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A Safe Space For Grief

A Safe Space For Grief

A husband shares his experience of coping with the loss of his wife, with support from Assisi Hospice’s Bereavement Care team.

As Grace could not travel due to her illness, the couple had a last staycation in Singapore in 2022

The Assisi Hospice care team not only takes care of patients with serious illnesses but also their loved ones who are coping with grief and loss. The Bereavement Care team comprises professional counsellors and creative therapists who are trained to provide therapeutic support not only to the next-of-kin of patients who have passed but to all bereaved persons in the community who need care and support.

Fifty-eight-year-old Clifford Heng and his wife, Grace Yoo, had a loving marriage for 22 years. Grace was diagnosed with end-stage colon cancer and came under the care of the Assisi Hospice Home Care team. She was admitted to the Assisi Hospice inpatient ward in September 2022, when her condition deteriorated. As her own health failed, she was actually more worried about her husband.

“When she got to know about the bereavement care support available at Assisi Hospice, she made me promise that I would speak to the counsellor after she passed on,” Clifford said.

Grace passed on after a short two-day stay in the ward. Clifford kept his promise and went for the one-to-one counselling sessions when Assisi Hospice’s Bereavement Care team reached out to him.

“For the first few months, I spent a lot of time crying during the counselling sessions,” Clifford shared candidly. “I really appreciated the safe space to express my emotions and not be judged.”

Clifford grappled with his deep sorrow, the challenge of navigating loneliness and loss, and the haunting flashback of memories that were especially poignant during anniversaries and festive seasons. Clifford was grateful for the support he received during the counselling sessions. Despite having a strong support network of his siblings flying in from overseas to spend time with him, he felt that speaking to a trained counsellor helped, as the counsellor was able to gauge where he was in the grieving process. He said, “It is important to debunk the myth that counselling is for the weak. In order to receive help, one has to be open to actually receiving help. Eventually, I have to acknowledge the fact that she has passed on, to look ahead and find a new way of living, a direction to move towards.”

After the individual counselling sessions, he joined the AH spousal loss support group. He learnt that everyone had their own journey of dealing with grief and felt that it was helpful to learn from the experiences of others. There were art and music therapy sessions and activities, which facilitated the sharing.

Clifford and Grace at their wedding in October 2000

Though Clifford still teared when he shared his story, he has made future plans. He would be travelling more often, which was also a promise he made to Grace. He said, “Grace was suffering from lupus, and for a long period of time, she could not travel. She always felt bad for holding me back, and she wanted me to go and see the world.”

Moving forward, Clifford has also signed up to be a bereavement ambassador and befriender at Assisi Hospice. He said, “I would like to help another person move on from grief. If I can touch someone and make a difference, why not?”

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