therapist discovered a way to keep him close to her heart without forgetting to live her life. Every day, she gives herself a couple of hours to remember him fondly. Otherwise, she turns her attention to her other children and dedicates her day to spend quality time with each daughter. With time and help, she has reintegrated into her social circles and returned to her favorite hobby, making mouneh (homemade foods and drinks). Moving a step further, with her therapist’s encouragement and support, Myrvatte reestablished contact with organizations to sell her mouneh, losing all feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. She became engaged in society, getting to know and learn from new people. She expressed that listening to other peoples’ stories helped her relate and reflect on her own stories. Selling her mouneh empowered her; increasing her self-esteem and changing her whole image about herself.
For years, she believed there has no one to help her, despite being there for others. She always took care of others, unfortunately assuming that it meant she could not take care of herself. Through role-plays, Myrvatte realized that she could help herself, that she could be supportive of her own interests and endeavors. She learned to assert herself, claim her rights and to no longer be a “yes” kind of woman. Gradually, she was able to achieve a balanced life that she was satisfied and happy with, a life where she took care of others and herself.
Seven years later, Myrvatte is on the phone with her therapist at Restart, speaking with a warm voice, brimming with a newfound sense of self-confidence and strength. She is telling her therapist about how she went to the market recently with her daughters. She needed a change of clothes, something not in the shade of black. Unfortunately, she did not find anything to her liking, but she did enjoy the day out with her daughters.
Today, Myrvatte is no longer a victim of life’s harsh reality, but an active participant paving her path in the world she lives in. Myrvatte found herself again, as a mother, a wife, and a woman.