12 ︎︎︎ A luxury I was not entitled to

by Sirine Malas

The most difficult thing about grief is not being able to express it. Facing loss, you cannot cry out. At a given moment I realised that grief is a luxury I was not entitled to. In March 2011 during the Syrian revolution, the moral was very high and jolly, despite daily losses on the toll (deaths, detentions, fleeing, shelling etc.). However, there was no time or capacity for grief, it was just one aborted right. At best we dressed colourless.

Ever since my losses dropped like dominos. Finally I was separated from my homeland, family, and the aspirations for reforms – for which the revolution was intended in the first place.

However, by far the worst feeling I have ever had to handle in my life was the sudden death of my mother in Damascus, whom I could not see for the last time. The news hit me under the eyes of my baby daughter. I wanted to loudly mourn, I wanted to go insane. I couldn’t. I left the car and was screaming for what seemed like a very long time. I cried, I wailed, I hit my husband, I hit my leg against a brick bank, I screamed at passers-by. I cursed God, life, death, war, hope, in all languages, I cursed myself, I hated the skin which was covering me!

But that was it, no more of this luxury other than that. My daughter was looking at me collapsing from afar, she didn’t comprehend anything, she was very quiet and scared. I picked up my pain and anger, bottled the rest of my tears, swallowed it all into my heart, rode the car while smiling at her and telling her that I am well. Drove on. Ever since, the rest of my grief was silent tears every morning and every night and nightmares.


This text is also part of the Podcast A Space for Grief.

Klaus Rinke, Die Wand
DZ BANK Kunstsammlung im Städel Museum,
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
© Klaus Rinke, Foto Monika Baumgartl