Embrace Love, Embrace Grief
Parental love is unconditional.
The child patient’s long journey to recovery is fraught with challenges that parents must overcome in spite of the great stress. The most heart-breaking thing is when the child’s health made a drastic turn and life may flap to an end any time…
Tin Wing, nine years old, was diagnosed with cancer two years ago. After receiving chemotherapy for 1.5 years, he was prepared for bone marrow transplant. The progress of treatment looked good, and his parents started planning for new life when he could finally leave the hospital. But his health condition drastically deteriorated, putting a stop to the original treatment plan, and Tin Wing was urgently transferred to the Intensive Care Unit. His mother cared for him by his side every day, concerned over his critical condition.
While Tin Wing’s health condition fluctuated, a shimmer of hope was hardly in sight. Having to meet with the medical team and to make painful decisions endlessly together with the ever-changing circumstances and disappointing news, the stress was unimaginable for the parents.
“Is the condition really irreversible? How come – I believe he can go home with me one day. No matter how slim our chances are, doctors must find a way to help Tin Wing!”
“He is in such tremendous pain. Should I let him go?”
“How am I going to tell Grannies about this? Can they bear seeing Tin Wing in this shape?”
As their social worker, I joined the family meetings with the medical team and supported them in receiving the shocking news. I helped them get informed, so as to give them the time and peace of mind to think through the next steps, and offered emotional and psychological support wherever necessary.
Time and again, I listened to the mother’s hopes, and carried her woes, anxieties and fears. “I believe he will get better!” She kept telling me. Unfortunately, the much-awaited miracle didn’t happen. As the battle wore on, the little body of Tin Wing could not afford more treatments and his condition intensified. His parents were in greater despair as there was nothing they could do while their dear child suffered from the agonising turmoil of disease.
One midnight, I received an emergency call from a doctor at the Intensive Care Unit. Tin Wing was once again on the verge of life and death, and his parents tormented by the misery and fear of yet another struggle. When I arrived, the mother was drenched in tears. Grief and despair descended upon the ward of the Intensive Care Unit.
“The pain is too much for him. I really can’t bear to see him suffer. I would rather endure all these for him. The life of bare bones is too cruel for the little boy… I don’t know if now is time for me to let go. If it is too early, I will regret it for life; but he is suffering so much that I don’t want to extend his pain any longer…”
From midnight to daybreak, the mother held Tin Wing’s hands in hers, and stroked his face while she recalled everything about her son, from his personality, his interests to his happiest moments. Affectionate memories were the greatest connection between parents and the child patient, as well as the most beautiful expression of love. I was very grateful that Tin Wing’s mother shared with me these special memories of theirs. Tin Wing’s father could not make it to the hospital that night. I suggested the mother calling the father, so he could be by Tin Wing’s side through the phone and talk to him.
“If you are weary, put down your worries and be a little angel! We know you have tried your very best…”
Parents must love so deeply when they are reluctant to let go, but if the time has come, they have no way but to accept and allow it. How courageous one must be to embrace love and grief! Burdened by unmet wishes, tangled emotions and extensive strain, and knowing that they would part with their beloved child very soon, parents’ sorrows were indeed unimaginable. Physical, psychological and spiritual support at this critical moment helped reduce the regrets they might have.
As a social worker alongside the family, I was grateful for their unwavering trust for me to go through the challenge with them. May God bless Tin Wing, and this family of love and courage.
CCF Newsletter Vol.53 (Feb 2018)