Many people face shocking experiences in their lives, including witnessing a loved one die in the Covid-19 pandemic or suffering a terrible accident. However, whereas some people are able to bounce back to a normal life following such experiences, others may need professional help to do so, especially if thoughts keep lingering in a traumatised person’s mind which makes him or her unable to go on with life.
Doaa Abdel-Moneim is an Egyptian expert in family counselling and a motivational speaker who graduated from the Japanese department at the Alsun Faculty of Languages in Cairo. She is also a widow and the mother of two young daughters who had a hard time going back to normal life after her husband died.
She decided to start helping herself and then other women going through similar experiences by providing counselling sessions and guidance through her Facebook page “Positive Dardasha” (chat) and also face-to-face sessions when needed.
Before starting, she had taken several courses in programming, digital marketing and psychological health and family counselling, the latter with the aim of helping other people who may be suffering from similar experiences.
“The main idea of my work is to give a helping hand to those spiritually suffering and to work with them towards finding a way for them to start a new life,” Abdel-Moneim said. “I mainly help women who have experienced trauma to get over their pain and to plan for their new lives.”
Abdel-Moneim wants to guide other women out of the black grave of trauma in the same way that she was guided out of it herself. “I went through trauma after the death of my husband five-and-a-half years ago, and my life stopped completely even though I have two little daughters. So, I decided to change my life for myself first and then to help other people in starting my Facebook page and counselling activities,” she said.
She starts helping a traumatised woman through simple steps and sessions based around friendly discussion to identify the problems the woman seeking help may have. If she has a more serious psychological problem, Abdel-Moneim refers her to a psychologist specialising in the area concerned. But if the problem is more one to do with overcoming trauma, Abdel-Moneim is ready to help, as this is her area of expertise.
She starts by giving positive energy sessions and helping her with steps to solve her problem including looking for practical solutions.
As an example, she cites one person she has helped bounce back to a normal life. “One woman had got divorced, and at the time no one wanted to help her. We talked together about improving her self-confidence, and then we worked together on a plan to start her new work gradually. Eventually, she felt that her life had changed completely, and she began to build a new community for herself and new relationships,” Abdel-Moneim said.
What makes her work stand out is the extra attention she gives those seeking help, she said. “I am not only a listener. I am also a problem-solver. What makes this unique is the follow-up process I have for women to maintain a better life for themselves,” she said, adding that women often ask her questions on her Facebook page, and if there is something she can do she arranges sessions for them.
The advantage of social media is that it makes reaching out to others more immediate and easier, which is why she chose to provide other traumatised women with help through social media. It gives people the feeling that there is always someone there for them, she said.
Abdel-Moneim also organises awareness campaigns through her posts and through Webinars on her Facebook page in which she encourages women to speak out, seek help if needed and work on building a new life after a traumatic experience.
She gives advice on methods of changing attitudes towards life in general and towards others and ideas for spending free time that will help to get rid of stress. These could include exercising, drawing or travelling, or even starting a new career, for example.
Abdel-Moneim also writes posts that fight against social injustices or misleading beliefs in society. “As long as you are waiting for other people to provide you with happiness, or in other words if you are waiting for them to make you happy, you will never reach happiness. To be happy is your decision, and to feel it inside is your decision, not anyone else’s,” she comments in one of her posts.
There are certain common issues that Abdel-Moneim encounters in her work. “A main problem I face is the fact that many women feel ashamed to reveal how they have suffered. Women often believe that in order to be a good person they must endure a lot and not complain. I try to overcome such false beliefs through awareness campaigns intended to help women change their mindsets,” she said.
For her, “my most important dream is to help more people who are spiritually suffering because of a trauma they have gone through to transform their lives and become more relieved, feel more secure and be more satisfied.”
Meanwhile, she is always working on updating her knowledge to make her work more effective. She is currently studying for a diploma in child-guidance, as she also plans to help children and adolescents who have suffered from traumatic experiences in future.
She has some tips for women to help them to overcome their traumas. First and foremost, they must never hesitate to ask for help if they face trouble, especially if it is a traumatic experience, she said, though clearly they should be careful to talk to a trusted person.
They should work on themselves by taking self-development courses, and they should keep their time usefully filled, such as by studying holy books like the Quran or spending quality time with friends.
Finally, they should try not to dwell on their problems and be mindful that some people may give out negative energy in the form of wrong advice.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 24 June, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly