Grief is a journey that we take almost every day

DIRECT LINE - Boy Abunda - The Philippine Star

There are people who make you feel good about yourself and about the world. It’s a gift. Our good friend and cardiologist Dr. Erlyn Demerre is this kind of a person. You look forward to being with her either in conversations over the phone or interface meetings.

Dr. Erlyn Demerre is now busy preparing for the upcoming grief management conference titled Understanding Grief 3: Grief Experience of Adolescents in the Philippines.

The conference will be held at St. Luke’s Medical Center Bonifacio Global City, fifth floor Henry Sy Sr. Auditorium on Sept. 8, 9 and 12. This is organized by EPCALM Adult Leukemia Foundation of the Philippines in cooperation with St. Luke’s Medical Global and its Department of Medicine.

Dr. Demerre is the founder and chairman of the board of EPCALM (Erwin Piedad Cabanag Adult Leukemia Ministries), a God-centered, non-stock and non-profit organization that helps leukemia patients and their families. EPCALM was founded in memory of her brother, lawyer Erwin Cabanag, the city fiscal of Dumaguete City in Negros Oriental, who succumbed to leukemia on May 12, 2005.

I was immediately drawn to EPCALM’s noble advocacy when I first heard about it through Dr. Demerre. I graciously accepted the invitation to be part of the EPCALM Grief Management Seminar.

Martin Nievera, who is an EPCALM advocate and honorary board member, once shared, “If there is one thing I know for certain, it’s that grief is a journey we take almost every day of our lives. Turn your loss into a win. Live in the winning not the losing. God will do the rest.” 

September marks World Leukemia Awareness Month (WLAM) in the Philippines. As part of its observance, EPCALM spearheads Understanding Grief 3. I asked Dr. Demerre how she defines grief. She replied, “Grief is our internal response to separation and loss. In our culture, there is a great amount of pressure to minimize the feelings of grief and to get back to ‘normal.’ Grief is mistakenly viewed as a temporary problem. It is not a problem. It is normal reality for people dealing with loss and/or separation.”

Adolescents are fragile when loss is experienced. Grief can be brought by death, illness, separation from loved ones and even disasters such as typhoon, flood and earthquake. But when they gain insight into their own grief process and have a safe place to express grief, they can find relief from the emotional pain.  

“Ever since EPCALM has taken on Understanding Grief 1 (UG1) in May 2013 at St. Luke’s Medical Center Global City and Understanding Grief 2 (UG2) May of 2014 in Dumaguete City, there was a consistent clamor for EPCALM to tackle teen grief,” Dr. Demerre said.

To better understand grief, there are various activities scheduled during the three-day event.  The first part is a two-day conference-workshop (Sept. 8 to 9; 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.) designed for school administrators, guidance counselors, social workers, medical professionals, parents, youth organizations and other related support groups. The conference aims to capture and better understand real-life grief experiences of Filipino adolescents and youth to create deeper awareness of what they go through.

The main resource speaker is Bob Baugher, Ph.D. who is a Psychology instructor at Highline College in Des Moines, Washington, US where he teaches courses like Death across Cultures, Life & Death, Human Relations, Understanding AIDS, Suicide Intervention and Abnormal Psychology.

Also gracing the event as guest speakers are Dr. Emma Llanto, Jean Goulbourn, Cathy Babao, Peachy Gonzalez Fernando, lawyer Rod Nepomuceno, Marisa Marin and Barbara delos Reyes. I will be interviewing resource persons on Sept. 8. Chuckie Dreyfus and Jasmine Curtis-Smith will also join as inspirational speakers.

The second part is a one-day teens session (Sept. 12, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.) with the theme LOL or Living Our Loss. This session is specifically for the youth and adolescents to help them recognize and explore grief and acquire tools that promote healing. This will be facilitated by Dr. Baugher and Marie Beth Lorenzo (trained grief facilitator from Washington, US).

Dr. Demerre said, “If you think your life is okay and you don’t have grief, this is for you! If you are in grief or feeling down and depressed, don’t miss it. Save the dates. Invite your friends. Be involved. Brighten life with your experience. Be healed. Be blessed and be a blessing.”

EPCALM assists leukemia patients by raising donations, embarking on medical missions, providing continued monitoring, advocating new medical procedures and technologies, and empowering communities to help raise awareness and to be proactive. To continue its worthy cause, EPCALM welcomes kind-hearted people who can help and support this endeavor. You can sign up and make a pledge, donate or be a volunteer.

The EPCALM office is located at Suite 341 Medical Arts Building, St. Luke’s Medical Center, 279 E. Rodriguez Blvd. Quezon City.

For conference details and pre-registration, call Anna or Ces at 723-1058, 0932-8548460, 0932-8548459 and 0932-8548461.

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