Counsellors start workshop to help people deal with loss

Madam Tang Chow Kheng (left) and Madam Joan Swee started a grief recovery workshop to equip people with skills to overcome various kinds of pain - from the death of a loved one to the loss of a job and financial difficulties.
Madam Tang Chow Kheng (left) and Madam Joan Swee started a grief recovery workshop to equip people with skills to overcome various kinds of pain - from the death of a loved one to the loss of a job and financial difficulties.PHOTO: TIFFANY GOH FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

When Debbie (not her real name) suffered a miscarriage last year, the 35-year-old was inconsolable.

For months, grief crippled the translator, who would burst into tears each time she thought about the loss.

The mother of a two-year-old boy said: "It was a stressful time for me then, it was around the same time that I found out about my husband's affair.

"One thing led to another, and I had a miscarriage.

"For months all I could do was blame myself and my husband. But now my heart feels lighter."

She found a way to deal with the pain after attending a programme called the Grief Recovery Method (GRM), a counselling and support process developed in the United States.

So far, seven people have attended the first such programme here, which started late last year.

Madam Tang Chow Kheng, 58, a local GRM facilitator, believes it is the first time that the workshop has been run for the public here.

She intends to run it regularly with her co-facilitator Madam Joan Swee, 59.

Both women, who are also trained counsellors with more than 20 years of experience between them, went to Perth last May to train as Grief Recovery specialists who are certified to run the workshop.

The programme focuses on individuals taking active steps to "help themselves out of their grief", said Madam Tang.

Participants also address their emotions through self-reflection and understanding their grief.

Said Madam Swee: "We're told to 'move on' or 'let it go' but how do we do that? How do we deal with grief? We aren't taught."

The women, who are both widows, initiated the workshop as they felt there was a need for people to learn to handle loss.

Among the group, some were dealing with the death of loved ones, others had lost their jobs and a few had experienced great financial loss.

Said Madam Swee: "The programme doesn't cater to a specific kind of loss. Losses are losses, there's no comparison of whose is more painful.

"What's important is that we learn how to deal with it."

The next workshop will start next month. Registration for the seven sessions and follow-ups costs $495.

Now, Debbie and her husband are slowly working on reconciling their relationship.

She said: "I never thought I would overcome the pain.

"But what I learnt is that you can say goodbye to bad experiences but the person you love remains in your heart."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 09, 2017, with the headline 'Counsellors start workshop to help people deal with loss'. Print Edition | Subscribe