The COVID-19 pandemic facing our world today has brought about sweeping changes to every aspect of our lives. At best, it has forced us to change the way we live, work and connect with our family, friends and community. Some have already lost loved ones to this disease, whilst others are fearful for their own lives or the lives of vulnerable people around them. In these strange and stressful times, we look to seek inspiration from Iraq’s orphaned children. Although the situation facing us is a novel one, the children that Al-Ayn has worked with have all been through harsh, unexpected and life-changing events. Their stories have taught us valuable lessons on resilience and overcoming adversity, all of which can be useful for us right now.
- It’s okay to not be okay.
When tragedy strikes, there is a great deal to be distressed and confused about. But because we generally tend to falsely associate maturity with invulnerability, it can be hard to ward off the sense of guilt or shame when we are not demonstrating unfailing strength at all times. However, acknowledging our emotions is the first step to dealing with them. We must allow ourselves to be human and experience the range of emotions we are susceptible to, including hurt, grief and anxiety, if we are to manage them.
When Maryam lost both her father and her brother, she felt incredibly upset and lonely. She allowed herself to experience her grief, and these feelings were reflected in her dark drawings. Eventually, through Al-Ayn’s mental health support programme, she overcame her negative thoughts and her life turned more colourful (as the beautiful peacock drawing hanging in Al-Ayn’s offices can testify!).
Maryam teaches us that it’s okay to not be okay. If Maryam had not acknowledged her negative feelings, she may not have ultimately reached a position where she transcended them. As a philosopher once said, “Moments of losing courage belong to a brave life”.