My heart goes out to them: Mum who lost son to 1997 SilkAir crash

For Madam Junitha Majeed, 63, losing her 23-year-old son on SilkAir Flight MI185 is an agony she will carry for the rest of her life.

Her son, Mr K.M.H. Mohammed Malik, 23, a forex retailer, was one of the 104 people who died when the Boeing 737-300 plummeted into the Musi River in Sumatra, Indonesia, on Dec 19, 1997.

Speaking to The New Paper yesterday, Madam Junitha said the few days following the crash were the most painful.

"I am a very positive person. Before they found the wreckage, I still hoped that he was alive and would come back.

"But nothing like that happened. It was a great loss for me and my family," she said.

She admitted that coping was not easy, but told families of victims on board Malaysian Airlines MH17 to be strong.

"My heart goes out to them and it was such a pity that the plane was at the wrong place at the wrong time.

"It's easy to say, but the only way to move on is to accept that it was fated," she said.

Hopefully, the authorities will release the bodies back to the grieving families so they can perform the last rites, Madam Junitha said. "This was something we didn't get to do with my son."

After the Silkair MI185 crash, Madam Junitha had called up families of victims she had met in Indonesia, and organised them to take their case against aircraft manufacturers Boeing and Parker Hannifin Corp to the US courts.

It went to trial in Los Angeles in June 2004, and the jury found Parker Hannifin entirely responsible for the SilkAir crash, ordering it to pay US$43.6 million ($63m) to the three families in the trial.

Madam Junitha told TNP in 2007: "We had to sign a form agreeing not to disclose the amount we received. Although Parker Hannifin paid us compensation, they did not accept that the crash was their fault."

Every Dec 19, she makes a trip to Choa Chu Kang cemetery where there is a memorial plaque to the crash victims.

Her other son, 34, and daughter, 32, are now working in New Zealand.

Madam Junitha also now spends her time doing volunteer work, including counselling distraught families of victims of MH370, which went missing in March and has yet to be found.

"I talk to them over the phone and offer them advice and a helping hand." DEVASTATING IMPACT Dr Ken Ung, a consultant psychiatrist at Adam Road Medical Centre, said that the loss of a young child will have a devastating psychological impact on families. "When a child dies, it's very unexpected. There's so much unfulfilled promise," he said.

Dr Ung, who has seen parents who lost their children, added: "Usually it starts with anger and confusion. Then they become numb, before sadness or depression may occur."

But after about two weeks, they are usually able to perform their day-to-day functions, he said.

He added that family and social support is also crucial for these grieving families.

"The final stage is when they come to terms with what happens and reinvest their emotional energy to helping others.

"For Madam Junitha to be doing that, it's fantastic," he said.

This article was first published on July 22, 2014.
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