The Pakistani tradition of “afsos” (condolence)


One of my favorite things about calling two countries ‘home’ is being able to value the good things of each and trying to pass them on to our next generation. And you probably know that already if you have been reading this blog for some time. Recently my husband and I got thinking about the concept of offering condolences or ‘going or afsos’ when death touches any family; the tradition that comes from our Pakistani/Muslim culture. I have experienced the loss of my dad and my husband has lost both his parents and his eldest sister. And each time we have had friends come over for dua or ‘afsos’ or to share their condolences with our family and this time around when his mother passed away, we talked about how great this little tradition is and how we should make sure we pass this along to our next generation.

Let me mention a little about this tradition before anything else here though. Back in Pakistan as soon as news reaches of someone’s passing, friends/family/neighbors, everyone tries to visit the family as soon as possible and pray alongside the family for the departed. Some bring food along, some take over the home and other issues that have to be dealt with in such situations. Those who cannot make it because of distance also make it a point to mention the loss and offer their condolences the first time they meet after the incident. It is usually referred to as ‘afsos karna’ which would translate literally to something like ‘expressing sadness’. If someone is not able to be there at a happy occasion, that is forgivable but not calling or not visiting a family when there is a death, is never forgotten or forgiven! I remember our parents taking us along to visit families who had just lost a loved one and at that young age, we figured out that however awkward it felt, it was something that needed to be done.

As my husband and I talked about it, we realized that this tradition of passing our condolences does multiple purposes. One, it forces us to pause from the rollercoaster of our lives, and be reminded of fragility of life and the reality of death.  Two, it teaches us to be there for someone however difficult and uncomfortable it can seem in that moment. Three, even if you don’t have the right words to say just your taking the time to visit means a lot to the family. Four, it gives the family who has just gone through a tragedy a way to share memories and stories and be able to pass through this grief in a natural and healthy way. At such occasions usually, the visitors are also reminded about their own lost loved ones and share their own stories which can give courage to the bereaved family.

The more we thought about it, the more we realized it’s a beautiful tradition which we should make sure our kids see us doing so we can pass it on to them too.

Have you experienced this? What do you think?

Thanks for stopping by. Lots of love