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“P.S. Grandpa, I Love You”
20 April 2016

By Joanne Ang

The  annual Chinese traditional Qing Ming festival, also known as tomb-sweeping day, was just over. It’s one which we visit burial sites or the columbarium to pay respects to our ancestors and our deceased loved ones. It is one of those festivals that we have to explain death to our young ones. Some children will not have any direct memories of their ancestors as they had either passed away before they were born or they were too young to remember or be affected. To the children, it is probably just another traditional festival which adults do.

But what about the children or youths who have lost a close family member? How do they cope with the loss and grief? Have you ever wondered about that?

Maybe not so much the very young ones, but the ones old enough to understand what death is, but perhaps not matured enough to express their shock or sadness when it happened. They may have some awareness of their emotions, fear, sadness and so on, but because the adults around them are also grieving so the children, who are sensitive to adults’ emotions as well, learn to cope with their own emotions.

While it may be good for children to learn that there are negative emotions and learning to cope with them is part and parcel of growing up, their young minds and hearts may ultimately still need the love and guidance from adults to help them better comprehend and process their loss – what death is about, and what we can do to help themselves heal and find the strength to move on in life despite feeling heartbroken. After the hurt has somewhat lessened, how should we be remembering our loved ones instead of forgetting them.

“Death ends a life, not a relationship”, a quote from the book Tuesdays with Morrie puts it aptly.

Grieving is a process and it is often said that it takes time to heal. A beautiful picture book has been published to help children and youths to better cope with the loss of their loved ones. Written by Jumaina Ariff and illustrated by Patrick Yee, the book titled, “P.S. Grandpa, I Love You” is a story about a girl named Jumie who lost her beloved Grandpa, and in the process of grieving, how she and her family supported one another and finally found the strength to remember Grandpa in their own ways.

Parents, caregivers and educators can read the story to children to help them understand that their loved ones might leave them one day too, that it is important to treasure their loved ones when they are healthy and well. Besides the story, there are also suggested parent-child activities, useful pointers for parents, caregivers and resources for children, teenagers and families for grieving and support.

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How it started?

HCA Hospice Care became acquainted with Ms Jumaini Ariff as her father was once a patient under our care. During the Sunflower Remembrance Day in November 2014, Dr Tan Poh Kiang had the opportunity to hear Jumaini and her sister share their journey of their family’s grief over their beloved father’s death. He was extremely keen to explore with her if her gift of storytelling can offer help to others. He then approached her on the possibility of collaborating with us on a Book Project to reach out to children coping with bereavement.

She agreed after discussing the matter with her family and introduced Patrick Yee to HCA Hospice Care. Patrick is a celebrated children books illustrator who was also keen to work on the project. As a result, the project team was formed.

Process:

Jumaini began to work on the draft of the story drawing from her own bereavement experience while Celine, from HCA Hospice Care researched on books about bereavement for young readers. Patrick began to do sketches of the story as soon as the draft was reviewed. Concurrently, the team began to recruit beta readers to provide feedback on the story. The team approached primary school students and teachers through the yCG Programme as well as siblings and family members of patients. This was an important step as the team needed to ascertain if the reader was able to identify with the characters given the nature of the story. We were encouraged by the feedback received and once the illustrations were approved, the colouring work began.

In the process, the team decided to include other elements such as resources for the bereaved and activities that relate to the story. This came about after researching other publications. The team felt that the story could serve as a springboard for discussions and other follow-up activities which can enrich the whole reading experience.

Finally, the books were printed and delivered in October 2015. We are thankful to all who have played a part in making this a success and more importantly, the book a reality.

“It was a privilege to work on this project and especially gratifying when we learnt of how the book has been and will be used,” says Jumaini.

This book is a project under HCA Hospice Care. In conjunction with the Asian Festival of Children’s Content, there will be a book launch at the National Library Building @ Victoria Street, B1 exhibition area, on 28 and 29 May, 10am – 6pm. It’s free admission and there will be games and activities for children as well. So, mark your calendars and hope to see you there!

For more information, visit https://www.hca.org.sg/hospice/events/event-list or you may RSVP here!