‘Shonai Hai Hai Reh’: a song about Disenfranchised Grief

We all experience losses and grieve in some way throughout our lives. Grief is a process that allows us to come to terms with the loss and helps us to move on with our lives. However, there is a kind of grief that is hidden, a grief which is not acknowledged or even socially accepted in some cases. This ‘disenfranchised grief’ is a more complex process, which can lead to a ‘stuckness’ in the process of moving on. It can be more intense and more prolonged than the usual process of grieving.

When I watched this video to Shonai hai hai reh, I was immediately drawn to the idea of disenfranchised grief in the Bangladeshi community. In this song, a young deceased woman is shown in the context of her family. She is covered fully in a white cloth (in line with Muslim tradition), and carried by men in her family and community to be buried. This song grieves for a young woman who is no longer here, a woman who was married off by her father and buried by her father-in-law. The video shows women in the family crying from behind a door, whilst men carry out the funeral rites. Amidst this, a young man is shown grieving alone after the burial has finished and mourners have left.

This young man could be her lover, he could be her relative, it could be a sibling, it could be her husband. It is unclear who he is, but his grief is real and genuine. One of the questions people often ask each other in a funeral is ‘how did you know the deceased?’ and we try to establish a grief hierarchy. We assume that the family members will be most affected and deserve the most sympathy and support. In this video, this young man is not mentioned amidst the men in the deceased’s life. There is no mention of who he is and his relationship with her. His grief is lonely, his sadness is felt in the song ‘Shonai hai hai reh’ which expresses regret, remorse and an attachment with the deceased.

This simple, Bangladeshi song  makes me wonder how many untold stories there are around the world of disenfranchised grief. Although I engage in many types of music, this song with the image of a woman’s dead body being carried away for burial, will haunt me for a long time.