Protecting My Heart

By Umm Jannah
Have you ever felt detached from love and connection?
Have you ever been told that you’re too hard to love?
Have you ever worked your utmost best not to give your heart away?
Growing up I remember saying to myself, ‘I don’t do love’. When I would be faced with expressing love for someone I would consciously make effort to detach it from myself internally, both emotionally and verbally. You can imagine how much of a negative impact this had on my relationships with those around me.
If what I’ve shared in the first paragraph doesn’t resonate with you, then praise the Most High for you have been protected by Him; but if like myself, it makes perfect sense to you, then keep reading my dear, for this post is for you.
For the former, you might be thinking, ‘what was it about love that made you feel like this?’ And to that I can confidently say that it’s the answer to this question that has shaped the person I am today and for that I am so grateful, Alhamdulillaah. It’s the reason why writing this post is coming from the most vulnerable part of me, so I hope it will bring meaning and benefit to every heart it was meant to reach and impact inshaa’ Allah.
I lived for so many years not knowing I viewed love in this way until I had my first child. I fell in love with him before he was even born and yet I was battling with this internal feeling of ‘making sure I don’t get too attached’ and ‘love but don’t love too much in case something awful happens and your heart shatters to a point you wouldn’t be able to recover’, I would tell myself.
Looking back, it breaks my heart and to think that I was fighting against loving my son wholeheartedly, that I was resisting absorbing every loving moment, and that I was avoiding soaking in every warm smile and basking in its joy.  Back then, I didn’t know I was ‘resisting love’; I didn’t know deep down it stemmed from a limiting belief that I held of being ‘unworthy of love’. I didn’t know why I felt the way I felt at that time, and that it had nothing to do with my son – he was perfect in every way maa shaa Allaah tabarakAllah.
Later when I came to be in tune with my inner self, I discovered that I had spent a whole decade ‘protecting my heart’ from being broken, ‘protecting my heart’ from being shattered, ‘protecting it’ from being split and from being exposed to anything and everything that might possibly lead to this. I was very careful with my heart, I was very cautious about anyone that entered my heart in my quest to ‘protect’ it, but the most uncomfortable realisation that I had to come to terms with, was accepting that the reason I was doing this is because I feared loving and being loved.
The awakening came two years later on the 26th of March 2018, when Allah willed that I finally come face to face with my relationship with love once and for all, and through it learn the beauty and need for love and connection, and moreover, understand why I had this awkward relationship with it. If I’m honest, I wasn’t ready for it at all.
It was the day my beloved mother (May Allaah have mercy on her) passed away after nearly a year-long battle with terminal cancer. This was the event that triggered the destruction of the steel walls that I had erected around my heart; this was the event where those layers were peeled off and broken into millions of pieces. What I feared most had happened; what I was protecting my heart from happened and it was here to stay despite how hard I worked to resist it. What sprung out repeatedly, unintentionally, was this intense feeling of fear that I didn’t even know I carried-  I was always the strong one, I was the one who carried the brave face and words – yet I was forced to feel this feeling so powerfully, that it would be felt in every part of my body. This triggered the feeling of insecurity, the feeling that I didn’t belong anywhere in this world, that there was no place for me here.
For the very first time in my life, I had felt what it was like to feel totally broken inside, to feel unutterably weak and needy. I hated to admit that feeling to myself: I hated being and feeling weak, but I was forced to come face to face with the unspoken assumption in my mind that ‘a broken heart means you’re weak’ that I had carried for so long.
One night, when everything- the emotions, the pain, the fear- got too much, Allah dragged my feet to the prayer mat late at night. I still remember it – I spent the night crying and sobbing profusely, so hard and for so long: I was humbled to the lowest state I’ve ever been in, in front of my Lord. I called out:
‘I don’t understand what’s going on ya Allah. All I know is that I need You, ya Allah. I really need You and that I can’t go on without Your help…Oh Allah please don’t leave me to myself. Oh Allah, please don’t leave me to myself. Oh Allah, please don’t leave me to myself.’
I can’t recall the rest of the dua, I made but it was as though I was drowning in the middle of a wide open ocean and there was no one able to save me except Him. It was coming from a place I hadn’t been before and I couldn’t control the fast rate at which it was spilling out. SubhanAllah, even now as I’m writing my eyes are flowing with tears again. Subhan Allah this is what I was protecting my heart from, and it’s exactly that which I was tested with, and it’s exactly that which brought me to my knees.
Soon after this, I waited and waited – having full trust in Allah that He will show me and guide me. And one day it came. Just like that, in front of my eyes whilst I was home with the kids, cleaning and sorting out the kitchen area, my mind took me back to the summer of 2007. I felt a bit uncomfortable at first; I hadn’t thought about it for a long time. I stood still and let myself be immersed in the memory, observing myself as I observed my own memory, ‘Subhan Aallah that time….’
Since the departure of my late mother (Allah have mercy on her), I have daily flashbacks of my time with her, and this was one I had buried and not thought about since. I guess it was a way for my unconscious mind to protect me from being hurt, because it was a time of much hurt and pain that I witnessed my mum go through first hand – it seems I took it personally (although it had nothing to do with me) and I had interpreted it to define my own self worth and the meaning that I gave to love and connection. As I allowed my mind to slowly sift through the episode of the past- replaying it again and again- a moment came where I remembered saying to myself ‘I will never love because when you love it breaks you, leaves you and weakens you.’  Subhan Allah, I felt an intense feeling of pain in my heart again as those words peirced me. A few minutes later, I felt so overwhelmed realising that it was by the mercy and guidance of Allah alone that I was able to trace this limiting belief back. This was the answer I was waiting for Subhan Allah.
Alhamdulilah once I was able to trace it back, it was such a game changer because I was able to change the meaning I gave to that experience and anchor meanings that would be of benefit for me. I was able to say ‘that experience had nothing to do with me’ and I was able to acknowledge that the past experience was not an example of love or connection, and to consciously affirm that, without a doubt, it didn’t reflect or define who I am, or what I am worthy of. It changed so much for me and to know that it came directly from Him, humbled me to my core. This was from Him. After all these years I finally knew why I viewed love the way I did. Through this experience I came to truly acknowledge that I have absolutely no power nor any might except by Allah, and through that, learnt more about Allah at a deeper level than I did from any of the books I had studied. Alhamdulilah.
Reflecting back on everything, I was carrying a hurt heart for years and I didn’t even know it. I was protecting a broken heart for a decade and I didn’t even know it. Alhamdulillaah once I was blessed to trace the root cause, I was able to unplug it and begin a journey of healing my heart (which I’m still on), where I love and accept love; where I connect and accept connection. In doing so, my life has transformed before me and for the first time in a long time, I truly love my life and to know that it was Allah alone who guided me towards this, makes my heart burst with love for Him. Alhamdulillaah how beautiful and enriching life truly is with Him. Alhamdulillaah .
To my sister who finds her herself in a similar space that I once held, I want you to know that when it comes to love and connection, there is no fear when we give ourself permission to love, knowing that this love is from Allāh. That it’s a gift from Him. This love and connection is a form of provision from Him, and what is there to resist or fear when we know with full conviction that even if our heart breaks, He is the Mender, who will be there to mend our hearts once again. Alhamdulillaah.
May Allah fill our hearts with love and grant us the courage to share that love with ourselves and others.
About the author:
Umm Jannah is a mother to two very sociable and loving children aged 3 and 1 years old. She graduated with a Masters from Queen Mary University, London followed by a PGCE in Chemistry. She runs a personal blog, ‘Dose of Inspiration’ where she shares reflections on faith and loss. She’s currently studying Islamic NLP which she uses to deliver her online programmes with the intention to inspire Muslim women through their difficulties, through the ‘Breathe Online Programme’. 

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