Thursday, November 23, 2006

to grieve to bereave

i was in kl for the weekend. attended a grief and bereavement counselling workshop. the speaker is a bereavement counsellor from hong kong. she’s really good. learnt a lot about death, mainly the coping mechanisms for the bereaved, and how, as professionals, we can help them through the difficult times.

for me, working with sick kids at the hospital means mainly trying my best at finding out the cause of their illness, and then to try and make them better. and them being kids, cant help but play and joke with them as well, try and make them forget about their illness if not for a lil bit. but it also means inevitably having to see some of the kids die as well. which then brings me to the most difficult task of all....informing the parents of the devastating news.
(yea, it's not the diagnosing part, not the curing part, not even having to work 33 hrs straight when i’m oncall, nor the part when the nurses call me at 3 am to ‘revive’ a dying child.. they’re not as difficult as actually telling parents that their baby, their child.. is dying, or worse...dead)
it just seems.. illogical. we accept that evryone dies. but we also have this picture in our minds that in the cycle of life, when we become parents, we will care for our children, play with them, watch them grow up, teach them about life, pray that we live long enuff to see them become parents themselves, and we get to be grandparents. then if we die, we would die before our children, and our life cycle is complete. but obviously, that's not how it goes for evryone. and that's why, to me, it's more difficult telling parents their child is dead, than vice versa.

i cant getaway from it of course, talking to the parents. so i do what i can. put on an empathic face, clear my throat, and tell them. at times, i meet them again in a few weeks at our bereavement clinics, these parents who have lost their child (there’s no specific word used to describe such parents btw-like 'orphans', or 'widows'). in the clinic, we talk to them, clarify the cause of death, answer their questions, and mainly see how they’re coping after the death, help them "move on" healthily and safely. by then, some parents have accepted it, some dont, some blame it on themselves, some blame us, some dont want anymore kids, afraid to have to go through the pain again.

what i’ve realized now is that, having been in the field for 5 years now, i seem to have gained this ability to automatically detach myself emotionally from a dying patient altogether, no matter how close i was to that patient the whole time he/she was alive under my care. and i would show my empathy with the parents, share their sadness, advise them about life (cewah!) and why they have to continue living, etc..and when they're out of the room, i get on with my life, with work, like nuthin happened.

at the workshop they say it's ok if we shed a tear with the parents. it's ok to even cry a little afterwards. but they also advised that we "cleanse" ourselves before we go back's not healthy.
myself? i totally do not have a problem with that. i dont need to cleanse anything cuz there's nuthing to cleanse. once the dead body is "discharged to heaven", or once the parents leave the clinic, then my job is done. one less sich baby to worry about.
some people would say "that's good. that's why you can do this kinda thing. if it was me, i'd bawl so much, the bereaved would have to console me instead!"
there are also those who say " wow, you see and handle death evryday at work. you must be used to it. tak heran pun ek?"
i always dunno what to say exactly.
cuz at the same time.. i feel like.. i dunno.. kinda cold inside... if i actually tell them outloud that "'s nothing. i'm not bothered at all by it. tak heran"

anyway, alhamdulillah so far i've never had anyone complain that i was "insensitive" or "inappropriate" when i deal with a dead patient, or talk to their families. so at least whatever it is i'm not feeling inside of me doesnt exactly show on my face (it's a capricorn thing :)). i just have to keep reminding myself to nurture more emotions, if only to make me feel more human i guess.
dunnolah whether i'm even putting down properly in writing here exactly what i think i actually wanna say..haha.

back to the workshop, the speaker like i said, is a bereavement counsellor and was really good. she really loves what she's doing, and hearing all her stories and experiences actually made me love her job as well. and i only learned then that we dont have such professional position here in msia. so people like me get stuck with it, even though we're not as intensively and properly trained as she is.
anyway, but i was glad i attended the workshop..even it was just over a short time, i learned a lot about dying....and more importantly, about living.

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