Grief needs Support, not just Crisis Intervention

On Mother’s Day, a day of appreciation and joy for mothers, the Star newspapers reported that a “Woman falls to her death from apartment’s 18th floor” (Nation, 21, 12 May 2013). It was stated that the suicide victim, a mother of 59, felt distressed since her husband died about a year ago.

The death of a loved one will result in a season of grief for most bereaved family members. The grief needs to be managed so that they can come to terms with their loss and move on in life. Grief is painful to bear and taxing on one’s physical and psychological health and so grieving people often gets into health problems and is more prone to accidents. In their time of devastation, suicide is perceived by some of them as an easy way out of their pain and problems.

Such grieving persons cannot be helped merely through intervention during a suicidal crisis. In their time of grief, many of them do not even feel like lifting up a phone. Hence, not many suicidal persons will have the will and courage to make a call for help, whether to a crisis agency or other significant persons, unless they are well prepared by caregivers to do so.

Instead, grieving people need to be supported in their time of grief. The relevant authorities, the media, concerned persons and the public must know that grieving persons need the avenue to process their loss experience, ventilate their emotional pain and be assisted in their practical adjustments on losing their loved ones. The needed support is a process from the time of loss, not just an intervention during a suicidal crisis, as this is often too late.

As the nation’s first and only Certified Thanatologist (Grief Therapist), I and my team of trained caregivers, themselves bereaved persons who have journeyed through their grief, have been conducting free annual community talks on the grieving process to educate our society. Each year, we have to incur from our personal funds as much as RM15,000 to buy newspaper advertisement space to promote such talks.

We also conduct free one-to-one sessions at our Grief Care Centre as well as carry out Grief Support Group meetings as a community service. Over the past 6 years, we have helped hundreds of devastated bereaved persons, including many with suicidal ideation, to come to terms with their losses and move on healthily in life. Some of them have to travel from outstation just to come to see us.

The relevant authorities and the media can do their part to help us educate society on grief and grief management not only to lessen the tragedies arising from grief but also for the wellbeing of grieving people. They should also encourage the setting up of more grief care centers in our communities throughout the country.

Dr Edmund Ng
Resident Director
GGP Outreach