In 2018, Engy Yasser and Iman Khalifa were simply two colleagues taking a life-coaching program together. Now, they are the two founders of MIRAK, the first grieving support group in Egypt. This shift in their relationship happened after Engy realized her baby son, Karim, had a heart condition that Iman had as a child as well. Iman was there for Engy in her time of need, she gave her all the support she understood a mother in her position needed. When Engy’s son passed away, Iman stayed by her side, and now, they’re providing that same support for people going through grief in Egypt. Engy is the heart of MIRAK and Iman is its mind. We sat down with them to know all about it.
Engy Yasser and Iman Khalifa, founders of MIRAK
Can you briefly explain what a support group is?
A group of 4 to 6 People sharing the same pain talking openly about their emotions, confidentially, and in a safe environment, with a professional life coach.
Support groups function as the bridge leading you to turn your pain into power
MIRAK fills the gap between pain and the need for emotional support. We have an 11-week support program. Our rules are that our meetings are a free of judgment zone, no one can criticize or give advice or opinions unless directly asked for it. MIRAK is a space where people can speak freely, have their feelings validated, and are allowed to go at their own pace.
What inspired you to found this support group? What’s behind the name Mirak?
“We understand now more than ever, that everything happens for a reason. Nothing is coincidence.”
Engy: When my son passed away, Emmy was very supportive in helping me deal with the loss. At that time, I also had a friend who knew she was going to lose her baby.
I felt her pain and understood how lonely she must have felt. Everyone around her were telling her what she didn’t want to hear; that this was somehow for the best. A lot of mothers experience this pain alone, no one really understands how hard it is.
Along with her, I also talked to a friend of mine who had also lost her baby and that’s when I felt even more supported and understood. That’s when I realized how helpful support groups can be. But, none were available in Cairo. So, Emmy suggested we start our own! and we started doing a lot of research.
Our mission was to create a support group to help those grieving to transform their pain into power.
We first started off with a support group for mothers who lost their babies during pregnancy or when they were very young.
We were stuck on the name for a while. Then, one day while writing my introduction for the 1st session and telling the story of my little boy Karim, I read the name in reverse (as Mirak). When we searched for the meaning of the word, it turned out to mean Miracle in one of the Indian languages.
So, it was like the stars aligned for us. Karim was the reason MIRAK Started and he will always be a part of changing people’s lives as he changed ours.
Why are support groups important? How do they help people who are grieving?
It’s the magic of a safe environment. When a group of people who share the same pain starts talking freely with no judgments or uncalled-for advice, that’s when the unique wisdom and power of each one of us really shines.
It assures everyone in the group that we all grieve differently and that that’s okay. Also, it helps us realize that we’re not alone.
We learn to trust ourselves and our own decisions and understand grief, how it’s okay not to feel okay and how to heal. Also, it tells us that letting go doesn’t mean forgetting our loved ones.
We release our limiting beliefs, the fear, guilt, and anger, and discover that there is growth in grief. Support groups also allow us to strengthen our relationships with friends and family and to be grateful for the smallest things.
How many members have you had so far?
We have made 7 successful rounds in one year, and every round a MIRAKian graduates.
Until now 30 MIRAKian have graduated. What makes her a MIRAKian special is that she shares her story and journey with new rounds and they get to support people around them and make a difference.
What can people do to support someone who’s grieving?
First of all, they should never say “They’re in a better place” “You don’t know when the good will come”, “Don’t cry you will upset them”, “They’re resting now so they’re better off”, “Let’s go out to get out of this mood” and for mothers who lost a baby “You have a special place in heaven or 9 months and you’ll get twins”.
Instead, they should just reach out to the grieving person and listen. If they initiate a conversation, make space for their words without interrupting. We have a problem-solving attitude in our society when it comes to handling these situations. But, it’s unlikely that you can fix this situation.
You won’t have any magical solution to say to make it all better. So, just give them the space to express themselves and feel heard. Acknowledge how hard it really is by talking about the loss as a difficult situation the person is going through.
Find your own way of expressing your love. For example, helping them with home chores, giving them a hug, holding their hand, getting them their favorite food. You can handle the daily duties if they’re unable to do them themselves. Offer to pick up their children from school.
Don’t just say “if you need anything”, do something to actually be there.
How can people join Mirak?