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 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)


A year ago, my daughter shared me an article “Self help: try positive action, not positive thinking”

The self-help industry is mired in ideas about positive thinking that are at best ineffective and at worst destructive. If you want to be more confident or successful, says Richard Wiseman, the best thing to do is act the part

I have always believed positive thoughts should not end there but placed into action.

“Acting as if” is one of my favorite recovery tool that worked for me. By acting as if you are a certain type of person, you become that person, what I call the “As If” principle. To practice the positive, I act as if. It’s a positive form of pretending. It’s a useful tool to use to get ourselves unstuck. For many years after my son died, I isolated from friends . During the rare social gatherings I attended, I forgot how to initiate small talk. I was catatonic who preferred to be invisible amidst the light banter. I bet my friends or relatives felt their were talking to a blank wall. The only persons I socialzed were close family members. I realized the gravity of my people skills when I joined a parent’s group of my daughter’s colllege and I couldn’t say a word. I knew I needed to wake up from my zombie state.

I forced myself into positive recovery behaviors, disregarding my doubts and fears, until my feelings caught up with reality. Acting as if is a positive way to overcome fears, doubts, and low self-esteem. I did not have to lie or be dishonest with myself. It has been seven years since I used the “Acting as if” principle. I believed it worked because it was the only way to get out of the pit.

1. Becoming a media resource person

I acted as if I could speak up in public until I actually gained self- confidence and started to open up. When I started the grief support group, The Compassionate Friends, I was suddenly thrown into the media. The first interview and TV guest appearance terrified me. But how else will my mission get promoted? Acting as if I was confident enabled me to get through with these media exposure.

When I was invited to co-host Ratsada Inquirer shortly after my 55th birthday, I felt unsure if I could make it. I wanted to expand my horizons in order to share my advocacy or my opinions to a larger scale. So I “acted as if” I was confident even if I fumbled in my Tagalog. Acting as if I could be a great co-host, I started with being my usual self and adding a few Tagalog words here and there. I was relieved to get good feedback after the show which inspires me to continue. I constantly practice my speaking voice and Tagalog words.

2. Second wind in marriage

Acting as if also worked for my marriage. At the height of my grief in 2005, my marriage turned rocky to the point I considered separation but an accident forced me to work it out. Long story. Never in my wildest dream did I imagine myself with a broken ankle as I stepped inside my new pad. I had no choice but to live with my husband and work things out. Truly God works in mysterious ways. It was as if God said ” you can’t run away from your marriage. Try to fix it. Give it a second chance”. I acted as if I was back when we were first romantic couples dating in UP Diliman. That involved acting as if I was so romantic and it caught on. My husband probably did his part in acting as if were were steadies again.

“Fake it till you make it” is also called “act as if”. You probably heard this common catchphrase that means to imitate confidence so that as the confidence produces success, it will generate real confidence. It works.

Now, when a problem haunts me, acting as if can helps me get unstuck. I act as if the problem will be or already is solved so I can go on with my daily routine. Today, I have opened up to the positive possibilities of the future instead of limiting the future by today’s feelings and circumstances.

Here are 10 quick and effective exercises that use the As If principle to transform how you think and behave. Try to make a conscious decision to act as if you feel fine and are going to be fine.

So if someone says to us, by word or by action, “You should be over
that by now,” we can recall the words from the Talmud: “Judge no one before you have been in his place.”

my-childrenWhen people ask how many kids I have, I always say three children and pretty soon, the question goes on details like “are they in school”, “how old are they?” If I am not in the mood, I just say two children because the conversation will always lead to my son’s whereabouts. The moment I say my third child died 10 years ago, I feel a sense of discomfort.

More often than not “you’ve moved on , right?” , or “you found closure already?”

If a well-meaning friend said something inappropriate with respect to Luijoe’s death, I would try to focus on the intent of the comment instead of the comment itself. Maybe, my friend just didn’t know what to say.

Move on. It is just a chapter in the past but don’t close the book, just turn the page. – Unknown
Moving on does not mean closure…

However when they are acquaintances, I find it terribly annoying. The word “closure” carries with it an underlying message of impatience: “OK,” the person appears to be saying, “it’s time to get over it.”

Am I being overly sensitive? Perhaps.

It is not just me though. In meetings with the Compassionate Friends, the word “closure” bothers most parents. The “c word,” seemed to push all our buttons.

It is understandable that our friends feel uneasy in the presence of pain. How they wish they can take away our grief. That’s okay. But bereaved parents resent the implication of failure or self-absorption if one can’t adhere to a recovery schedule.

We do, in our own individual ways, gradually get better at bearing our 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.

Ashley Davis Prend says that closure is not for people we love or for feelings.

Closure simply does not exist emotionally, not in a pure sense. We cannot close the door on the past as if it didn’t exist because, after losing someone dear to us, we never forget that person or the love we shared. And in some ways, we never entirely get over the loss. We learn to live with the loss, to integrate it into our new identity.

Imagine if we really could end this chapter in our life, completely. It would mean losing our memories, our connections to those we love. If we really found closure, it would ironically hurt even more because the attachment would be severed. And this attachment is vital to us—the memories are treasures to be held close, not closed out.

Perhaps it is better to think in terms of healing. Yes, we can process our pain and move to deeper and deeper levels of healing. Yes, we can find ways to move on and channel our pain into productive activities. Yes, we can even learn to smile again and laugh again and love again.

I have not closed the door on what my loss meant, for if I did that, I would inadvertently close the door on all the love that Luijoe and I shared. And that would truly be a loss too terrible to bear.

I love the thought that my son is still alive in someone’s memory outside of my family. Today , being Mother’s day, I received a lot of greetings but this one touched me the most:

Sorry we haven’t been in touch. You’re always in my thoughts. It’s an honor to meet such a youthful looking mom like you. You’re getting younger each year. Thank You for leading by example to all Pinay moms. Your story of ‘recovery’ is a powerful force on what can mothers do for their kids. Your son couldn’t be prouder. …! Happy Mother’s Da !

luijoe and me. If someone greeted me a Mother’s day greeting 15 years ago, I would have cried . Mother’s day is a terrible day for those of us who have lost a child recently. Over the years, I’ve come to understand that I’m not alone at all like this mother who wrote about the the real challenge after losing a child: moving forward. As G.K. Chesterton wrote, “We are all in the same boat in a stormy sea, and we owe each other a terrible loyalty.”

Oh, I remember those days in early grief when it took every ounce of strength to just get through a minute of a day. Time indeed helped tame my emotions over Luijoe’s death so much but sometimes when the question about children and numbers come up, I feel stumped. All parents who have lost a child sometimes don’t know how to answer that question.

The question How Many Children Do you Have pops up in any social gatherings.

You see, I can answer that one now. You all know I have 3 children. I don’t have to explain that to most of you, Yes, it depends on the person asking and when and where it is asked. If it is asked by a stranger at a restaurant where I sit with my two girls, it is usually assumed that I have two children. I let that slide because it is more or less something like, “Are these your two children?” and of course, I reply, they are.

If someone I’ve just met at church or a social gathering asks me how many children I have I will tell him or her that I have two on earth and one in heaven. Sometimes, the person does not know how to react and backs out with any follow-up question. This most certainly hurts. I can’t also blame them because death can be an uncomfortable topic to most people who can’t handle a tragic story. That’s why when I am not in the mood to explain, I just say “Two children”. There are some that ask about my boy in Heaven and I appreciate the opportunity to speak Luijoe’s name and talk about his life.

It is comforting to hear friends say “Luijoe”. It always makes me smile.


Each bereaved parent has their trigger point or point of pain. The number three when it comes to children sometimes hits me. Thoughts hover inside my head. I am a mother of three. A different grouping- two here and one in Heaven. But am I not still a mother with three kids?


holiday_bluesTis the season to be jolly…fa-la-la-la-la. Right, it may be a season to be jolly for some of us but there are a few out there who experience the holiday blues for so many reasons. I can see it in the emails I receive. I am not a therapist but for some reason, more and more visitors email me asking for advice for all sorts of reason. Of course, their questions are for my eyes only. They are sad, lonely and depressed. The suicide rate is even the highest during this holiday season. How I wish I could help but I am not a professional counselor though I can offer friendly advice. I’ve gathered a few tips for those feeling the holiday blues. As you might know, the holiday blues is defined as a feeling of sadness, loneliness, depression and even anxiety that often occur in and around the holiday season.” You or your loved one might be having 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.

Who experiences the Blues?

People who might be at risk for feeling blue at the holidays include:

  • Someone who has a death in the family
  • Someone who has experienced financial setbacks at the holidays
  • Someone who is separated from loved ones at the holidays with work, military obligations or other reasons
  • Someone who has experienced other losses – moving, recent difficult medical diagnosis
  • Someone who has experienced a change in lifestyle – getting married, getting divorced, new baby
  • Someone who tends to be depressed, stressed, anxious

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.

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 and 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.

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

For those facing Christmas alone for the first time due to death of a loved one, I encourage you to reach out to someone you trust and share your feelings with them. Devote a place and time before Christmas Day in which you can openly honor your loved one and acknowledge your feelings. On Christmas Day, intentionally set your focus on family and friends who not only share in your loss, but who bring precious gifts of love and support to aid in your healing journey.

Be aware that the hurts of a loss, a broken relationship, or simply of being alone are magnified during the holiday. Look for those around you who are hurting and care for them, spend time with them, love them.

For those that lost a child, here are two posts I wrote ,on Coping and Surviving Christmas and Handling the Holidays.

Just know that while the Holiday Blues can be emotional, intense and upsetting, these feelings tend to be temporary and last at the most for about 2 weeks. The Blues end and people generally feel better once the holiday season is over and get back into their normal daily routine.

For many years after my son died, Christmas was a dreaded holiday by my husband. In turn, I dreaded his sour mood. Today, I look forward to the holiday season more than ever. I smile and sigh that finally my husband is able to handle the holidays a little bit better. I gather in my blessings and count them all. I count the blessings of the most important people in my life and I find the peace that comes with counting a holiday of joy remembered and love shared. Love never dies, and the light always shines in our hearts and home.

Image via blog.carvana.com

transparent-butterfly2.jpgDon’t you think this is a lovely butterfly? Whenever a butterfly flutters about in the garden, I smile with the thought that Luijoe is in another life with greater beauty and freedom. But I believe the butterfly’s life cycle – metamorphosis – represents my new life after the death of my precious son.

THE EGG: As a little girl, my whole world felt safe under the loving arms of my parents – much like the butterfly egg attached to a leaf somewhere.

THE CATERPILLAR: The caterpillar is my life before the death of Luijoe. My husband and I are contented that God gave us two girls and a boy. A perfect family. I go through the day as a full time mother attending to my chores. Nothing can break this happy bubble, I thought. And then Luijoe is gone. I change!

THE COCOON: After his death, I shut myself off from friends and even family because I felt they could never understand my grief. It is what protected me from the horrible pain. I withdrew from life because of all the painful memories. Numbing the pain, I curled up in my cocoon.

THE BUTTERFLY: The pain lessened and I began to heal as a flicker of light and a little color emerged. Breaking free from my cocoon , I reached out to touch life again. As I discovered the brilliant colors around me, I become more like a butterfly sipping some of the nectar from life.

“We are healed to help others.
We are blessed to be a blessing.
We are saved to serve,
not to sit around and
wait for heaven”
from Purpose Driven Life

I transformed my grief to a positive resolution by starting The Compassionate Friends Philippines , the largest self-help organization for bereaved parents, siblings and grandparents in the world.

In our Compassionate Friend’s circles, the butterfly represent the lives of our children who have died. Their spirit lives on and our memories live on, often in fleeting moments . And that we may be able to build a new life after the death of our beloved children.

I see many butterflies in my life now: blogging, renewal of friendships lost through time, new friendships because I went out of my comfort zone and a new me, a new normal.

Life is good.

“If someone cries in front of me, I consider it a gift.” , a friend told me one Saturday afternoon.


Every third Saturday of the month, I receive this gift during the monthly meeting of The Compassionate Friends. I am honored to receive it.

It’s quite common to hear oh she is so brave! when the broken-hearted person appears controlled and poised in the face of grief. How is someone supposed to feel when their heart is broken?

And yet we continue to admire those who do not show their grief in public, who receive condolences as though the occasion were a pleasant Sunday afternoon blabber. He was so brave. I was proud of him. He didn’t break down, not once, and so on and so forth…we hear people say.

Really, whose benefit is this tight hold on our emotions? For the griever’s sake? For the sake of the consoling friends, who may be afraid of being swept into their grief?

Crying tears is not just for those that lost a loved one.

If a little kid says May I cry or should I be brave?, how should the mother react? There is conflicting feelings about crying. It is difficult to allow children the freedom of tears because most of us were stopped from crying when we were little. Our well-meaning, but misinformed, parents may have distracted, scolded, punished, or ignored us when we attempted to heal our childhood hurts by crying. Some of us were stopped gently: “There, there, come on, don’t cry,” while others were stopped less kindly: “If you don’t stop crying, I’ll give you something to cry about! So stop it….”

You probably read somewhere that crying is somehow good for us. William Shakespeare, for instance wrote, “To weep is to make less the depth of grief.” The poet Alfred Lord Tennyson once wrote about a woman who learned her husband had been killed. “She must weep,” the writer said, “or she will die.”

According to Dr. William Frey, a biochemist and director of the Dry Eye and Tear Research Center in Minneapolis, Minn., one reason people might feel better after crying could be because they are “removing, in their tears, chemicals that build up during emotional stress.” Frey’s research shows that tears, along with other bodily secretions like perspiration, rid the body of various toxins and wastes. Dr. William Frey compared the normal moisturizing tear with the tear caused by emotion and found that stressful tears contained ACTH or adrenocorticotrophic hormone. ACTH is a hormone associated with high blood pressure, heart problems, peptic ulsers and other physical conditions closely related to stress.

There is just one word of caution about crying.

People who cry easily should feel glad they’re in touch with their feelings. But if they’re crying a lot in response to criticism, they should try to get some counseling. This kind of crying is an alarm bell of a far deeper hurt; it could signify a loss of self-esteem that is triggered whenever anyone says anything negative.

Probably the best advice of all regarding tears comes from Charles Dickens. In Oliver Twist, Mr. Bumble, the parish beadle, is a less than sympathetic character. But he’s got the right idea when he declares that crying “opens the lungs, washes the countenance, exercises the eyes, and softens the temper.

So when another friend wept in front of me today, I understood the gift of healing.

Have you had a good cry lately?

Photo via Flickr. Some rights reserved.

In every meeting of The Compassionate Friends, we provide positive ways for grief management. We believe that the only way to truly relieve the pain is to work through the grief. Once we had “Creative ways of Remembering your loved one“. The topic was about “Healing through Journaling” or Grief Journaling[/tag] by Leah Eriguel, a Palanca awardee and friend of Cathy.

In my early days of overwhelming grief, I was unable to write down any of my emotions. In the webpage I created for my son two weeks after he was buried, I could only write this:

How should I start my story? Too many questions without any answers. How can a happy family day turn into a tragedy? It is difficult and painful for me to write about the drowning accident. That was how we lost our beautiful boy one sunny day at a beach resort. Coupled with the grief I’m feeling right now, I’m still sorting through other emotions like the guilt, the regret, and the shame . The nightmare is still so clear in my mind like a movie that keeps replaying all over again.

I ended up in tears. So I only placed the eulogy. Someone said, write a journal. But I didn’t know how. I’m not a writer. Or I didn’t know how to express myself.

gravestone for my son

As Leah Eriguel unfolded the techniques of grief journaling, I wished she were around in 2000 to guide me on how to express my painful feeelings in writing.

There is no right way to journal. During the early phases of grief you may not have the energy to set down more than a word or two each day to track your feelings or what you did. Making lists is another good way to get started. You might want to make a list of what people have said that comforted you, a list of ways you can nurture yourself, or a list of all of the things about your loved one that you miss.

The idea of a memory journal is something similar to the Memory Lane of Luijoe’s memorial site. I wrote about his favorite jokes, favorite music, and his questions about death, angels and heaven. The memory journal is an easier task to do.

Leah added another technique , Writing for insight.

  • But first, you must banish internal editor by writing quickly, allowing the words to freefall from your subconscious.
  • Write continuously. Don’t erase or cross-out any words. Date each entry in your journal. Note the time, place and any details regarding your mood and emotions that will be necessary for context when you read back on your work.
  • After you’ve finished a journal entry, take a walk or get up for a glass of water before you reread your entry, and remember to reread your writing with compassion.
  • Then write an Insight Line—a sentence or two about what you think the piece is trying to tell you.
  • Of course, there are various journaling techniques that best suits the way in which you express yourself. if you are stuck and have nothing to write, try recording snippets of conversations, facts, feelings, fantasies, descriptions, impressions, quotes, images and ideas. Draw pictures, Make a collage from a magazine.

    At the end of her interesting lecture, Leah gave us a little exercise: “Imagine you see your loved one smiling , then use the word “FIRST”. Write for 10 minutes non-stop without lifting your pen.”

    This is what I wrote:

    I remember the day you FIRST gave me flowers. You placed it on my table while I was working. Everyday you placed flowers on my table. So I got a vase and placed it right beside me so there will be a place for your flowers. The next afternoon, you came with another bunch of flowers that you picked from the park. You beamed as you saw the flowers in the vase. You knew how important they were to you. Everytime I see flowers, I remember that first day. Memories of you saying : “I love you so very much, mama”. I smile and feel the comfort of your love. That remains with me forever. Today when I visit your resting place, I lay down the flowers for you. You know how much I love you, don’t you?”

    flowers for my son

    Don’t judge me unless you have looked through my eyes, experienced what i have, and cried as many tears as me. Until then back-off, cause you have no idea.


    Today Matthew Warren died of suicide. He is the son of Rick and Kay Warren who must be facing the most painful moment in their lives. There is no pain more gut-wrenching than losing a child. My heart and prayers go out to them at this most difficult time.

    ““No words can express the anguished grief we feel right now,” Warren wrote in a letter to his congregation.

    A long time ago, I too lost a son and I found hope and courage in Rick Warren’s The Purpose-driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For? . The book inspired me to move beyond the pain of losing a son and work on my new normal. Because the book talks about starting a service, I initiated the The Compassionate Friends Philippines Chapter with the help of Cathy Babao and Alma Miclat.

    I can’t be there to hug Rick and Kay Warren for their loss and thanking them too for giving me the courage to live this new normal after the death of my son. What I can do is to continue on with my advocacy on suicide prevention and grief education such as ways to comfort the bereaved.

    In most of my meetings with the bereaved, a common complaint is the insensitivity of concerned friends or relatives. I see it also in some of the insensitive tweets addressed to Rick Warren questioning the circumstances of his death. Some may not know what to say and blurt out the wrong words.

    I have had my own share. I know the depth of concern they have towards us but in their enthusiasm, they blurt out the most insensitive remarks. Newly bereaved are very sensitive to these remarks.

    Many parents feel they were being unjustly judged and criticized by those who could not possibly understand because they have not experienced the loss of a child. Compassionate Friends USA shares the proper response.

    Our wonderful, concerned, well-meaning friends don’t know. They can only imagine how the newly bereaved feel. They haven’t personally known (thank God) the disbelief, the shock, the anger of losing a child or any loved one. Instead of bringing relief, those words just seem to add to the hurt and the grief. There are no words that will make it all right that someone we loved has died. But there are ways that can soothe the hurt, ease the loneliness and add to the healing. Recently, my sister visited The Compassionate Friends to get tips on how to comfort a family whose daughter died of suicide.


    I’d like to share some of the ways to comfort the bereaved:

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