The Paths To My Heart


I am not sure why I have not written in a long time. I try to dissect my feelings.  To open up the bloody mess and follow the veins of my thoughts and explore the chambers of my heart.  I get lost every time.  I must accept that I will never find my way through the clutter.

Of course, I miss Ibrahim.  I have learned that I will always miss him. I miss him in different ways everyday.  Most days, I miss his smell or even the smell of the sterile hospital.  His now-yellowed white hospital hat, which I store in two Ziploc bags and smell daily, no longer has his scent.  So instead, when I visit people at the hospital, I pump the possibly carcinogenic hand sanitizing lotion twice, close my eyes, and breathe it in deeply.  I am immediately taken back to his bedside- his pink abdomen moving rapidly and his lips cracked around the breathing tube. I don’t feel grief ,rather, joy for the short moment with him. I open my eyes to see my husband, the only other being on earth who knows why I do this, looking at me.  I avoid eye contact and rub my hands together as if nothing happened.

Yes, it’s complicated.

My living children remind me of him.  My third child, and second living child, Anabiya, is Ibrahim’s twin.  When she is sleeping, I sometimes pretend she is Ibrahim.  I watch her sleep and count her breaths and revel in the fact that she breathes freely without machines.  I feel guilty when I do this, because I feel like I am not enjoying Anabiya for who she is and only enjoying her for the memories of Ibrahim.  Of course this is not true, I love Anabiya for being Anabiya.  Her resemblance to Ibrahim just makes my path messier.

My son, Musa is a rambunctious one.  I imagine sometimes what it would be like if Ibrahim had lived.  Would he join in with Musa and wreak havoc in my home or would would he help me talk to Musa and explain what he should and shouldn’t be doing?  How much taller than Musa would he be?  Would he know his ABCs?  These questions further muddle how it is that I feel.

After my heart failure, following Anabiya’s birth, doctors advised me not to have anymore children.  I knew I wouldn’t have anymore but having a prognosis  made it a reality I didn’t want to face.  I always liked the idea of having three kids.  I just have to learn to accept that while I only have two living children, I really am the mother of three children- instead of raising Ibrahim, he is in heaven, waiting.  I am at a place where I am content.  I am not ungrateful for all that I have been given.  But I also realize that I am forever altered and cannot pretend that Ibrahim did not exist.

With each child that you have, a new part of you grows, like a limb, and as your child grows, the limb becomes bigger and stronger.  You learn to live with it and cannot imagine surviving without it.  Losing a child is like losing a limb that only the parents of the dead child can see missing.  It is a limb that you must learn to function without.

I am trying to live my life happily.  To function normally with my missing limb.  I want to be a good mother to all of my children.  But what makes this seemingly easy journey messy is doing this without taking away from my children, the dead and the living.  How can I love Ibrahim wholeheartedly while giving my love daily to Musa and Anabiya in a very practical way?  And how can I love my living children in the deep, spiritual way I love my dead son?  I wish I knew how to find this balance.

The rhythmic beat of my life continues as I try to figure out my way. There is no stopping it, and so I continue to love all of my children, each individually for who they are and hope that they can all forgive me for my shortcomings.  Because my children must know that if they were to look deep into the chambers of my heart, they would find only themselves.


Sabina Khan-Ibarra is a freelance writer and editor.  She regularly contributes to her blog, Ibrahim’s Tree which  she created after the loss of her infant son in 2011.  She created Muslimah Montage as a platform for women to share their stories and inspire others. Sabina is also the editor of Hijabulous: Seeing the Veil through the Eyes of American Muslim Women

Read more from Sabina: Finding My Spirituality ; Birth, Loss & In Between, and Raising a Confident Muslim Child in America

A version of this post originally appeared at Ibrahim’s Tree.

6 Comments on “The Paths To My Heart”

  1. Aisha says:

    Sabina, I cannot begin to comprehend the magnitude of your loss. I just now connected that you are the mother who writes at Ibrahim’s Tree. My dear friend shared your site with me a few years ago. I had two miscarriages that gutted me completely and she shared your website and it was of great comfort to me. This is a beautiful love letter to your son. I am so sorry for your loss. And thanks for creating the website that you had to honor him, it helped more women than you may ever know.

  2. Zainab Zeb says:

    This is beautiful. Heart-wrenching. Thank you for sharing this.

  3. Bahry says:

    This is such a beautiful piece. You hit my mixed emotions on the nose/chambers. As we were driving down to SoCal, we passed Vasco, the exit to Five Pillars, where we buried Nur. It was bittersweet. I’m in the car with my living son, making dua for my son who passed, as we make our journey to find closure with my family after my father’s recent demise. Just when I felt I’ve found my bearings, I learn I’m still struggling. Your articles help me sort out my thoughts. Thank you. Love you and your three beautiful children.

  4. The mamá says:

    before I even knew what this was about-the tears started swelling in my eyes! As a grieving mother, I immediately caught on to where this was headed with the all too familiar heaviness in my chest and feeling of that hard to swallow knot in my throat.

    Inna lilahi wa inalilahi rajioon, many cyber hugs to you from Sister to Sister in more ways than one-Holly Garza

  5. The mamá says:

    before I even knew what I was reading was about I immediatelymediately started feeling the dread and realized that it was a post of loss, a deep loss. I’ve known a few losses, each one sadly more painful than the previous…. however I immediately felt that this one was the worst….. the loss of a child. AlHamdulilah the all too familiar heaviness in my chest in the not that is impossible to breathe and swallow through came back. I could imagine you in the hospital doing something that only someone who was lost a dear loved one would dare even imagine doing hugs to you so many cyber hugs to you! May Allah allow us to be better Muslims so that we could be reunited with our previous departed Children in jennah ameen

    Inna lilahi wa inna lilahi rajioon

  6. […] more from Sabina: Paths To My  Heart,  Finding My Spirituality ; Birth, Loss & In Between, and Raising a Confident Muslim Child […]