Saturday, October 29, 2011

When Parents Outlive Their Children -- Losing A Child Through Suicide

The night before my book, “Between Loss and Forever” Filipino mothers on the grief journey, was launched, I was on my way home from a long day at work. As the car crept through the very slow,  traffic, I found myself right outside Villamor Air Base, just as the C-130 bearing the bodies of the 19 young men who had died in Basilan, had touched down.
In the quiet confines of my car, against a starless October sky, I thought about their mothers then, how they now found themselves on a journey that we, all 19 mothers in the book, had found ourselves on at different points in our lives. The following day at the launch, I had told family and friends in my talk, that I hoped the book would in time, find its way into the hands of these 19 mothers so that they too may find comfort and know that they do not walk this journey alone.
Less than a week later, as I write this, Marc Guingona, a young man, all of twenty years old, the only son of former Vice-president Guingona’s only daughter, Marie, leapt to his death from the 31st floor of an Alabang hotel. This tragedy made me think of two mothers in the book – Alma Miclat and Vivian dela Pena. Their children Maningning and Caleb were both bright and had lives that held so much promise, but perhaps also held so much pain that they chose to end it because it was a pain they could no longer bear.  Among all the stories in the book, these were two of the most difficult for me to write. But as I grappled with it, I also became filled with admiration for the resiliency that these two mothers had shown in  the face of such tragedy.
Vivian shared that among the things that helped her most was a homily given by Jesuit Father Manoling Francisco. “It was the one bright light in the darkness that filled the days after Caleb’s passing. I found so much comfort in his words.” Upon hearing this, I sought Fr. Manoling out and requested if he could write a piece for the chapter that contained stories about children who had opted to end their young lives, graciously, in spite of a terribly hectic schedule, he obliged.
The result was an essay entitled “When Parents Outlive Their Children” where he outlines his beautiful reflections about losing a child. There were two that stood out for me as I think of Marc Guingona’s passing and I excerpt them here –
“Befriend your powerlessness. Not only are we often powerless over the fate of our children, we are also powerless over their autonomy to make decisions for themselves. While they are minors , we decide for them; we even impose upon them. But as they grow older, we wrestle with their independence and individuality. We realize we cannot decide everything for them; we can only influence them…Because love only desires what is good for one’s beloved, our love for our children compels us to protect them, to avert disaster. And so, grudgingly, we admit our helplessness over our children’s decisions – including their decision to destroy themselves.
Fear not God’s condemnation. Until one generation ago, the Roman Catholic Church forbade suicide victims to be waked inside the Church. For many of us Catholics, to take away one’s life is an unforgivable sin. Hence waking suicide victims in a Church dishonors God grieviously.
But psychology has helped us better understand the human psyche and the nature of sin. All sin involves free consent…Psychology has helped us understand that no one in his or her proper state of mind takes away one’s life . Now that we understand depression to be an emotional disorder that includes chemical imbalances in the brain, we have become more compassionate and less quick to judge suicide victims.
If we have become more understanding of suicide victims, what more of God? As our child took away his life in secrecy and isolation, is it possible that he was never truly alone? Might God not have been the first to rush to and embrace him as he fell? Prior to our painful discovery of his demise, might not God have been the first to weep?”
I’d like to think of the book as a roadmap not only for bereaved parents but also as a guide for everyone who has lost a loved one, and those who care for those who are bereaved. By sharing our stories we hope that you will better appreciate and understand the journey we have been on.  Though our losses do not define us, the reader can gain a deeper insight as to how the life-changing event helped shape us into who we are today.
Henry Scott Holland once wrote, “Death is nothing at all. I have only slipped away to the next room. I am I and you are you. Whatever we were to each other, That we still are.” Death, after all, is but merely a threshold through which we pass until we get to forever, the journey ends in our Father’s house with many rooms, where we hope to one day be reunited with all those who have gone on before us.
“Between Loss and Forever” is available at all National Bookstore and Powerbooks branches. Please visit the book’s Facebook page for stories and articles on the loss of a child.

No comments: