Shadows to Light: Embracing Resilience in the Heart of Gaza

In the heart of Gaza, where the sun once painted golden hues on bustling streets, and the beach, a different palette now prevails—a somber blend of ash, dust, and memories etched in rubble. The savory aroma of home-cooked meals drifting from bustling kitchens, ripe watermelon scents wafting from tiny fruit stands, children’s giggly squeals echoing through Gaza’s alleyways—lay miraged by smog and burning debris. Though once a comforting melody, mothers, their voices trembling, call out for loved ones amidst the chaos, their cries echoing through corridors that bear witness to both laughter and sorrow.

Ahmed, a young boy with eyes that hold ancient stories, navigates this fractured landscape. For him, trauma isn’t an abstract concept—it’s a weight he carries in his chest, a heaviness that settles into the marrow of his bones. The violence that has scarred Gaza isn’t merely physical; it’s psychological, emotional, and spiritual. Ahmed’s heart, like the city itself, bears the imprint of generations—their dreams, their losses, their resilience.

One cannot truly grasp the trauma that grips Gaza without delving into its colonial history. Statistics paint a grim picture: at least 31,272 lives lost, including more than 12,300 children and 8,400 women. An additional 73,000 bear the scars of injury. But Gaza is more than mere numbers; it is a tapestry of resilience woven by families clinging to hope amidst despair.

While physical scars may be visible, the wounds that run deeper—those etched into the heart, mind, and soul—are often less apparent but equally profound. Trauma isn’t confined to external injuries; it’s an experience that overwhelms ones capacity to cope.

For Ahmed—trauma is the sound of explosions echoing in his mind, triggering waves of fear and anxiety that crash over him like a relentless tide. Trauma is his sleep plagued by nightmares—vivid, terrifying scenes of destruction and chaos that play out in his mind’s theater, leaving him gasping for breath in the darkness. During the day, trauma manifests as memories of that fateful day lingering like a heavy cloud, casting a shadow over even the simplest of tasks.

But perhaps the most profound aspect of Ahmed’s trauma is the sense of loss that weighs heavily on his young shoulders. It’s not just the loss of his home, but the loss of his sense of security, his innocence, and his belief in a future free from fear and uncertainty.

You see, it’s not just the physical destruction, but it’s the psychological wound—the flashbacks, the intergenerational trauma, the moral injury—that shape Ahmed’s reality.

Healing begins with acknowledging these unseen wounds. It’s about recognizing the dreams and aspirations that persist even amidst chaos. Ahmed dreams of a future where laughter returns to the streets, where watermelon stands thrive, and where mothers’ calls echo with hope rather than fear. Resilience lies not only in survival but in the pursuit of wellness and wholeness—a collective effort to mend hearts, minds, and souls.

To truly address the impact of trauma that has an imprint on the nervous system, it’s essential to delve into its root causes and address them holistically. This means acknowledging the interconnectedness of physical, emotional, and spiritual health and recognizing that healing must occur on all these levels simultaneously. Treating these realms together is called holistic healing. The historical Islamic tradition has a holistic vision of the human. This is an example of a model of care, in reconnecting with our roots and developing this in the modern world. Islamic tradition of healing, where we had ‘Maristan’, it was not just a hospital, but they were feeding the poor, there was a communal aspect, they had places for people to come where families could visit and serve them tea. It was a much more collectivist approach to community mental health. Prophet Muhammed ﷺ taught us to be oriented towards holistic vision that is based in natural remedies and intuitive creative ways of healing, not just an institutionalized model.

Similarly, the most powerful aspect of Ahmed’s holistic healing journey is the sense of supportive community and solidarity that surrounds him. In Gaza, where trauma is a shared experience, support networks and healing circles offer him a sense of belonging and connection. Through the power of collective healing, he learns that he is not alone in his struggle, finding strength in the knowledge that there are others who understand and empathize with his pain. Several therapeutic techniques such as Accelerated Resolution therapy, guided meditation, positive-reintegration and Islamic psychotherapy might allow him to confront his trauma and process his experiences in a safe and culturally-sensitive environment. Through these practices, Ahmed can begin to untangle the knots of fear and anxiety that have held him captive for so long. Importantly, he realizes how reframing challenges in the light of his faith grants him strength to cope in the face of hardship.

At Nafs Healing we offer compassionate care using different therapeutic support that we creatively integrate to bring transformation. Professor Badri used to say that we have to have ikhlas, the main goal is just helping people and be creative in how we help them: ‘What do I need to do to help them?’ The more tools we have in our tool box to serve individuals, the more personalized care we can offer. We go beyond the traditional talk therapy approaches and address the mind-body connection to enrich individual’s quality of life. As depth-oriented therapist we work at the root of the problem not just the symptoms on the surface to help individuals align with their fitrah. Helping them achieve their development towards witnessing Allah deeper and to healing the body, the mind, the heart and anything that is blocking them from that witnessing.

As the sun rises on a new day, casting its golden light upon the scarred landscape, Gaza stands as a beacon of hope—a reminder that even in the face of unimaginable hardship, the human spirit endures. In the heart of Gaza, amidst the echoes of resilience, lies the promise of a brighter tomorrow—a tomorrow built upon the foundations of healing, compassion, and unwavering hope & spirituality.

Author name : Asiya Shaikh and the Co-author : Hani Habib

March 26, 2024

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