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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

UAE Portrait of a Nation: the mother who became a bestseller after tweeting about her son's death 

Abeer Al Bah compiled What Your Loss Taught Me from the emotions she shared on social media following her bereavement to support other grieving mothers

Abeer Al Bah, the author of the bestseller What your loss taught me, at her villa in Al Gharayen in Sharjah. Pawan Singh / The National
Abeer Al Bah, the author of the bestseller What your loss taught me, at her villa in Al Gharayen in Sharjah. Pawan Singh / The National

Since the death of her 18-year-old son, Abeer Al Bah, the author of bestseller What Your Loss Taught Me, has devoted herself to supporting bereaved mothers.

In 2013, her youngest son, Obaid, passed his driving test and bought a car. Just four days later, he died in a car accident in Sharjah.

Mrs Al Bah, 45-year-old Emirati, had never aspired to be a writer. She did not harbour a love of writing and was not much of a reader. “I wasn't into books at all. I would read a book I'd see featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show, that was about it. But now, I love books. I find salvation in them,” she said.

The unexpected loss of her son triggered something in her and she began broadcasting her emotions and thoughts through social media. Less than a year after Obaid’s death, Mrs Al Bah's eldest son, Soud, suggested that she collect her tweets in a book. “Support other people who lost their children by sharing your story and your lessons,” he said to her. She liked the idea.

“Thoughts of what to give Obaid as a birthday gift haunted me – what to give him when he was gone. A book about him that consolidated not only my feelings, but those of every mother who has lost a child was the perfect gift,” she said.

Mrs Al Bah devoted herself to collecting together her tweeted emotions for the book, but she was let down by the first publisher she contacted. Later, following an appearance on Sharjah Television where he talked about the unpublished book, she was contacted by the Ruler of Sharjah, Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al-Qasimi, Ruler of Sharjah, who had the book published by Al Qasimi publishers.

“Some people discouraged me, but my husband, Salem, was my number one supporter. He was so proud of me and often was tweeting and posting about me and my book on his social media accounts,” she said.

Soon after the book was released during Sharjah Book Fair in November 2014, it became a bestseller. She was contacted by Medad publishers who showed interest in publishing the book again, and when they did, it was sold out again.

“There were so many people asking for my autograph and they were from all ages, but mothers and, surprisingly, youngsters were the majority,” said Mrs Al Bah.

Grieving mothers from the UAE and GCC countries contacted her to share their own stories, which then formed the basis of her second book, Candles Blown Out By Fate. One of the memorable stories from the book is that of a mother, who, while accompanying her 14-year-old daughter through cancer surgery was informed a day later that her son had died in an accident.

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Both books, says Mrs Al Bah, are not only about the sadness of bereavement, but lessons on how to deal with your loss. She said: “One of the lessons is to seize every moment with your children because you don't know when the moment might come that you lose one, or you yourself die. I often asked my other children not to bother me in my room when I was tired after [Obaid's] death. I wish I hadn't done that.”

Now Mrs Al Bah is looking at taking her writing in new directions and for her next book she is considering the title Kharareef Ummi, which means 'my mother's tales'.

“My mother used to tell us bedtime stories from our culture. They were amazing. I think I should put that into a children’s book with a focus on indirect lessons and messages,” she said.