Grief Education

The Grief of Lisa Marie Presley

Death leaves a heartache no one can heal,
love leaves a memory no one can steal.
~From a headstone in Ireland

Lisa Marie Presley is obviously in grief. She is devastated. In her heart-wrenching blog entry, He Knew, Lisa is gutted and feels like she could have done more for her ex-husband, Michael Jackson.

14 years later I am sitting here watching on the news an ambulance leaves the driveway of his home, the big gates, the crowds outside the gates, the coverage, the crowds outside the hospital, the Cause of death and what may have led up to it and the memory of this conversation hit me, as did the unstoppable tears.

A predicted ending by him, by loved ones and by me, but what I didn’t predict was how much it was going to hurt when it finally happened.

The person I failed to help is being transferred right now to the LA County Coroners office for his Autopsy.

All of my indifference and detachment that I worked so hard to achieve over the years has just gone into the bowels of hell and right now I am gutted.

I am going to say now what I have never said before because I want the truth out there for once.

Our relationship was not “a sham” as is being reported in the press. It was an unusual relationship yes, where two unusual people who did not live or know a “Normal life” found a connection, perhaps with some suspect timing on his part. Nonetheless, I do believe he loved me as much as he could love anyone and I loved him very much.

I wanted to “save him” I wanted to save him from the inevitable which is what has just happened.

His family and his loved ones also wanted to save him from this as well but didn’t know how and this was 14 years ago. We all worried that this would be the outcome then.

At that time, In trying to save him, I almost lost myself.

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Justice for Ruby Rose Barrameda-Jimenez

Image courtesy of Pedestrian Observer

Ruby Rose’s death was just so shocking that it took me many days before I woke up from my stupor to blog about it. Her death was just too gruesome that even a seasoned police investigator found it difficult to describe the circumstances on how Ruby Rose was handcuffed and gagged with packaging tape before being strangled with a steel wire and cemented in a drum, which was then sealed in a steel case and dropped in the waters off Navotas. Now how disturbing and horrifying can that description ever get? Yesterday, Ruby Rose was finally laid to rest. Her dad’s message just tore my heart out.

The grieving father, Roberto Barrameda, promised Ruby Rose that the family would continue to seek justice.

““We’re sorry that your daughters are not here to see you. But you must understand their situation right now,” Barrameda said in the direction of his daughter’s casket.

Hours before the burial, Judge Gloria Aglugub of Las Piñas Regional Trial Court Branch 254 denied the Barramedas’ petition to allow Ruby Rose’s children to visit the wake.

Judge Gloria Aglugub released a resolution denying the motion of Ruby Rose Barrameda-Jimenez kin to allow the children of the deceased to visit the wake based on ridiculous notion that the children were not willing to go to the wake. Oh come on!

I am so angry at the violent nature of her death and more so, when the judge denied her children from attending their mom’s funeral. Why are there so many legalities surrounding the custody of the children even at the time of the final resting rites? Despite the family rift, I know these kids love their mother and are grieving. Does taking away the kids’ right to their mom’s funeral protect them from further trauma? Sooner or later, Rose’s kids will know the real story behind their mom’s death.

The poor grieving children may not appear to be traumatized yet but they will surely re-experience or re-visit the loss every time they pass through a developmental stage. Grief and loss, when it takes place, cannot just be swept under the rug. Losing a mother is a real occurrence in a child’s world and we must allow that child to grieve. As adults and caregivers, we must do everything in our power to help them navigate that journey from sadness to hope. But does Rose’s father know that? or the judge?

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Grief and the Air France Crash

I still miss those I loved who are no longer with me but I find I am grateful for having loved them. The gratitude has finally conquered the loss. — Rita Mae Brown

My husband’s chartered flight kept circling around last friday for an hour. Visibility was zero at 4:00 PM. Lightning struck at that very moment amidst the dark gloomy weather surrounding the plane. His co-passengers freaked out and remembered the Air France crash. Fierce thunderstorms, lightning or a catastrophic combination are possible theories of the crash.

My husband is safe in my arms and I can’t help feeling grateful for his safety.

Yet I can’t help feeling sad for the Air France victims and their families.

Air France through a grief counselor told families of passengers on Flight 447 that the jetliner broke apart and they must abandon hope that anyone survived. Tearful relatives received counseling from a team of psychologists and doctors from Air France. It’s great that Air France provided grief counseling. Death due to a sudden or traumatic accident or disaster can raise a number of complex issues for the survivors. The grief process is often very different from an expected or anticipated death. An unexceptionally tragic event like the Air France crash can cause reactions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder on the part of the family members and many of these problems compound the grief response.

Miguela Jugueta, a seaman’s wife here in the Philippines is grieving and in denial which is a normal reaction to such a sudden death. ‘I won’t believe he’s dead until I have his body.’ Bong (Jugueta) is a good swimmer. He might have survived,”

She continues to add “I cannot do anything if this is the will of God, but I continue to hope he is still alive.”

I wonder if Air France provided Miguela and her family the resources for grief counseling as well.

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It has been 9 years….

I brought a child into the world and thought my life was complete.
I bowed my head and thanked the Lord for giving this child to me.
My dreams were of the future and of how my child would be,
Of how he would run and play games like hide-and-seek and always run back to me.
How could I live my life without my child – How could I possibly survive?
When the dreams I once had for my child were no longer alive?


Nine years have passed since Luijoe died. Another year marked off the calendar as we confront life without our precious child.

Anniversary dates stare out from the calendar. For most of us, the days of birth and death are the most prominent but so hard to acknowledge. The birthday that brought so much jubilation may now be but a fond and sometimes painfully wistful day of a “what might have been” memory. Then the lousiest day of the year, the day that is etched on some stone in the south of Manila, the day some of our sweetness left us forever. A reasonable amount of preparation in anticipation of this gloomy day and the empty sadness it brings doesn’t really help. We are aware about these death anniversary dates which I’d rather call the Angel date.

You see, our family members are more irritable, tempers fly and tears easily roll down. Then we remember that Luijoe’s death anniversary is nearing. Ah yes, even if we were prepared for it. It is like standing at the shores of despair looking out at the waves below the sunset that is so beautiful while signaling the end of the day. These waves of profound sadness can be relentless and the big one is coming on that date. This knowledge never seems capable of preventing the wave from smashing us into our lonely reality.

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How would I know if someone I care about was contemplating suicide?

Suicide is very much in the news these days. A forensic expert who conducted an autopsy on Trina Etrong, wife of Ted Failon said that the contact wound on her temple indicates suicide. (Edit on April 22– A second autopsy points to suicide)

I ‘d like to point out that the Compassionate Friends refer to the death as ““died by suicide” or ““died of suicide” to replace the commonly used ““committed suicide” or ““completed suicide.” The phrases “Died of suicide” or “died by suicide” are accurate, emotionally- neutral ways to explain the death.

Suicide, no doubt, is the most misunderstood of all deaths and leaves behind a residue of questions, guilt, anger, second-guessing, and anxiety which, at least initially, is almost impossible to digest. Even though we know better, we’re still haunted by the feeling that suicide is the ultimate act of despair, a deed that somehow puts one outside the family of humanity, the mercy of God, and (in the past) the church’s burial grounds.

Let’s not be judgmental on people who died by suicide.

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Death of Ted Failon’s Wife: Suicide?

(Update May 21- Trina Etong committed suicide–NBI )

It was just a matter of time yet the news of Ted Failon’s Wife death came as a shock. Trinidad Arteche Etong or Trina , died tonight at 8:50 PM. She died of cranial injury but was it due to homicide or suicide? Her daughter thinks that her mom tried to commit suicide. To lose a loved one to death is painful, to lose a loved one to suicide is also disorienting.

If it is suicide, it is a particularly cruel form of death for the surviving family and friends. Questions like : How could she have been so full of despair that she felt that death was preferable to life? Additionally, the family has to cope with the police, an inquest, and possibly the media, as well as the ever-present and unanswerable question ““Why?”. Suicide is a complicated loss.

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It’s Been 40 days since the Death of Amiel Alcantara

Dying is a wild night and a new road.
~Emily Dickinson

Remember Amiel Alcantara? Well, it has been 40 days since his sudden death?

One of the things so astonishing and costly about losing a loved one is that, while the sun continues to rise and set, newspapers continue to be delivered, traffic lights till change from red to green and back again,our whole life is turned around, turned upside down.

And life does go on but we can still continue to remember our loved ones on special days through candle lighting, rituals, customs, simple rites or ceremonies. Today, on the 40th day since his death, a marker was blessed on the spot where Amiel was struck by a van.

The marker reads:

The Ateneo de Manila Grade School Members
who was called to the Lord on February 24, 2009.
We Thank him for the gift that he had been to all of us,
for teaching us to love, and cherish life, and
for bringing us all together as a community in prayer ,
with a renewed promise to nurture and care for each other,
as we journey for persons for others.
Blessed on the 40th day of his entrance to glory

April 5, 2009
Palm Sunday

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The Grief of The Invisible Class

A paragraph in Manolo ‘s entry on The Long View Insecurity and The Invisible Class caught my eye:

And meanwhile, there continue the biting criticisms. Blogger Caffeinesparks puts it this way, reacting to the outpouring of sympathy and shock over the death of Amiel Alcantara, the child accidentally run over in Ateneo de Manila: ““in the shanties along Pasig river, a kid playing falls into the water—drowned. Dead; a street urchin playing on the island along the road, runs after a kitten, gets run over—dead; babies die because their mothers live too far from health care centers or can only afford a manghihilot; 10 mothers dead a day—due to childbirth.” These are the grim and unnoticed statistics—so plentiful as to be unfelt—of what she calls the Invisible Class.

Why is it a biting criticism? If the blogger had access to the mortality statistics, why not write about it instead of criticizing the sympathy showered over Amiel Alcantara’s death? And perhaps, take it from there?

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Pepe Alcantara, Amiel Alcantara’s Dad Delivers 4 Messages

My husband refused to listen to me the night I first learned of Amiel Alcantara’s death. As I narrated the sordid details on how Amiel Alcantara died, Butch clamped his ears, “Stop it, I don’t want to hear anymore. It is just too much” All he knows is that Amiel got ran over by a van inside the Ateneo campus. He couldn’t take in the violent nature of Amiel’s death. (Edit March 8: My husband wrote A Grief Beyond Words) .So, when I visited the wake of Amiel Alcantara on February 25, I was all alone. No worries, I was there to offer comfort that a grief support group such as The Compassionate Friends is around if they needed it one day. Good thing Cathy was around too. I kept staring at Pepe Alcantara. He looked familiar to me but I couldn’t place his face. That night, I told Butch that I met the father, Pepe Alcantara. The name rang a bell to Butch but it was only the following day that we got confirmation in the papers that he is the same Pepe Alcantara he knew back then in his UP student days. Pepe was the UP Student Council President in the early 80’s with Lean Alejandro as his vice. Pepe and Butch belonged to the same student organization in the UP student days. Surely now, Butch will want to see Pepe.

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QTV Sweet Life on A Child’s Grief

I declined to appear in the Sweet Life Episode on “Comforting the Bereaved” for Lorna Tolentino’s friends. My last TV appearances left me disillusioned with anything showbiz in it. Despite the tragic elements in my life, I cannot stand embellishments injected into my life story. The segment producer tapped me to be the resource person for “A Child’s Grief” and I hemmed and hawed. I then remembered that grief education is part of my mission in life so I agreed in the end.

The guests were two young women, widowed in their mid-twenties. The focus of the segment was comforting their bereaved children. I discussed some creative projects and self-care. Every now and then I had to butt in and correct some misconceptions on Grief Recovery. Lucy Torres is quite smart but I don’t know what to make of Wilma Doesnt, her co-host. At the end of the show, I handed my calling card to the two widows. Wilma looked at me backing off as if I had some communicable disease don’t give me a calling card in half-joking/serious tone. Well, I told her I didn’t plan on giving you anyway but she kept repeating it. What the??

Apparently, she found the show’s theme so heavy and depressing that she kept whining about it. To think I was there to educate them about Child’s grief.

Since my portion covered less than 6 minutes (they practically cut half of that segment and concentrated more on Lorna Tolentino’s grief), I want to add more details that were not really discussed and which parents and guardians of a bereaved child might find useful.

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