Sarawakian organisation for bereavement support

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Losing a loved one is part of life’s journey. However, it isn’t easy to handle the grief that comes in waves, especially when a departure occurred unnaturally.

Datu’ Ir would know this first hand. He lost his eldest daughter—the late Diyana Zuraimi—through a tragic event in August 2021. 

Friends and family were in a deep state of grief, and though peers would come to tend the bereaved, not everyone knew how to properly support them. 

To cope, Datu’ Ir roped in a team consisting of close kin to channel their grief into building up a non-profit organisation to remember his late daughter.

Named Dee Hati Centre For Grief, Bereavement, And Trauma (DHGBAT, or simply, “the grief centre”), it’s where people experiencing loss can come into a supportive environment to process their emotions.

Localising a foreign concept

DHGBAT takes inspiration from grief centres found in other countries like Australia, Canada, and Singapore. Unable to find such a facility in Malaysia, Datu’ Ir decided to start one of his own in his Sarawakian home turf. 

His decision was strengthened after a conversation with Dr. Hazli Zakaria, the current President of the Malaysian Psychiatric Association, who’s been trying for years to establish a similar concept in the country himself.

The centre will be based inside the building / Image Credit: Dee Hati Centre For Grief, Bereavement, And Trauma

While the grief centre undergoes its incorporation process, Sarawak’s state government has already granted them approval to use a building located near the Kuching Reservoir Park. It will be the 15-man team’s operations base. 

A healthier way to cope

Currently being built, the grief centre is imagined to be a place where visitors may come in and receive a grief counselling session with the centre’s trained members. They could also take a walk to mourn in its healing garden, or take part in activities such as painting and gardening.

Nazwan, the grief centre’s General Manager and a close childhood friend of Diyana’s, explained that the idea behind these activities is a form of grief channelling support. 

“In some individuals, they cope with their grief by channelling it through various ways that they wish to remember the deceased,” he told Vulcan Post. 

“A good example would be the formation of this centre, we chose to channel it to help others as our way to honour and remember our lost one. For others, it could be painting or even gardening.”

While most grieving individuals will eventually reach the acceptance stage (of the five stages of grief), there is still a small minority that can experience complicated grief, explained Nazwan.

Complicated grief is when a person’s feelings of loss become debilitating and don’t improve even after much time has passed. This may, in turn, lead to functional impairment, comorbid depression, or other anxiety disorders.

Hence, the supportive environment and activities provided at the centre are meant to guide the bereaved from straying down an arduous path.

Normalising grief support

The bereaved are welcome to the grief centre free of charge to find support from the centre’s volunteers (members). However, certain activities may incur some minimal cost, depending on requests.

Members are onboarded through DHGBAT’s sign up link on its Instagram page. As of now, the team has received about 340 interested individuals from everywhere across Malaysia. Out of the pool, the centre will pick up to 20 members to start off with, and 4-5 applicants will become full-time employees. 

Although the form questions if prospective members have a background in psychology or counselling, Nazwan clarified that those providing grief support don’t need a degree or a diploma in the subject. 

This is because grief support can be as simple as knowing the right words to say or being the listening ear for those who wish to speak. 

Once operations commence, DHGBAT has planned activities for its members and the general public to undergo grief support training and Psychological First Aid Training (PFA). This is to better equip and normalise the skill of supporting the bereaved and those experiencing trauma. 

In a planned collaboration with Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS), a Grief Support Training Module and a PFA Module is in the works. These programmes will allow the centre to give out basic certifications for those who received the training.

“We hope that in the future, seeking these skills would be as sought after like general first aid and CPR. It would promote that grief support can be provided by any members of the public, not only mental health professionals,” Nazwan added.

Challenging stigmas

One challenge I can foresee the grief centre facing upon launching is stigma from the public who may think that mental health services are only meant for those who are sick. 

“For one, grief is not a mental issue,” Nazwan replied. “It is a natural process of mourning that everyone will go through with the loss of a loved one.”

He also affirmed that being in grief is not a sickness, nor is DHGBAT a mental health institution. 

[The centre] is a place for the bereaved to [visit] and heal themselves in their sadness and pain over the loss of a loved one. It is not a place to be “cured” but instead a place for their grief to be acknowledged and tended by caring and empathetic volunteers.

Nazwan, General Manager of Dee Hati Centre For Grief, Bereavement, And Trauma

The grief centre’s team intends to change the public’s perceptions by educating them about the importance of healthy grieving through talks, events, and other activities.

Part of their strategies to expand outreach is through affiliate members with various connections to hospitals, clinics, or community leaders who can direct those who are grieving to the centre.

As DHGBAT is a non-profit organisation, it will be fully funded through donations derived from charity fundraising events and donation drives. Based on pledges received so far, the team is projecting to raise funds within the five-figure range.

When the grief centre launches, it will first be open to the public who can physically visit the hub in Sarawak. Of course, the team hopes to expand their physical reach nationwide too, opening up more centres in different locations in the future.

Online support will also be accessible at a later date, with DHGBAT members providing the services as and when they are available. As of now, Nazwan shared that a web developer has already recently joined the team to design a website for the centre.

Featured Image Credit: Dee Hati Centre For Grief, Bereavement And Trauma





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