Writing to son helps with grief

Writing to son helps with grief
Mrs Shailaja Nair lost her son Praveen in a motorcar accident. One of the things she did to help her cope with her late son's death was to bake for four hours on his birthday.
PHOTO: ST

Seeing so many children die in the Sabah quake broke Mrs Shailaja Nair's heart.

She knows what the parents of these children are going through, as her only child died in a traffic accident four years ago.

The pain will linger, she said.

But she wants them to know that accepting what has happened and moving on with life is the only way forward.

Mrs Nair, 53, lost her only child, Praveen, 22, in August 2011 when he died in a car accident while holidaying on Batam with his friends.

Mrs Nair, who worked as a sub-editor at The New Paper from 2000 to 2006, said: "Every time I read about any parent losing a child, my heart goes out to them. There is nothing worse than losing your child in any way.

"The grief never ends."

She said that while it has been 45 months since she lost Praveen, it still feels like it happened yesterday.

She added: "The uncertainty of life is brought back to me again."

Mrs Nair, an associate editorial director at a news agency, initially blamed herself for her son's death.

She said: "I shouldn't have woken him up that day. I shouldn't have let him go to Batam.

"All these thoughts went through my mind. The guilt inside me was at its highest when it just happened."

But she said she has since accepted that what had happened was beyond her control.

She said: "I have slowly realised there was nothing I could have done to prevent it."

She said her life has never been the same since her son died.

"The fact that I can never hold him in my arms, hear his voice, or see him again - these things haunt me every morning when I wake up.

"You will never have the same sort of personality again, but you learn to accept that it happened."

For Mrs Nair, one way of coping was going for counselling.

She also goes for a monthly support meeting with members of Child Bereavement Support (Singapore), an informal network of bereaved parents.

She said: "I feel a weight lifted off my shoulders when I walk into that room.

"It's a very good support group and we get immense support from other parents who have also lost their children. I get to help other bereaved parents too."

Another way Mrs Nair copes with the loss is by writing to her son frequently.

She said: "It could be about work, or an issue I am facing. I pick up my laptop or my iPad and I write. I communicate with him all the time."

BIRTHDAY PARTY

On May 14, Praveen would have turned 26.

Mrs Nair and her husband, travel agent Rajendran S R Nair, 61, used to throw a birthday party for him every year.

But as Mr Nair was diagnosed with cancer recently, they celebrated Praveen's birthday this year at the hospital instead.

She said the pain does not lessen with time, but one has to learn to cope.

She said: "It's like barbed wire is wrapped around my heart, and someone is squeezing it all the time. It is difficult to get up in the morning, but I must wake up and continue my day. I cannot give in to depression."

Praveen's room is almost the same as it was when he left, except that Mrs Nair has replaced his bed with a sofa.

She said: "He made the bed on the day he left, and having it there made me feel that he would come back any time."

As for his clothes, Mrs Nair had given away three to four suitcases' worth to orphanages.

She kept some of the shirts he always wore, saying: "When I miss him a lot, I wear them. It feels like he is hugging me."

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