Grief Workshops in the Philippines

Thursday, June 06, 2013 Stef dela Cruz 16 Comments

Before I talk about grief workshops in the Philippines, tell me if this has happened to you before: You’re feeling a little depressed because you just got fired/ the love of your life broke up with you/ someone close to you passed away.

You tell your friend how awful you feel and in an attempt to make you feel better, your friend undermines your loss and says, “You’re strong! You’ll get over it.”

Yeah, it’s supposed to make you feel better, but it makes you feel even worse. It feels like your friend is making your loss seem smaller than it is, inadvertently calling your grief rather trivial.

Why Your Friends Might Not Handle Your Grief Well

Believe it or not, people – even our closest friends and family – aren’t experts at handling our grief. They tend to tiptoe or say the most inappropriate things. During a grief workshop I attended at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Global City, I felt like a long-time itch has finally been scratched after the wonderful speaker, Mary Ellen Erickson, shared her story.

Grief Workshop Philippines

“After my son died, one of my friends said, ‘Aren’t you glad you have other children?’ Friends say the darnedest things.”
– Mel Erickson, grief counselor

The truth is, we turn to our family and friends for comfort after we lose someone or something close to us. But if doing so is giving you more hurt than healing, perhaps it’s time you sought additional help from a grief counselor – and that’s what I’m sharing with you later.

Yes, there is such a thing as a grief counselor! Grief counselors are licensed therapists who can help you manage your grief. Recognize the fact that although your friends mean well, they aren’t necessarily going to be therapeutic if they don’t know how to handle grief themselves. And perhaps that’s where a grief counselor can step in and help you.

How You Can Handle Grief Better

I wrote about the grief workshop for Health Today magazine’s July 2013 issue  – I hope you get a copy of the magazine once it hits the newsstands. There, I shared the different components of a “grief seminar”, the concept of “grief bundles”, and other terms that Mel Erickson used to help demystify grief. Kristel Tejada’s parents were there as well, sharing how they felt about their daughter’s suicide.

Kristel Tejada's parents at the grief workshopChristoper Tejada, father of Kristel Tejada, shared how he felt about her daughter’s suicide.

But in case you can’t wait, you can contact EPCALM, the Adult Leukemia Foundation of the Philippines, who helped organize the grief workshop. Email them at or call them at (02) 7231048 and (0932)8548459.

Mel Erickson and Dr. Stef dela CruzA could-have-been-awesome photo with Mel Erickson, if not for the photobomber in the background!

You don’t have to manage your grief alone. Admittedly, there aren’t too many grief support groups and resources, but more and more people are getting involved in grief workshops in the Philippines. If you feel yourself unraveling and losing yourself in grief, take heart in the knowledge that there’s something you can do to “grieve clean”.

Are You Grieving? Share Your Story.

Have you ever lost anyone close to you? Have you experienced grief that has almost taken over your life before? Are you grieving right now? Do you feel so angry because of your loss that you’re lashing out? Share your story below. Let your words be your catharsis – and let them be a beacon of hope to others who feel that they are alone in their grief. Go ahead, leave a comment for everyone to read. As Mel Erickson said in her workshop, “Teach me how it feels to walk in your shoes.”

Stef dela CruzAbout the blogger
Stef dela Cruz is a vegan doctor and writer. She received the 2013 Award for Health Media from the Department of Health. She is the editor of The Manila Bulletin's Animal Scene Magazine. Get in touch if you want to invite her as a speaker!


  1. your GP could be a grief counselor , could not he ?


    1. Yes, any doctor can provide counsel, but grief counselors specialize solely in grief management, making their knowledge at par with - if not better than - health professionals.

  2. lory.ann.g.espia

    i just lost my mom last june 20 2014 due to cancer. shes only 62. Im so sad beyond grief. feeling so low and dont know how to put this feeling into words.
    i guess i am still mourning. my mom passed away june 20 and by june 30 2014 i went back to work as mandated by company.

    i need someone to talk to and share how i am feeling. i dont have siblings, and i am a single mom to my 5yr old daughter. i got few friends, but i dont get the assurance and assistance that i need.

    i guess im going to break down anytime soon.

  3. Ahyeyuh/ Lory Ann, I'm sorry to hear about your loss. How are you doing now? Feel free to leave a comment once in a while, to rant and let go of stress here, whenever you can.

    I hope this piece of the online real estate can give you some semblance of reassurance, no matter how small. I also hope you find more people to connect with here.

    May I also ask that you talk to someone from HR at your company? If they can't give you more time to come to terms with your loss, maybe there's something else they can offer you. It's worth a try.

    Let me know how you're feeling now.

  4. I just lost my lovelife, our future, my partner of 17 years, father of my kids , xbf, lovelife last july 1 ..... Im so empty inside my world stops...
    Dunno how to have life again... :(

  5. Halfdozen, I'm sorry to hear about your loss. You can leave a comment here to feel better whenever you can. I also hope you have people in real life whom you can talk to, people who understand your plight.

    My words will never be enough, so I hope you find more people to connect with here and in real life. :)

  6. Hi. I lost may baby when she was at 23 weeks gestation. I was 20 weeks pregnant when we found out she had hydrops. Our first ob told us there was nothing we could do but wait it out, that I would go into labor anytime. I researched about hydrops and learned that in the states they give mothers two options, to wait have an abortion. We refuses to believe what weve been told and what weve read. We believed God would give us a miracle.
    We prayed day and night, asked everyone we knew to pray for our baby. We went to another ob for a second opinion and he referred us to a perinatologist. She said we could undergo some tests to find the cause . I asked if it will help the baby. She said it may or may not but it would surely help to make sure it doesnt happen again in the future. We were told to think about it which I never got to do because between prayer and work there was no more time to think about it. On the 23rd week, during a visit to the doctor, they found out I had a high bp and my ob decided to have me deliver the baby via c section. She was my dream... A baby girl, Ive always wanted one, been praying for one for maybe five years . She was born with a strong heart and collapsed lungs. She fought for one hour and twenty eight minutes and then she went home to heaven. She was baptized Sofia Marie. I cry every day. I miss her every day. I regret not having been able to hold her and to tell her I love her. I was only able to kiss her and to rub my cheeks against hers because my arms were strapped. Then I allowed myself to sleep because I believed God would perform a miracle and that we would be able to take our baby home but it didnt happen and the fact that She didnt get to hear me say I loved her or that she never felt my embrace is adding to my grief. I am frustrated, angry and sad. Now we just remembered that our nephew had rashes in March. He had rashes on her cheeks as well and not long before that he had a fever. He was taken only to the er of The Medical City and er doctor said it was hives but we are thinking what if it was parvovirus? What if I was infected witout me knowing? If the cause of the hydrops was parvo, we could have done blood transfusions and Sofia might still be here with us. And now I am blaming myself for not thinking about the tests. Im thinking what if God's answer was supposed to be blood transfusions? Then it is my fault that my baby is not here. And it
    makes my grief more difficult to bear, that I could have done something to help my baby but I didn't. What if God was only trying to see if I was worthy of Sofia? And I proved that I wasn't. I joined a support group on hydrops fetalis on fb and there are a lot of success stories there as opposed to what we first believed . I knew of the support group before but I didnt join til I lost my baby. Had I joined I would have known things that doctors could have tried to help my baby. I'm just miserable. I do not want to go anywhere. It's like something inside me has also died. I just want to lay in bed all day.

    1. Hello, Claire! My heart goes out to you. Remembering the death of your baby or a loved one is always so, so tough.

      I worry about you - do you have someone to talk to, perhaps a friend or a relative? It helps to be able to vent your true feelings.

      I know it is tempting to blame yourself, but the next time you get the urge, I hope this prayer gives you solace:

      "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference."

      I hope that brings you peace. I also hope you do join a grief support group or a hydrops fetalis support group - it helps to be surrounded by people who know what you went - and are going - through.

      May I also suggest that you ask a psychiatrist for advice? I know you're sad, but did you know that many conditions can actually worsen the normal grieving process? Metabolic reasons, hormonal imbalances - so many reasons can make recovery from loss so much harder and a doctor can help you recover.

      Thank you for reaching out. That must have been a tough thing to do. In case you want to vent yet again, feel free to leave a comment anytime. :) Prayers and hugs.

  7. Hi. May i have a copy of your article on the grief workshop that came out in Health Today (July 2013 issue)?

    1. Hi, Jen! Were you the one who emailed me? Let's chat there. :)

  8. Hi. I do not know if someone would take the time to read this story of mine, but, I still wanna share it for more than comfort, I need to tell my learnings.

    Last October 2016, yes, just more than 3 months ago, I lost our house, and inside it was my Mom, youngest brother and a cousin: (Mary Ann Geronimo, 49; Gian Carlos Geronimo, 14; Ezekiel Musni (8))

    I was sleeping at my bestfriend's house just on the same village, across our street, when the fire began. I woke up when the people at the house (Flores' residence) are already packing their things up. Immediately, I ran to our house, to our street. There, I found our house on fire, from roof down to the ground. In my disbelief and shock and denial, I ran back to the house of my friend. As I ran, I felt a burden in my heart, then, I have burst into tears when I reached their garage. There, I cried heavily. I just confirmed that my loved ones died when the firefighters came to see me and broke out the tragic news.

    I cannot define how painful that was. I can only recall that I felt death with myself that day, too. Hearing that your mom, brother and cousin died inside a burning house made me burdened, to the point that I did not care if crying will make me die also. At that time, I just want to see them and tell them I love them.
    --especially my mom.

    Weeks after, I decided to go back to my life responsibilities, because as a Christian and knowing God, He does not want me to stop and get stuck with my regrets and failures and pain. (Because I thought that my biggest failure in life was with my mom and brother) But as months and weeks pass by, I can see how people forget what happened and how they become insensitive of my pain, that they make me forget it, when I know that I still need to grief things over. Even going to the church, becomes a burden, due to my disappointment to its members.

    Right now, I know and believe that I am moving forward but there are times that the strongholds will just enter my mind again, and again. And as I can see my relatives grieving, sometimes it burdens me that I feel like I am no help to them.

    But thanks to those light days that I can feel His strength, His grace is pulling me up. Indeed, God is still good, for He never leaves us, me. I realized that I can still be a light even when I am broken inside - -since my light is God.

    I can not tell that I have fully moved forward, there are still some setbacks. And I do not know if the the pain will go away. However, I know that there is hope in the Lord, and that He is not done yet. He has started a work in me. And I will partner with Him, to have it in completion. Perseverance and patience should be kept in mind. Patience also for myself. And patience on God's timing and season. I know that the season of joy will come, in His time.

    1. Margi, thank you for sharing your story. That takes courage and generosity.

      I hope your heart is healing. May you heal more with each passing day.

  9. Hi! Would you know if there are upcoming grief workshops soon?

    1. Hello, Holly! You can ask Dr. Erlyn Demerre of EPCALM if they have any other workshops in the pipeline.

  10. Hi Stef.First of all, thank you for this chance to vent. Im a mother of 3 and my 3rd one passed last Oct 31. His name is Rafa. He was born Oct 1. All my prenatal ultrasound & check ups didn't show any sign that there was something wrong. We went to the hospital for me to deliver via repeat CS and shortly after lunch, i heard his first cry. I was relieved and so i focused on waiting for my OB to finish my tubal ligation and closure of my cut. He latched on my breast, we took some photos and then he was moved to the other room.At that point, i was still clueless about his difficulty in breathing.I was wheeled in my room and i was informed by my husband that our baby Rafa was in the NiCu.
    That was the beginning of the month-long torture we all had to endure.
    My newborn baby had to endure so much blood tests, scans, surgical procedures just for the doctors to know his condition. But up until his last day, the doctors still didnt know what was wrong with him. We stayed in the NiCu until the 31st of Oct. During that 1 month, we had moments when his sedative would be on low dose so we were given the chance to see him wake up, move his eyes, mouth and hands. He reacted to people's voices. I stayed by his side day in and day out. I would talk to him, sing to him and read him stories. I didnt want to leave him for the night. I dreaded everytime my phone would ring because it might be from the NiCu telling us to rush back to the hospital because we might lose him soon. We experienced quite a number of scares and every conference with his doctors was torture. Adding to our fear was the anxiety of how to pay our hospital bills that amounted to millions already. We kept on praying to God to give us a sign if we were to keep on holding on or we should just withdraw support. Towards the end, it started to be clear that his condition wasnt getting any better. We gave him all possible management in the hopes that his lungs and kidneys would eventually start working on its own. My husband and i finally decided to sign the withdrawal of support. So on the 31st of Oct, we gave him back to Jesus.
    He is our angel. He came to us not to heal himself, but to heal us, his family. I am happy that my baby is now with Jesus; that he no longer expriences pain. But I am left with grief, loneliness, feelings of anger and depression from his passing. My patience is running thin and there's a general loss of interest in doing my usual tasks at home.
    Mostly, i still function well especially when i go out of the house. But once im back, thoughts of my baby's loss would haunt me again. Loneliness and despair would sporadically overpower me.
    Now, im seeking a group that could somehow help me and my husband get through this. our wounds are still fresh and i know that we still have a long way to go. We just need the right kind of help because we still have 2 children to take care of and our marriage to defend.
    There's still so much to share, so many learnings to impart. Thank you for this opportunity.

    1. I think my heart broke while reading your story. I want to give you a big, warm hug and share your tears!

      It has been four months since Rafa's passing, am I right? It must feel like it was just yesterday. I hope he is happily playing where he is, pain-free, lucky to have been loved on earth by you. I hope your little angel showers you with love, peace, and comfort.

      If you're looking for a group who can help you go through your grief, please try to contact Dr. Erlyn Demerre of She was the one who organized the grief workshop I wrote about in this article. I hope she can point you in the right direction.

      Thank you sooo much for being so brave and generous in sharing your story!