Death and loss are not unfamiliar to Narges. Narges was born in Kabul, Afghanistan, and experienced her first loss at three months old when her father was imprisoned and later understood to have been killed during the Russian Invasion in 1979.
She will never know what happened to her father, and thus, there may never be closure to this loss. This has created a sense of emptiness and trauma that was suppressed and unprocessed until Narges was in her mid-20s. But this was not a single loss and trauma to process with a clinician; she experienced war, terror, and multiple losses before she graduated high school. Due to the loss/death of her father, Narges uses these words interchangeably. According to her, "Loss is the death of something."
When we think about loss, we think of someone dying. A loss is the fact or process of losing someone or something, whether to life or death. Narges lost her honor when she was sexually abused by multiple people before age 9, lost her beliefs when the communist government attempted to brainwash her in school, lost her safety and security when she and her family were forced out of her country, lost her self-esteem when she was bullied for the first 4 years of school in the US, lost hope when she lost her maternal and fraternal grandparents, aunt, and uncles, lost her identity when she lost her mom and her only parent - leaving her feeling like an orphan, and most recently, lost her husband to substance use.
Loss is also a traumatic experience of witnessing others' loss and despair, which has surrounded Narges her entire life. Narges has witnessed rape, torture, fatal car accidents, hangings, shootings, terrorist attacks, and burrials. So how can someone survive so much loss, death, and despair, let alone thrive? Narges is transparent about her traumas and experiences with loss and doing her own healing, which gives her a unique advantage in thriving as a clinician, friend, cousin, niece, and business partner.
Resilience and Wisdom from Narges Maududi, LCSW:
Therapy – As an experienced clinician, I understand the importance and benefits of psychotherapy. Over the last two decades, I have worked with multiple therapists to address my grief and loss, complex trauma, and professional growth. I believe ongoing and consistent treatment from a professional is one of the most important factors in mental and emotional health. I would not be where I am personally and professionally if I did not have consistent support from my therapist.
Support – Family, friends, and the community – I grew up with the narratives, "I can't rely on anyone," "I have to do this on my own," "they will judge you if you ask for help," and "you will appear weak when you have needs." During my own journey to health, I can now spot the inaccurate narratives and cognitive distortions. I had to do work on cognitive restructuring to believe that people are accountable and that I am worthy of attention. Now, I am able to reach out to my family, friends, and community to receive support when needed. My relationships are more meaningful and authentic, and my support has grown closer.
Self-care – "Self-care is a dirty word, a selfish act, and it is sometimes associated with guilt." said people who came and left my life. The truth is that self-care is made up of small deeds that do not cost anyone anything. It can be a five-minute walk, a 10-minute meditation, 15 minutes in the morning sun, drinking a cold glass of water every hour, or breathing exercises. I implement positive self-care practices, such as listening to podcasts, working out, going to church, infrared therapy, hikes, and walking a few minutes on Columbo each night. Meditation, aroma therapy, body scans, breath work, prayer, intention setting, and gratitude statements are ways I stay present and remember how much life I get to live. I’ve learned to set goals, express gratitude by handwritten notes or words spoken face-to-face, and plan for fun.
Faith – I have always questioned how having faith can help me. What is it anyway? I was raised in an Islamic community. I was in a dark place for much of my childhood and as a young adult. I was not capable of seeing the light and hope of God or what it means to be loved by my Creator. I, in fact, used to believe that I did not need Divine intervention because karma worked things out. I have recently discovered a new faith and have undeniably recognized God’s presence in my life and heart. Believing in something higher and bigger than ourselves is what fills my heart. The emptiness of not having an earthly father is dissipating each day as I follow my Heavenly Father. My faith has increased my hope, my self-worth, and has made me an emotionally stronger person.
Hope – My mom used to call me an "eternal optimist," and the truth is, I never lose hope. I learned that hope is knowledge and assurance that God will carry me through anything and that things will work out without my worrying or festering. Hope is not a feeling, but a state of mind and action, a trust that everything is transitional and not permanent.
Resilience – I have the ability to withstand stress and adversity, and to cope with the present. It is impossible to be resilient without support. Self-care, hope, and routine despite emotion and faith are main components of resilience. If we do not use the resources available to us, it will be difficult to stay resilient and hopeful. If I only listen to my feelings, my actions will wane. Resilience is about integrating and taking a holistic approach to problems and celebrations.
Stillness – The hardest thing I have ever practiced. Being still, even for a few seconds. These pens place in my mind and heart that I fear the most, but I use those seconds as an opportunity to get to know myself, my fears, my pain, my dreams, my past, my flaws. Having faith and praying to God that He will give me the strength to face what I am afraid of has made it tolerable to be still. He is with me. Stillness has been the key to knowing myself and what needs to be healed in me. I will be a better person, clinician, and friend and leave this world better than I found it.
Sharing my story – there is healing and freedom in sharing my story with others. When I share the tiniest part of my life out loud, I feel as if one of the chains of shame and pain breaks and I shine a little brighter. Freedom is possible for everyone. The work is difficult and extensive, but it’s possible. I do the work I share with my patients because I personally know that everybody is able to heal. Don’t be afraid or ashamed of your story. The world would not be the same without it!