A mother who lost a child often cries out over insensitive remarks. I have heard it countless of times. Consider this conversation from a mother who thought a well-meaning friend was insensitive.

Don’t they know? Of course these wonderful, concerned, well-meaning friends don’t know. They can only guess how I feel. They haven’t personally known (thank God) the disbelief, the shock, the anger, the depression that has filled my heart and soul since my child died. They don’t know that the words I need to hear are, ““I know you must be hurting terribly. You had such a good life together, the pain must be awful. You need to express your anger, your frustration. I know it must be hard for you to believe that God is a loving God who will support you through this horrible tragedy.” They can’t know words aren’t necessary, that just being there, holding my hand, crying with me, or listening to me would be much more comforting than words they feel they must say.

I don’t think they are insensitive. They just don’t know how to comfort or are uncomfortable in facing a person who lost a loved one.

Even one can experience grief in the loss of a presidential candidate in an election.

One often suffers temporary emotional pain in response to loss of anything that is very important to us. Here, losing a dream where we looked up to potential leaders of our country who hold our future and the future  of our children. The pain is a normal internal feeling one experiences in reaction to a loss—the defeat of a candidate in the elections. The winning of certain candidates even made the pain worse in the senatorial slate, which is mostly political dynasties or familiar names.

The defeat of your candidate hurts. This is a loss of a dream you nurtured in your mind for the love of country. It is okay to cry. There is a normal reaction to loss. It is not a sign of weakness. I needed to tell myself that: feel, acknowledge, and express my emotions with an attitude of acceptance and compassion. The time will come when you can handle it with a sense of loving acceptance.How do you fare when you come across a bereaved? What do you say? You don’t say “Life should go on”. The grief journey is a process and when a loss or death is just so recent, mourning and moving on is not possible.

Do not ask them to deny their tears. Allow them to wash their inner wounds and speed the healing of their heart. In time, life goes on.

Grief is cyclical, much the same way the seasons change. Saying “life should go on” when grief is so fresh is like diminishing the grief of these victims.

Not everyone will follow the same journey. Some move on to their new life (without their loved one) ahead than others. The bereaved, in their own individual ways, gradually get better at bearing their loss. Mainly, the pain simply softens with the passage of time.

Moving on means that we live a new normal, never forgetting the love and memories of our beloved. Moving on says nothing about forgetting our loved one, not missing them or not wishing they were still with us, many years after the death. It says we will think and feel differently about having lost him or her.

Here are other words that are not comforting to those who have lost a loved one:

“It’s a good way to die.”
Don’t they know there is no good way for a child to die? Can’t they understand there’s nothing good about his being snatched away from our life?

“Remember, everything is God’s will.”
Don’t they know I can’t understand how God could cause me such despair? Don’t they understand that I can’t accept this as God’s will?

“All things work together for good for those who love God.”
Don’t they know I’m not sure I can love a God who robbed me of my child? Can’t they understand I’m very angry at God, who treated me so unfairly?

“Your child is better off. He’s gone to Heaven, where he will have eternal peace.”
Don’t they know I can’t be relieved to know Hess in Heaven when I ache so to have him back? Can’t they understand that his death is an injustice, not a godsend?

“Count your blessings.”
Don’t they know that in this state of mind I can’t in my wildest dreams consider all this pain, this anger, this emptiness, this frustration a blessing?

“If you look around you, you’ll find someone worse off than you are.”
Don’t they know right now I can’t imagine anyone worse off than I am?

“Think of all your precious memories.”
Don’t they know how much it hurts to live with nothing more than memories? Can’t they understand that because our love was so great, the pain is more intense?

“Keep your chin up.”
Don’t they know how hard it is to do that when I really want to cry, to wail, and to scream at the injustice that has been dealt me?

“You must put it all behind you and get on with your life.”
Don’t they know we don’t hurt by choice when our children die? I haven’t met a bereaved parent yet who wasn’t really weary of hurting.

“Time will heal.”
Don’t they know how time is dragging for me now, that every minute seems like an hour and every hour like a day? Can’t they understand how frightening it is to face the rest of my life without my child?

“If there’s anything I can do, let me know.”
Don’t they know they shouldn’t wait for me to ““let them know?” Can’t they understand that my mind is so numb I can’t even think of what needs to be done?

I know I will embarrass my husband with this post. I wrote this list a couple of years ago but I just want to revive this for Valentine’s day. He tells me that his friends read my blog but I assure him I only write the good stuff. haha.

butch and I
For now, Let me count the ways:

1. I love the way my husband smiles across the room as I sit down and write this entry. To this day, my husband gazes at me lovingly (on random moments) as if it’s the first time he met me. As if I am the most attractive woman in the world.

2. I love my husband’s persistence. He refused to let me go when I told him that “I have had enough. I want a separation”. With courage and love, we got our second wind.

3. I love his courage to change, the way he let go of unhealthy behavior patterns as we worked on achieving our new normal after the death of Luijoe.

4. I love living with him one day at a time which requires so much faith in us. We don’t look back at the past unless healing from the past is part of today’s work. We look ahead to make future plans. We focus on this day’s activity, living it to the best of our ability.

5. I love that we sit down and laugh over our favorite show, or laughing together at the silliest things on TV.

6. I love the way my head fits nicely on his chest when we cuddle in front of the TV set.

7. I love that he does the grocery every weekend.

8. I love the warmth of his hands as we hold hands in the mall.

9. I love those random wet kisses even if I tell him “not now, the kids!”. The random display of affection in front of my horrified girls who often shriek ““Dad, Mom..no!” Their disgusted looks are priceless.

10. I love the way he took care of me at the hospital when I broke my leg and needed surgery. I had already left him that time and insisted that I live with him.

11. I love the affirmation. He assures me that I am beautiful even during those days I feel ugly or just having a bad hair day.

12. I love his frugal nature even if it means buying roses close to midnight of Valentine’s day.

13. I love our inner child moments when we play with our imaginary cats in “Neko Atsume”. It’s just good that we can giggle and let our hair down more often now.

14. I love to reminisce over our love story and the ups and downs that came along in our marriage. We like to look back and laugh at our stupid mistakes.

15. I love that he allowed me to own a pet cat knowing that he is allergic to cat fur.

16. I love the fact that he tries to treat everyday as Always Valentine’s Day.

17. I love watching the sunset with him while holding hands along Manila Bay.

18. I love our emails. I always close my email or chat with ““your loving wife”, or ““love and kisses” or ““your sexy wife” ““love you”. In turn he affirms my email with ““Dear Loving Wife..” or ends our chat ““see you , dear or I love you”. We never tire of saying sweet nothings to each other.

19. I love the daily text messages that affirms his love for me. And vice-versa, of course.

20. I love the recipe books that he regularly buys me.

21. I love the way he pretends to be shocked when I suggest something “sensual”.

22. I love random romantic moments. Buying me flowers when there is no occasion. Butch rarely buys me flowers but there are those days when he buys a bouquet just because.

23. I love our movie dates and munching popcorn. Just being there , holding hands and acting as if we are still steadies on a date.

24. I love his endearment to me which is calling me a punk. I don’t know why he calls me punk but I find it such an original endearment. I admit I can be a punk and a bitch.

25. I love that the good stuff I listed above more than surpass his annoying ways.

There are more than 25 ways my husband shows his love to me. We often say that we will love each other till eternal life. Our wedding vows are ““till death do us part” and should end there. Our belief that our son is in heaven gives us hope for eternal life. We look forward to more loving years of togetherness.

There is nothing abnormal about having the “holiday blues,” which are more like a mood than any sort of lasting condition. Depression, anxiety, and other psychological symptoms are associated with the holidays because this season brings back memories of a happier time in our lives.

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A few Christmases ago, I received an email from my husband about how he suddenly felt pangs of holiday blues hitting him once again. For the past years, the Christmas season has been a dreaded holiday for my husband. When he is in that mood, he can’t stand those Christmas carols, bombarding him from the car stereo, malls, restaurants and even in our own home. Like most of us, the holidays bring pleasant memories, laughter, family togetherness, the element of surprise, and lots of holiday cheer. Holiday blues hit those wishing to recapture feelings associated with past , real or fantasized past holidays.

I know my husband is not alone and thought of some of you who may feel the holiday blues.

Who gets affected by the holiday blues?

  1. Victims of disaster areas. For instance, those who lost their homes and work because of Typhoon Odette.

    Photo source: Twitter account of VP Leni Robredo. Scene is from Cebu

2. Families of overseas workers. They see other happy families who are together on Christmas day and wonder when they will be all together one Christmas day. The song, I’ll Be Home for Christmas is a classic for all those living from a distance.

3. Soldiers, doctors, nurses and medical staff who have to work on Christmas day.

4. Those who have recently lost a loved one.

5. Couples who are estranged or are apart during the holidays. Now we know where the song, Pasko na Sinta ko is dedicated to.

6. Individuals who are single and lonely and see other couples so sweet and cuddly as they walk past them.

7. Those who experience financial pressures on the holidays including purchase of gifts, clothes and party items.

8. Those who experience unrealistic expectations from friends, church or work associates to take part in seasonal activities outside of your normal routine.

9. Those who feel conflicting family expectations and demands that create guilt and resentment.

and many more who are separated from loved ones, because of death, distance and illness.

My beloved son, Luijoe and my two girls

That night I gave my husband a hug as we cuddled in bed , then told him that I have been writing the Holiday Blues and Coping and Surviving Christmas on the month of December for the past years. I fired up my browser and read those two entries to him. He smiled. “your entries are still relevant even if it is old”. What caught his attention is this portion:

You or your loved one might have a temporary spell of the blues without knowing it. There is nothing abnormal about having the “holiday blues,” which are more like a mood than any sort of lasting condition. Depression, anxiety, and other psychological symptoms are associated with the holidays because this season brings back memories of a happier time in our lives.

Then we talked of our progress the past years, especially in creating new holiday traditions, one of which was to start and take part in comforting other families in grief and even starting this blog.

I continued to cradle my husband in my arms. As I droned on and on, I suddenly heard unearthly sounds of his snoring. He must have felt some bit of comfort knowing that this too shall pass.

Not that I don’t miss my son or feel any holiday blues. I feel the pangs now and then and tears fall. I just say to myself, “this will pass. Go with the flow”. December 5 was my dad’s 13th death anniversary and I feel a tug in my heart but I also recall his booming laughter that never fails to lift my spirits.

Yes, despite the blues, it is still possible to sing ‘Tis the season to be jolly, fa-la-la-la-la.

How you can beat the blues?

First, How will you recognize you have the blues?

holiday bluesHow will you recognize you have the blues?

  • Headaches
  • An inability to sleep or sleeping too much
  • Changes in appetite that cause either weight loss or gain
  • Agitation and anxiety
  • Excessive or inappropriate feelings of guilt
  • Diminished ability to think clearly or concentrate
  • Decreased interest in activities that usually are enjoyable, such as: food, sex, work, friends, hobbies and entertainment.

Second, How does one cope with the Holiday Blues?

blue christmasHow does one cope with the Holiday Blues?

For anyone feeling blue during the holidays can follow some very basic, common sense steps to help in coping with the blues.

  • Take things one day at a time and if need be one hour at a time.
  • Try to maintain a normal routine. Keep doing your normal daily activities.
  • Get enough sleep or at least enough rest.
  • Regular exercise, even walking, helps relieve stress, tension and improve moods.
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet. Limit high-calorie foods and junk food.
  • Avoid using alcohol, medications or other drugs to mask the pain.
  • Do those activities or things and be with the people that comfort, sustain, nourish, and recharge you.
  • Remember the healthy coping strategies you have used in the past to survive challenges. Draw on these strengths again.

What does one do to feel less blue during the Holidays

There are several things that can help in making it easier to manage the blues.

  • Determine your priorities and establish realistic goals for the holidays.
  • Delegate some responsibilities to others.
  • Take time for yourself.
  • Minimize financial stressors by setting a budget and sticking to it.
  • Enjoy free holiday activities.
  • Think about giving a free gift from your heart. Your time or your presence.
  • Be around supportive people.
  • Volunteer and help someone else.
  • Create a New Holiday Tradition.
  • Find a new place or a new way to celebrate.

Just take baby steps if all these overwhelming.

Source: Holiday Blues – Feeling Sad, Lonely or Depressed During the Holidays?

Image via steamboatcounseling.com


I started this blog so I could spread the word that the Philippines has The Compassionate Friends , a grief support group for families that have lost a child or a sibling. Aside from its primary mission to assist families toward the positive resolution of grief following the death of a child of any age, it also provides information to help others be supportive. The second mission proved useful to a blogger whose friend’s sibling died of sucide. (NOTE:In my entry, Suicide:How do you say it?, ““Died of suicide” or ““died by suicide” are accurate, emotionally neutral ways to explain the death.)

What a compassionate friend she is! She took time to send me an e-mail asking my advice on how to deal with her close friend’s loss. I just told her this:

The best thing to do is just listen to her without any judgement at all. In short, just be a friend, Be there, If she wants to talk, let her talk. Listen. If you feel like crying, just cry with her. Hold her hand. Hug her. There are no words that can comfort really. Mention the loved one’s name and anecdotes if you have memories…we love to listen to stories of our loved one.

I also offered her some tips when dealing with bereaved family member or friend. True enough, just talking helped her friend and even the friend’s mother. Suicide is the most difficult topic to talk about. I know of a few suicide survivors (bereaved family members) who refuse to even say the “S” word. A trusted friend is what the suicide survivor needs in their early grief, one who is non-judgmental and compassionate. Talking helps relieve the pain.

The suicide survivor usually feels isolated and guilty for not having prevented the death one way or another. Guilt combined with incomprehension is what I think makes suicide different from any other death. It’s very hard to make any sense of it. All the Whys? and What ifs? that you can think of remain with them for such a long time. But the question remains, what causes death by suicide? Could it have been prevented?


I don’t have statistics or studies to prove that it can be prevented because there are many factors that might have caused the death (see above image). Let me just tackle one myth which is suicide ideation as a result of mental illness. These are my observations from informal discussion on the topic of mental illness and suicide.

1. There is a stigma on people who have mental illness. Heck , even some Human Resources officers frown upon job applicants and employees taking some sort of anti-depressants or mood disorder drugs. Often, these people are labelled “mentally unstable”. The fact that they are taking medicines show they are helping themselves and are less likely to be “unstable”. What is scary are the undiagnosed mentally ill persons like Charles Roberts,that milkman who killed Amish girls in a school house.

2. Oftentimes, the death was a result of a chemical imbalance that controlled the person; it was not a rational choice. Often a victim of bipolar disorder, also called manic depression, this type of depression results to drastic mood swings. They often get confused and very afraid for years before they finally give in and end their life. With the right medication and enough holisitic therapy, the mental depression can be minimized. Sometimes the medication may not even work for the patient and it’s a matter of regular visits to the psychiatrist to determine the right dose and type of medication.

3. Despair is a sin, the old folks say. Feeling gloomy, and desperate can be easily cured if one has strong spiritual faith. I don’t think so. It might help but remember, a chemically imbalanced brain isn’t wired well. “You will get over it . Don’t lose faith. Keep praying.” are often the words given to the desperate person. But God asks us to help ourselves and seek medical help.

Shame often prevents a person from seeking medical help because of this stigma towards mental illness. And even if they ask for help, the gravity of their problem is minimized as mere despair. Oh yes, I know of one death by suicide from a friend because of this reason alone.

Suicide survivors, like this blogger’s friend, will most likely struggle for many years, to find reasons why her sibling would even consider death by suicide. Were there other available options? What if one of these other options had been considered? All these questions make the grieving process last even longer. However long the process, this search for meaning, safe sharing with others and time, helps diminish the suffering. The sad fact remains that there is so much stigma surrounding death by suicide which is very regrettable. Maybe someday, a suicide survivor will discover it’s safe to share their stories with friends , families and other survivors.

Save a life. Read more on General information about suicide and suicide prevention

For Suicide Prevention Hotline in the Philippines,

The Philippines’ FIRST depression and suicide prevention hotline is now open.

Hopeline PH’s 24/7 hotlines: 0917-558-4673 (Globe)

0918-873-4673 (Smart)

02-88044673 (PLDT)

2919 (toll-free for Globe and TM)


Dear Luijoe,

It’s been 21 years . 21 years today…


  • without seeing your impish smile,
  • without receiving wild flowers with a note “I love you so very much, mama”
  • without your gentle reminder to pray
  • without your lectures on parenting,
  • without your crazy jokes
  • without pinching your handsome cheeks

These are all vibrant memories now tucked in my heart, which I stitched back together.

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Oh yes. The tears still stream down my cheeks just like today, because I miss you terribly. Love never died, even if you are gone from my embrace. Seventeen years ago, I felt the world swallowed me up. I thought I could not live with the unbearable, gut-wrenching pain in my heart. At times, I thought I went crazy. I barely survived. I had to find that courage to live because your two sisters and dad needed me. That difficult journey left me literally with a broken heart but not too broken, because why did God give me a second wind in life to make a difference in this mortal world?

Last night I asked your dad what would I be doing right now if you were still here. Definitely not a blogger. You know I only blogged because I wanted to comfort others in pain like me. This pain that will always be part of me for the rest of my life. Look, even VeePress thought my blog dedicated to you is worthy to be an ebook.

Come to think of it, I would probably still be a stay-at-home- mom until you leave home, like your two sisters did.

I wonder if you would still lecture me on “mom…it is like this..” You and your sisters were the best teachers on parenting that books could not deliver. I learned so much.

Today, I reflect on this new life, this new normal without you. From a zombie-like existence, I chose to live a meaningful life not for myself initially, but because I knew you would have wanted me to choose happiness over misery. This new normal is not anymore for you but for myself.

My new life is so much better. I should feel guilty because I would trade my life in an instant if I could have you back in my arms. But see, I love who I am now ever since you died 21  years ago. I don’t recognize my old self. Back then, my life purpose was to be just a doting mother to you and your two sisters, apathetic to what happened outside our cozy home. How could I ever imagine a life after a death of my precious child? Impossible, but I did. It must be true that you are here with me, your spiritual presence, and just standing by me , encouraging me to move on with my new normal.

Today, I give back this gratitude for the joy of this new life I have been blessed. I hope you are proud of me. I want to be a blessing to others and to my country. I am having the time of my life yet at times face challenges in fighting for a cause like that crying boy, Kian delos Santos, human rights, and other worthy issues. The lessons of the pain brought by your death gave me courage to carry on this fight.

When the going gets rough, I just tell myself, “You can get through this. You have gone through worse. This pain is nothing compared to losing Luijoe”.

So that is how life has been, my Luijoe. Your death gave me courage to continue to fight what is right, that wherever there is life there is hope.

I miss you so much right here where I belong.

I miss for the loss of what a handsome man you would have become (almost 28 years old now, but instead you are forever six years old.).

luijoe at the cemetery

I miss the loss of the life I would have if you were here.

I miss those times you would point to that lovely blue and white house where you promised to build one for me in the future. Now that I think of it, this house you promised will come forth in eternal life, when we meet again.

 For the past 17 years, visiting the cemetery, bringing bouquet and honoring your life is what we can only do.

I will soon be there by your resting place , with a bunch of flowers and a note etched in my heart “I love you so very much, Luijoe”.


A few years ago at Plurk, once my favorite micro-blogging social networking tool, a plurk  caught my attention:

Someone asked civiland plastic what is the diff? Does it annoy you? When you learn someone is plastic?

My friend goes further to explain that

  1. Civilis being nice and mannered while plastic is brown nosing. Does it annoy me? There are times of course I am only human.
  2. Plastic has the element of design or wanting something. You trust less the plastic. Anyway, that is for me.

What I found interesting is a Plurk Friend’s response :most people confuse being polite and the social graces with “plastic”.

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Imagine the following scenario.

  1. The People Pleaser

Ever notice this person running around, fussing over others, chattering a mile-a-minute when what they are really saying is “I hope I’m pleasing you”. Now there is nothing wrong with trying to please people. But People-pleasing backfires. Not only do others get annoyed with them, the people pleaser often gets annoyed when the intent to please did not work as planned. The most comfortable people are those who are considerate of others but ultimately please themselves.

Is the People Pleaser a civil or plastic person?

  1. The Polite Person

Imagine two friends having an argument inside the mall over a guy named Mario. Let’s call Anna as the One who is seething with rage, raising her voice and about to pull the hair of the second girl named Betty. She suspects that Mario is flirting with Betty. Betty appears calm and collected even when…

Anna: Why? You are so plastic! F*&%&& you! I know you like Mario. What a bitch you are! I want to know the truth. Did you go out on a date?

Betty: Excuse me, I don’t want to talk to you like this. Maybe we can talk some other time.

Anna: Why are you evading my question? I want you to be honest with me.

Betty leaves Anna.

Is Betty a civil or plastic person?

  1. The Arrogant Person

Arrogance is not the same as being proud or even opinionated as most bloggers are. Arrogant people seem to think that they know everything, and they can really get on your nerves. They are condescending and exerts superiority over you. But see, arrogant people are really quite insecure. They seek to dominate and control because they are afraid of being dominated and controlled. Their superiority comes to a point where they humiliate you in public through insults. (An honest opinion is not an insult if it was solicited.) Now, an arrogant person who is intimidating you feels inferior to someone else because this is how his mind works, this arrogance may be nothing more than a way to cover feelings of inferiority he experiences when dealing with someone else.

Does the arrogant person lack civility or social graces?

  1. The Frank Person

Is the arrogant person the same as the Frank Person, one who is honest about his feelings or opinion? No. I know friends who are literally honest to a fault. They have trouble even telling little white lies to protect other people’s feelings. There are times when lying is the lesser of the available evils.

Sometimes, the sensitive person wants the “Frank Person” to sugarcoat their honesty. Truth hurts sometimes so be gentle with me, okay?

Sometimes, the frank person is also known as rude for speaking the truth.

Should the frank person learn to be more civil or plastic?

Looking at all these scenarios, I believe I meet these persons every day of my life. If an arrogant person bashes me, do I bash back? Most probably not.

Does it make me plastic for not reacting in the same unhealthy manner? Nope

Does it annoy me? Sometimes.

Most of the time, the arrogant, the people pleaser, the polite person or frank person does not annoy me unless I allow it to happen. Sometimes when I am in a bad mood, it can annoy me. I allowed myself to feel annoyed. Eventually, I learn to let it go. Yes, I have those days.

On most days, I set boundaries.

You have always heard me say repeatedly that we cannot control people’s actions, attitudes and even events. The only thing we can control is our attitude. But not that easy. One choice in recovery is choosing what we want to think and using our mental energy positively. Positive thinking can be extremely difficult in stressful situations. Positive thinking does not mean thinking in an unrealistic matter or reverting to denial. If I don’t like something, I respect my own opinion. If a problem hits me, I am honest about it. If something isn’t working out, I accept reality. I don’t have to dwell on the negative portions of my experience.

Life and people just seem to push and push. If someone pushes me to my limits, that’s exactly what’s happening: I am being pushed to my limits. I give myself permission to set the limits I want and need to set in my life.

The chronic nega ( or negative person) has no place in my life. I try to empower the good in myself, others and life. I’m willing to release, or let go of, negative thought patterns and replace them with positive ones. I will choose what I want to affirm, and I will make it good.

Does it annoy you when you learn someone is plastic?

wounded bird syndromeThey say marriage is for better or for worse. Couples try to support and care for each other, through good times and bad. Usually, when one of us hits rock bottom, the other can try to be the mainstay for a little while, to help the other along. But what happens when our child dies? The couple is now cast into the same dark place, struggling with the worst thing they have ever faced. Couples are there together, but they may discover that they are also there alone.

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Now not all couples in grief experience this dilemma. I believe that marriages with “wounded bird syndrome” suffer the most. What is the “wounded bird syndrome”?

Many times a nurturer will marry a wounded bird who is extremely dependent. They need their spouse to fulfill their every need. As a result, it puts a lot of pressure on the relationship. The person who is the nurturer feels as if the weight of the relationship is upon them and they feel smothered. The wounded bird is frustrated with the nurturer because they never can take care of every need that they have. What the wounded bird is trying to do is to have their needs met by someone who is not able to meet them.

A wounded bird in grief will seek someone to fulfill this unmet need.

I never knew what this meant until I got a text message one day from Cecile (names and events are changed to protect their identities). She asked “How can I tell Peter,my boyfriend to move on without being insensitive?” Then Cecile and I talked on the landline phone. She explained that her boyfriend lost his 5 year old daughter , Samantha in a car accident over 6 months ago. Not that I am nosy or anything like that, I asked if she was the mother of the girl.

“No. Peter and his wife were already separated a year before the accident” Cecile said.

Would it have been rude of me to ask: “Where’s the proof they are separated?” I just treated Cecile as a support system to Peter. For the next three months, Cecile and I were in contact. She wanted to comfort her boyfriend in his most difficult moment. Knowing how important support is, I gave tips on Handling the Bereaved. Then one day, a friend asked me to help a bereaved mother.

My friend said “Emma lost her 5 year old daughter to a car accident a few months ago. Can you talk to her? “.

DING-DONG. Something rang inside my mind.

I asked my friend “Is Samantha the name of her daughter who died on May 13, 2005?”

My friend affirmed.

What a small word our grief circle is!

The succeeding text messages infuriated me. I felt like a fool. I found out that Emma and Peter are very much married.

I immediately texted Cecile and confronted her about this revelation.

Cecile pleaded “Please don’t mention we talked”

I shouldn’t have given advice to Cecile in the first place. She used Peter’s grief to her advantage so they could get close and continue their trysts. Like a wounded bird, Cecile nurtured Peter with the grief support I provided. I was so mad.

I met up with Emma finally. I wanted to tell her about her husband’s girlfriend. A couple’s grief gets even more complicated with a third party. I waited for the right opportunity and allowed her to unload her thoughts and feelings. I found out that she knew about the existence of the girl even prior to Samantha’s death. As far as she knew, that relationship ended. I felt that I could not continue talking to Emma until I revealed the truth. I felt like a hypocrite if I withheld that tidbit.

I released the bombshell.

Emma’s face crumpled.

I wanted to cry when I saw her pained expression.

I thought she would kill me with this revelation but thank goodness she was full of gratitude.

I told her that she is not alone with the wounded bird syndrome. Another bereaved mother experienced the same situation with a “girl friend” of her spouse. What helped the couple was the knowledge that couples grieve differently. The Compassionate Friends, helped with this revelation. The spouse found comfort and strength in talking to other parents who have battled through similar difficulties and survived them. There is hope in Emma and Peter’s marriage. I introduced her to Angie, the bereaved mother who almost lost her spouse to a cunning girlfriend.

It is often said that a relationship is like a dance: we have to find a tempo that works for us both, but then each of has our own steps. Grieving will probably intensify our awareness of each other and our sense of ‘together yet alone’. The need to remember our child and to share memories will always be there. But our lives do continue, and the insights into our relationship that have been so painfully discovered as we grieve may enrich our partnership in the years ahead.

It’s that time of the year that I declutter my home. The library which is located in my home office is often filled with books because my family members are book lovers. As I reviewed the books on the top shelf, I screamed with delight upon discovering my son’s yearbook in Family Montessori Katipunan , his first school. I thought I had lost his yearbook after moving homes in 2007. I thought “there must be a message here”. I quickly leafed through the pages and found his handsome photo.

luijoe in yearbook

I could see that parents submitted anecdotes about their child. I could not help tearing and smiling at the same time. My heart tied in a knot as I read the last part.

luijoe's yearbook1

He is a very energetic child in spite of his asthma. His favourite past time is reading (pretending to) his books, playing with his Lego blocks, writing in workbooks, running around the house and driving his sisters crazy. When he is in a good mood, he likes to kiss everyone. He always wants to be loved. However, when he is scolded, which he hates, he says “I am a good boy!” with much conviction.

Come to think of it, children are born without any baggages. Children are good. It is adults that give them the bad habits. Parents help shape their thoughts and habits in their early years. When I wrote this anecdote, Luijoe was only 4 years old. True, Luijoe was a good boy.

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It occurred to me that Luijoe taught me a lot about parenting. Luijoe did not mince words when he found something wrong with my parenting style. I am sure most of you have learned some important lessons from your children. I would like to share some of these poignant memories from my son.

1. Patience, mom

One of the important skills that all parents need to learned is how to be patient.

There were times my son wanted to get his way and he would cry when I refused. When I tell him to stop his crying spells, he’d raise his hands like a STOP sign “Mom. give me time to stop crying. I need more time to stop”.

That really gave me an insight that kids do not automatically stop crying like one would shut off the faucet.

2. Breastfeeding is good for babies

I still remember my son tugging at my sleeve “Mom, did you do that to me?”

He led me to the room where Maan, his former yaya was breastfeeding her son.

“Of course, I breastfed you.” I hugged my boy.

“Are you sure mom? Breastfeeding is good for babies.”

My son didn’t seem to believe me. Too bad I didn’t have photos of our breastfeeding moments. I pointed out the cross stitching projects in the kitchen .

I explained “When I breastfed you, I did cross stitch projects because it took you an hour to feed.” He seemed satisfied with my answer but the next day, he nagged me with the same question.

Luijoe’s fascination with breastfeeding inspired me to start my breastfeeding advocacy in 2007.

3. Don’t spank

My son once berated me for spanking him, “mom you should not spank”. I wanted to hit myself. I did not know any better. My parents brought me up, that spanking is a form of discipline. I turned to using another style “Face the corner” . He did not like it either but I had set rules that needed to be followed. Luijoe’s words haunted me through the years which probably moved me to pursue Children rights and eventually push for The Positive Discipline in Lieu of Corporal Punishment of Children Act of 2011.

4. Take time to smell the flowers 


Flowers remind me to let go of work. Luijoe reminds me that I need to smell the flowers. I smile at the sweet memories, of his hugs which came with a bunch of flowers as a surprise. “I love you so very much, Mama,” he’d cry out. Remembering all these often bring tears to my eyes. The flowers he picked often came from our garden or the park. It is a bittersweet memory. I wish I could turn back the clock and hear him say “I love you so very much, Mama,” over and over again. Maybe it is one reason, I often deluge my home with fresh flowers.

5. Pray , mom

My son is very prayerful. I bought him a Catholic prayer book which we would read every night. I also had my own prayerbook which I shared with him.

Luijoe’s favorite prayer book

One time, Luijoe held my face with his chubby palms, “pray, mom”. I gave him a hug and prayed along with him. Without my Luijoe beside me now, I turned to prayers. I found the power of a praying parent. All I can do now is pray every day. I let go of worrying. It has been said that “worrying is like praying for what you don’t want.” Let go and Let God is my motto.

For many years, I struggled to find the meaning of my son’s death. As memories flow, I am reminded that Luijoe is never really gone. He continues to live in me. There is a lot to accomplish. Luijoe reminds me of the bigger work that God has set out for me in this world…declutter the mess.

I wrote this many years ago but I want to share this story again because Easter Sunday is very special.

“If I die, Mama, will I be alive again?” Luijoe asked. My six-year-old was lying on the bed, flipping through the prayer books piled on his tummy.


It was Holy Week, a month before that fateful day of May 27, 2000.

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I turned my body to face him and stroked his cheek. How could I explain the mysteries of death to a little boy? “When we die, Lui, we will live forever, through eternal life in heaven,” I said the lines I’d memorized from the teachings of our Catholic Church.

“When I die, I will be alive again!” he exclaimed, jumping in bed, arms wide in exuberance.

“Yes, baby, you will live forever, but not on Earth.” I smiled at his childish enthusiasm and wide-eyed wonder. “I won’t see you anymore, but you will have eternal life with God.”

my son
With a serious look on his face, he asked, “Mama, who goes to heaven?” His chubby fingers twirled on the strands of my hair. He sniffed the ends and splayed my hair along his cheeks.

“Good boys go to heaven and usually they become angels.”

“I don’t want to go to hell,” he said with vehemence.

I hugged him, said he was a good boy, and promised that he would never go to hell.

Head bowed, he picked up a prayer book to continue praying, then looked up. With both hands planted firmly on my cheeks, he asked, “Are the clouds heaven?”

“I’m not sure if the clouds are heaven, but it’s somewhere up there and hell is down there,” I said, kissing his fat cheeks.

He never tired of asking the same questions over and over again, as though reassuring himself that there were angels that protected him and that heaven was a beautiful place to go when someone died.

Why had I not seen our conversation as a sign that something devastating was about to happen? If I had sensed the omen then, could I have prevented his death? Had Luijoe known he was leaving us soon and in his childlike way, tried to warn me?

(The above is an excerpt from the story I wrote on Luijoe’s Life and Death from The Fallen Cradle edited by Agnes Prieto)

Sometimes I wished I had the power to go back in time and stopped his death. Of course, that is not possible. Those wonderful words he told me weeks before his death is what keeps my faith alive.

Luijoe’s words never fail to bring me hope that we will reunite one day. It gives me the courage to put meaning in my life.

My religious background always taught me that Jesus is in Heaven with God and the angels and that Heaven is a place to go , but only after we die. The ultimate questions rests on , “how can anyone see or experience Heaven after they’re dead, since we’re taught when you die, everything ceases to exist? ” “Or does the spirit live on?” Has anyone actually heard a heaven testimonial from a loved one?

Another common question is “What is the use in striving for something that is intangible, invisible and unseen? Or is it? Eternal Life seems so elusive.”

Yet I will go with my faith. I believe my greatest proof is my son when he innocently exclaimed that “When I die, I will be alive again” two weeks before his untimely death. How simplistic but that is faith.

Faith is one of the virtues that keeps me alive and going in this temporary world.

“I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” (John11:25,25)

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16)

May Easter Day remind us not only of our Lord’s resurrection but also that of our precious children. We hope your celebration of Easter is filled with the joy the Christ offers in his resurrection.

Happy Easter day to all.

stjohn.jpgWhen a child dies, it’s not the natural order of things. For many years, I struggled to find the meaning of my son’s death. Five years and a lot of pain later, I finally found the answers. It all started with an email to Cathy after I invited her to join as co-founder for the Compassionate Friends Philippines.I have to mention that this support group is not around anymore,  but I continue to offer comfort in my aboutmyrecovery.com blog.

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She replied and readily agreed to join. What struck me was her statement:

I now know that we are called to serve in different ways because we have different missions. Setting up Compassionate Friends in the Philippines is clearly yours as Migi’s Corner and Grief counselling and death education are mine.

How could that be? If I wanted a mission, a foundation seems a more noble idea. “The Compassionate Friends” is not an original idea. So there I was thinking, Alma, Cathy and Pia initiated foundations all in the memory of their children. I don’t have any memorial or foundation in Luijoe’s name. I felt a bit sad, but Cathy’s words stuck in my mind for many days until I remembered a conversation with my son during Holy Week.

The actual picture that Luijoe pointed out in his prayerbook

This is what I wrote in Luijoe’s memorial site almost 21 years ago:

Then one night while we had our usual prayers before bedtime, he pointed to the picture of St. John the Apostle which was found in his Rosary Prayer book. I explained that Jesus told John to take care and comfort his mother when he dies. Luijoe seemed to be touched by St. John and the following nights, he kept repeating the same question and this time he was asking how John was related to Mother Mary. I found that to be a very deep question, and I just said he was one of Jesus’ apostle.

Now I realized the meaning. It was like Luijoe was making sure I would remember John. I did remember our conversation during the wake .It touched my heart that my son was worried about my grief.

I realized Luijoe wanted me to carry on the comfort to others. The St. John symbolizes compassion. By working with The Compassionate Friends, I would act like a “St. John” to other bereaved parents. This memory brought tears of joy and nostalgia. Even if I am no longer around in this mortal world, this grief support group will still continue on. Truly, God works in mysterious ways and He uses our children to help us find and shape our ministries. It is our children who remind us of the bigger work that God has set out for us in this world.

I wrote this post a long time ago when I was still active with “The Compassionate Friends”. But I continue to talk to parents who have lost a child through my blog and sharing this podcast. My son never let me forget that there are many “St. Johns” in my life. Today, Good Friday reminds me Luijoe is never entirely gone

Luijoe is never entirely gone.

Luijoe’s favorite prayer book