When I was a teenager, I was not a Muslim, I used to hang out with my friends and didn't spend much time with my family; I was rather arguing with them actually and always went upstairs to my room. Then, I moved to another apartment with one of my Muslima friends and started to work 12 hours every day, so I didn't see them a lot again, but our relationship goes better as I converted to Islam.
Shortly after, I left my country to study abroad, and then got married, so now I see them only once, maximum twice a year. I have a sister, who is 7 years younger than me, so when I was at home, I did not pay much attention to her and our relationship. Now, she got older, so our relationship could be much better… if I was at home. Before I left my country, we got closer to each other, and every time I visit them, we spend many times together.
I feel very bad being far from them. I feel guilty about the time when I was with my family in the same home but didn't appreciate it enough. Now, I am not with them, and it makes me cry many times. I feel bad to not be present in my sister's everyday life, not be there for her as her older sister. We could do so many things if I were there. The same feeling goes for my mom and my dad, but I feel guilty especially for being far from my sister. I feel I don’t know her enough. Sure, we can talk via Skype, Facebook, but it is completely not the same as living with them, going out, watch a movie together, etc.
I find myself many times thinking about the memories of my past when I was young and was with my family, and my parents were still together. (They divorced like 6 years ago. It actually made me happy first, because we were arguing a lot with my dad, and when my sister, my mother and I moved to another apartment, the relationship with my dad became much better. My sister has been suffering a lot, of course, due to their divorce, and I was not able to be with her as much as I should have as I left the country. ).
I cry a lot, and I am so afraid that we will die like this. I mean if they stay as non-Muslims, we will not even meet each other in Paradise. Also, since my graduation from high school, I feel a bit lost. Until graduation, everything was stable, but then I could not continue right away with the university, I didn't know actually where to go. I am interested in many things but did not know where to apply. That's when my parents divorced, too. Then, I went to take a course which I didn't even finish. Instead, I started to work to be able to go to university, they found something interesting abroad to study and went.
alhamdulillah, now I feel I found my way, the career I want, the person I want to live my life with, and I know, inshaAllah, how to achieve my dreams, biznillah, my husband encourages me in everything. But still, this feeling of guilt about how much I have already missed and missed every day from my family's life can't go away from me. I find myself too many times thinking about the past, the good memories of it.
Why do I feel many times that I am living in the past, that I wish to go back, stay like that and not get older? I can't even see old photos without crying. Is that normal and what shall I do? Thank you for your answer.
In this counseling answer:
“Of course, you cannot really leave your current and future life; you cannot go back. But there is something you can do that may draw you out of this “stuck” place and move you to a “happier” place. You have been remembering all of the events in details that led to your current state of relationship with your sister and with your parents; but from a feeling of grief, remorse, and loss. Now, it is time to shift your energy to amends, reparation, and restoration.”
Wa ‘Alaikum Salaam,
You are a young woman. Naturally, you are going to feel a struggle being so far from your family. The unresolved issues from your family’s events and the difficulties regarding relationships within the family will no doubt leave you with some feelings of doubt and insecurity.
In addition to addressing any worries or feelings of guilt that you might have about your own responsibilities and the desires to be there for your sister and your parents, I also want you to “tune into” your possible feelings of grief about your own emotional needs not being met. That might include the separation, feelings of abandonment, and simply being too far away from your parent when you need them. You can acknowledge your feelings without labeling your parents as bad parents.
Feelings are feelings. The best parents will fall short of their children. The point is: acknowledge your own feelings of unmet needs and need for closure on issues that might still distract you. This inner work can be done by journaling your feelings, desires, losses, and emotions. Although you want to connect with your sister and your parent deeply, this work is still important.
Now, from what I have heard from many people, Qatar is a beautiful and wonderful place to live in. It sounds like you have a good marriage and a bright future. Yes, it is normal to grieve the loss of relationships and to wish things have been different. It is very normal, especially if you left before resolving issues and bringing closure to some of the issues. Naturally, you miss the people that you love.
Of course, you cannot really leave your current and future life; you cannot go back. But there is something you can do that may draw you out of this “stuck” place and move you to a “happier” place. You have been remembering all of the events in details that led to your current state of relationship with your sister and with your parents; but from a feeling of grief, remorse, and loss. Now, it is time to shift your energy to amends, reparation, and restoration.
You mentioned that chatting on the internet or via Skype is not enough. I want to say here, before I go on, that even people living in the same state or province often do not have enough time for face to face interaction with their family whom they do love and miss dearly. I am telling you this so that you do not tell yourself that it is the geographical distance that is separating you. In fact, it is a better relationship to your stage in life/ The fact that your energy is focused on career and meeting your life challenges; as it should be. But there are some things that you might want to do to alleviate the sadness in your heart, so that you can enjoy this time in your life with your husband and all of the adventures that are waiting for you.
I want you to remember the events that you have been hashing and rehashing over in your mind that, you feel, caused a wounding in your relationship with your sister. Take each event, words said, actions done in haste, and the fact that you feel that she needs you to be there for her, and journal all of it. Get in touch with how this made you feel.
Next, write a heartfelt letter from the soul, using feelings and “I” statements to your sister and make amends. Let her know how you feel, what you wish for her, how you want to be there for her. Ask her for forgiveness for the things that you feel you have said or done that might have hurt her, and for not being able to be there for her. This action is healing on many levels, and you will feel lighter if you do this. Consider writing letters to your mother and then to your father as well. But also contemplate what good values they have given to you, and let them know how much you appreciate them for what they taught you, for providing and loving you. Let them know that they did a great job!
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In fact, you would not be the woman that you are today if they were not. So, try to find real examples of the values that they taught you, of things that they did for you and with you that resulted in your own healthy and positive self-expression and life. This reparative and restorative connecting will do a lot to heal that lonely, empty, and sad little girl inside you. It will also do a lot to help free you to be the woman that you are inspired to be now.
To address your worry that if your family does not formally become Muslim, they will not enter Paradise; just be a loving, connecting, and warm example to them. Teach them Islamic principles by practicing them. If they do not understand Islamic theology, that will not be a help against them. We cannot be punished for what we do not comprehend. They will be strengthened by your example. When and if they ask you questions, you will be there to answer them. But more than this, they will learn over many years of your consistent example, what the way of peace really is. They are likely to respond to your growth, honestly, and inspired the way of being – to become better people themselves.
Finally, if you continue to work hard, it is possible that in the future you will be able to afford to visit your family in person. Eventually, you will be able to save money and earn vacation time and see them. Who knows, they might find themselves in a position to come and visit you as well.
The world is becoming small, and this is becoming a very common way of life for many families. Indeed, it is usually about after 2 years of marriage that a young woman usually misses her family and needs a visit. Perhaps, there are enough funds between you and your family to facilitate that. If you can visit, I would recommend it.
In the meantime, do continue with Skype and internet. I chat daily online with my son, and it means a lot to me; we have an ongoing conversation! No other generation has had this luxury.
For now, focus on 1. writing those letters and making reparative and restorative amends/ 2. getting established in your work/career 3. Seeing your family if there is a way to visit them. Then, see if your sister can run a consistent chat with you like the one I have mentioned with my son. I do realize that you do not feel this is enough, but it really is a lot, and she does have you in her life supporting her. She does have someone to turn to and to talk to that is private and confidential. This is actually a great benefit!
Once you have completed these actions, shift your focus onto your life goals and being exploring life options and goals with your husband. Hopefully, the letters will help you move through your current block and will forward you to the here and now, as you position yourself, for a bright and joyful future. Do not forget to share your experiences with your family and to send them pictures. Help them to get to know your husband better as well. This will help you, your sister and your parents to feel more connected overall. Allah will bless you if you let go of the situation a little bit. Indeed, prayer helps us do that.
Take things one day at a time and count at least 10 blessings that you do have each and every day.
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