KOTA KINABALU – LIFE Community–Companions of ICPE Mission Sabah- organised a seminar on understanding and coping with grief on 21-22 July 2017 at Sacred Heart Parish Centre here.
The event was attended by 56 participants from various age groups, ranging from a teenager to retirees.
The speaker for this seminar was Esther Saldanha who has worked for the Catholic Archdiocese of Wellington, New Zealand as the coordinator and trainer for a programme to help people through grief. In the two-day seminar, Esther shared on how she acknowledged her own grief. Esther’s experience in grief comes directly from the death of her loved ones.
Esther is originally from India. She was a missionary with the ICPE Mission in Poland, Rome and New Zealand for ten years, actively involved in mercy work in the prison, soup kitchen and hospice. Currently, Esther is at the end of her Masters in Counselling and works in a drug treatment unit at a men’s prison as an alcohol and drug practitioner.
At the seminar, grief is presented as “a complex mass of human emotions that a person experiences following a major change or loss; it is normal and a part of life.” Among the experiences of grief are the death of a loved one, moving home, loss of health, innocence and childhood, separation and divorce, redundancy and more.
Some of the highlights of the topics presented on the first day were identifying the three foundations that are shaken when a person goes through grief. They include love and belonging, meaning and control. Esther stressed that the four walls that are affected by grief are our mental and emotional being, our behaviour, our social being and our spiritual being. After sharing her own grief timeline, Esther invited everyone to reflect on their own grief and to draw a grief timeline. In between sessions, there were also small group sharings on how we can connect with what was presented from the front to our own personal journey of grief.
On the second day, participants were given input on how to deal with emotions that come with grief. Feelings of guilt and shame are the usual ones when one faces loss. We are to have self-compassion and care for ourselves in the time of loss. The seminar ended with the question of who do we have on our boat to journey with us. We are to identify people whom we can trust and allow them to be with us in our difficult season.
For the participants, the most beneficial topic was the grief time line. By doing such activity, many came to recognise griefs in their lives. Some thought that it was just a rough time in life, but after this activity, they found it easier to name other emotions besides just sadness and depression.
The topic on how to deal with the emotions that come with grief got the participants looking forward as many were intrigued by it and group sharing picked up momentum. Many shared that the group sharing helped them to be in tune with their own grief and emotions.
The facilitating team discovered that the seminar was very important among those who were caught in grief which includes a whole range of experiences. The seminar has brought insights and hope for the need to have a support group in sharing grief stories with the hope of encouragement and support.
What participants say
Jercy Ng: Having gone through the sudden loss of a loved one recently, I enrolled in this seminar because I wanted to find out if I was going through the normal process of grieving. Besides, in view of the nature of the voluntary works that I was involved in, it would also help to keep me abreast with how to cope with grief. I questioned myself if I was in the right frame of mind to move on or to actively help others in their pains. From my past and current role as being a listener and someone who is normally in control of situations and problems, the seminar got me playing a totally reverse role. It definitely did help to lighten my emotional pain and has taught me a lot and indeed it was a very enriching experience. It is a very practical seminar and hopefully, the parish will run more seminars like this to cater to the needs of the church members.
Resentia Alias: I learned how to identify and differentiate what grief is, and also how to deal with it step by step.
Katlinah Marcus: I realised grief is a normal part of life. Everyone encounter grief and one should be able to overcome it. It makes our life more meaningful and in a way deepens my faith towards the Almighty. I feel great that I know my grief level and I will be able to manage it somehow. – Datina Laban