Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Diary of a bereaved Mother: Sam, a new angel in heaven


It was just recently when I came across Kate Clark on Facebook. She was appealing for funds to buy a special motorised wheel chair for her son. I read the features of her son, and I decided to ask her if her Sam had the same syndrome as my Andrew.

Through facebook, we became friends and then we found out we had mutual friends. In fact Elizabeth and Diane Suemahu had told Kate about me.

Sadly, I read in Facebook, Sam has become a new angel in Heaven together with those in Norway.

When I had Andrew, I said that God had given me a special albeit painful gift: to comfort other grieving mums. Tonight, I cry for you Kate and the bereaved mums in Norway.

Kate Clark
To my beautiful boy. Your were the strongest person I knew and my heart breaks with not waking up to your hugs. I will miss you so much, but I know you are at peace and running with Jesus. RIP Samuel Clark 10.09.08 - 26.07.08.

Cry Kate, your hurt is raw, your arms are heavy. Cry Kate cry.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Diary of a Bereaved Mother: Bereaved mothers of yester-year

This is my maternal Grandma aka Bodai whose real name was Lia Yi, she is the grandma I spent most time with among my 3 grandmas. I absolutely forgot that she was a bereaved mum too, when I wrote about the other two. How could I have forgotten? This is because poor Grandma was born in an era that it was taboo to talk about dead babies. Sorry Grandma.

I had most fun with this grandma, though sometimes we didn't like it when she called us Bloody useless girls ( an term of endearment for useless girls, girls as in female children, another victim of her generation.) We would retort, you are a bloody useless girl yourself. She would reply, if I was born a boy, I would have done great things, but alas, I was born a bloody useless girl.
I learn Chinese quilting by helping her.

I went to visit her showing off my husband whom I wed in New Zealand. She insisted on making her kind of Cantonese/Hakka cakes for her new grand son -in-law, whom she was very proud off, a first SIL who had a university degree.
She loved making all sorts of Chinese cakes. She made them from scratch, grinding her own flour from rice grains. She wanted to make some of her special cakes for the water engineer, one of her new grandson in law from West Malaysia.
Alas she was too old to turn the stone and she didn't make cakes much anymore. she needed my muscles to turn the heavy stone. I have good memories of this because she would guide me along, not too fast or not too slow. She would spoon little spoons of rice into a hole in the middle of the stone. If I went too fast, I would knock her with the long pole handle. It was hard work. I forgot what cake she made, but the memories of this grinding rice to flour forever remain in my mind.

Grandma wore her Traditional Chinese pants and top with frog buttons. She wore her long hair in a bun. This was taken in 1982, the last time I saw her dressed in the very traditional style of dress and hair.

The next and last time was in 1986 when I went to show off my daughter to her. Grandma had permed her hair. I couldn't get used to it. She explained that short permed hair was easier to maintain.

Grandma died shortly after this. She was in her late 80s. I did mention that part in the book. Grandma was a very clean woman, even when she was dying, she insisted on having a bath everyday. The nurses complained having to bath her, but they told my sister Elizabeth that this was Grandma's virtue. She prided in her cleanliness. She died a very clean woman. She had Elizabeth and Kallang to bid her Good bye when she went.

***All Chinese women her era wore jade bangles. It is not a cosmetic jewelery. The Chinese believe that Jades have protective elements. Tales have been spun that the jade bangles have protected them.***

This morning, I went for my dental appointment. I told my dentist about my book. She told her receptionist. SC said her mum had 5 babies, and 3 survived. They never talked about the dead babies during her time. Babies were buried while the mums were still in hospital. A friend said her mum was offered someone's healthy baby to substitute for her dead baby. How cruel is that?

Elisabeth said...

Just last night, Ann, I talked again with my mother about her first baby who died at 5 months of age in 1945. My mother still remembers her enormous sadness at losing this baby just as she mourns the loss of her last baby who was still born in 1963.

These babies span twenty years and my mother had nine live babies in between but the ones she never forgets are those who did not make it.

I had a miscarriage once and although it was early, the grief of that loss has never left me.

This is an often neglected issue. Thanks for promoting the film.

Reply to Ginny: I have no idea where that baby came from, I suspect that it was an abandoned baby. That was a era when it was very shameful to be an unwed mother. When I had Andrew, I remember there was an abandon Asian baby. It was in the news paper. I even discussed about adopting this baby. But I only wanted my own child, so I didn't discuss further. I did not write this in the book, because I wasn't so sure.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Diary of a Bereaved Mother: Peekaboo Part 2

This is part 2 of Peekaboo.

Everyone grieves differently, though often how they feel mirrors another person's grieving. That is why sands organisation is there for bereaved parents to share, talk. cry and comfort each other.

I read the reviews of this Peekaboo. It is a sensitive issue, but who are you to judge, unless you ware wearing the bereaved mother's ill fitting shoes which are pinching her toes.

This morning, I went for my dental appointment. I told my dentist about my book. She told her receptionist. SC said her mum had 5 babies, and 3 survived. They never talked about the dead babies during her time. Babies were buried while the mums were still in hospital. A friend said her mum was offered someone's healthy baby to substitute for her dead baby. How cruel is that?

Peekaboo sent me their second pitch of fund raising,

Our Story

We are Big Buddha Films, award winning film company based in the UK. We are making a fantastic short film called Peekaboo. This is our second pitch. We had our first pitch which ran for the last few months, to help us finance the shoot of our film. Between Indiegogo and our own other methods, we managed to successfully raise £8,500 (around $15,000) in cash and a lot of in-kind support from businesses and services to help us keep our budget to a minimum. We have now shot our movie and it's looking fantastic.

Our film looks at stillbirth and terrible suffering it causes to families. It focuses on the story of Emily and Andy, a couple that have lost three babies. Emily then has a breakdown and experiences a delusional state to help her get through her grief. Her husband has to try and help to guide her through this and out of the other side. It looks closely at the effects a trauma like this can have on a relationship and at people's own different ways of coping.

We have been exceptionally lucky in having two of Britain's finest actors in our lead roles. BAFTA nominated actress Lesley Sharp plays Emily, and very well known and loved TV and film actor Shaun Dooley plays Andy. We have incredibly powerful performances which bring out the complexities of their characters perfectly.

We also worked with a very experienced and talented crew. Our DP is Phil Wood, Sound Recordist/Designer Grant Bridgeman, Editor Neil Fergusson, Line Producer Sandra Chapman, Art Director Helen Wood, and Focus Puller Alex Veitch. We will be having an original score for the film which is currently in development. The film was Written, Produced and Directed by Debbie Howard.

Our previous films have done extremely well in film festivals all around the world, winning several nominations and awards. See our website for further details:

The Impact

A Child that loses a parent is an orphan.
A Man who loses his wife is a widower.
A Woman who loses her husband is a widow.
There is no name for parent that loses a child.
For there is no word to describe the pain...

With the money we need to finish our film to a very high standard, we will be able to gain entry to the best international film festivals and get our film screened all over the world. This will help to challenge attitudes and change views towards stillbirth in the future, and give parents the understanding that they need. Seventeen babies die from stillbirth and neonatal death each day in the UK. Many more people experience this than you would think.

What We Need & What You Get
This campaign is specifically to raise money for the initial stages of post production:

We need to raise around $6000, but I will just be looking to raise $1000 here, so that we can try and reach our goal. Any additional money will all go straight into the film.

We are offering some great perks to all those that contribute. We are also offering anyone who has suffered the loss of a baby to add their name to the credits in memory of all those babies that are no longer with us.

Other Ways You Can Help
Please help us in any way you can, to spread the word about Peekaboo:

Please share this onto your Facebook page.
Refer a friend
Join us on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/bigbuddhafilms
Join us on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/#!/BigBuddhaFilms
Put a link on your website
Hold a fundraising event for us
Sell something on Ebay and donate the money to us
Or anything else you can think of....

Please make a donation and help us get our film made. We've worked so hard to get this far, please support us if you can.

Thank you.

Also Find This Campaign On
LinkedIn Facebook Twitter YouTube Website

Created By Debbie Howard

Diary of a bereaved mother: Peeka-boo

I am supporting this film project, though my baby Andrew was 55 days old, he might as well be still born because he was given the death sentence when he was born. The healthy baby I longed for died when I was told," Your baby is going to die tonight" the day when he was born.

Good luck to your project

Peekaboo is a short film soon to be into production. It is looking at stillbirth and miscarriage and the effect the grief has on the parents. It is starring Lesley Sharp and Shaun Dooley.


Basic Information
Release Date TBC
Genre Drama
Studio Big Buddha Films
About Peekaboo is a short film soon to be into production. It is looking at stillbirth and miscarriage and the effect the grief has on the parents. It is starring Lesley Sharp and Shaun Dooley.
Description You can see the video pitch for Peekaboo on the Indiegogo website at:

Please support us if you can.
Plot Outline Stillbirth and miscarriage is a taboo subject within our society.

I am making a new film to highlight this tragedy and the silence that often surrounds babies that are ‘born asleep’. This is an incredibly difficult time for parents, and there is little support and understanding to help them.

The new film, Peekaboo, is a high profile, short narrative film that looks at the issue of stillbirth and miscarriage and the psychological trauma that surrounds them.
Starring Lesley Sharp, Shaun Dooley
Directed By Debbie Howard
Screenplay By Debbie Howard
Produced By Debbie Howard and Sandra Chapman
Website http://www.bigbuddhafilms.co.uk/

Our Story
Hello, this is Debbie Howard, writer/director from Big Buddha Films, in Sheffield, in the UK. I'm trying to raise money for our new short film Peekaboo. It's a really strong script and has attracted two of the UK's top actors in the lead roles. We have BAFTA nominated Lesley Sharp playing Emily, and Shaun Dooley playing Andy.

Our subject matter is quite a taboo. However, I feel it's really important to get this film made. It's looking at the struggle parents have to come to terms with their loss when they have lost their baby due to stillbirth and/or miscarriage.

The script is dark and surreal. The mother can't move on from the loss of her three lost babies and due to the trauma she becomes delusional and imagines her babies have come back, as a way of coping with her grief. Her husband is left trying to skillfully deal with the consequences of her seemingly irrational behavior and gently guide her back to reality. But will she really ever be able to let go?

We are hoping to shoot Peekaboo in March 2011 here in Sheffield.

Our Exec Producer is Alex Usborne of Picture Palace North, who has made such wonderful films as Irvine Welsh's Acid House, Fucking Sheffield and Tales from a Hard City. We also have very generous sponsors Alice Jolly and Stephen Kinsella.

"Debbie Howard is an original and tenacious filmmaker. I have followed the development of Peekaboo and am hugely supportive of this project and feel strongly that this will be the film that takes Debbie to the next level.”
Alex Usborne, Film Producer, Picture Palace North.
The Impact
I feel it's a really important story to tell, as there is a lot of silence around stillbirth and miscarriage in our society and parents often feel isolated and silenced on top of their grief.

Below are some quotes from A Silent Love by Adrienne Ryan:

"Some people said, “Never mind, you’ll have other children.” The point was that we wanted this child. Others decided to deal with it as if nothing had happened."

"Can you not see the pain that you cause when you dismiss my loss as trivial? Do you not realize that although they are merely words, it still cuts like a knife when you tell me everything is fine because it wasn’t really a baby I lost?
It was a baby, and I am the child’s mother. Just because you do not acknowledge it does not make it any less real to me."

Quotes from parents of stillborn babies.

What We Need & What You Get
Updates from since our video pitch was put together: So far I've managed to raise £5,500 approx through my own fundraising events and sponsorship from people I've contacted directly. I have used some of this money for pre production costs including three amazing reborn babies made for the film by reborn artist Elaine Colbert. The rest of the money we are saving towards our shoot.

We are now looking for an additional £4,000 for our shoot. This money will be used for the following:

Cast' wages, crew's expenses, equipment hire (camera's, lenses, lighting, sound recording), insurance, locations, catering, costume. All of the above will be helped along by discounts and favours from our kind contacts, so we'll get the most out of our money that we can. Everything raised will be spent on the production, we will look at fundraising later for post production.

Everyone that donates will get something from us in return, see our VIP perks. And your help will be massively appreciated. Anyone that has suffered a loss from still birth or miscarriage may prefer to have a dedication made to their baby, rather than their own name in the credits.
Other Ways You Can Help
Please help us by spreading the word about our campaign. You can download a Peekaboo press pack which tells you all about our film from the Gallery page, see files at the bottom of the page, or it's on our Peekaboo page on our website at:
Please send this out to anyone you think might be interested.

Visit us on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/#!/bigbuddhafilms?ref=t...;
and leave us positive feedback to help us generate interest and support.

Every donation will be massively appreciated - please help us if you can. Please help save the arts by supporting projects independently.

Thanks to Sara Jay for use of her song It's All OK, in our video pitch.


Thanks to all those that have donated so far! Your donations are really appreciated, thank you.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Diary of a Bereaved Mother: Church of Christ Book Shop



25 years ago, our friends N and R were married in The Church of Christ at Mt Roskill. We took D there, she was about a year old. The water engineer was the official photographer for our friends. At that time, the church was very formal, the ladies had to wear hats.

Little did I know, one day their bookshop would be selling my book both online and in their shop.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Diary of a Bereaved Mother: Online order

Welcome to Wheelers Books http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif

New Zealand's largest online new book supplier to Schools & Libraries with over 10.6 million books to choose from. With unique features to facilitate easy selection, it's a great online book resource for all Librarians, Teachers and Families.

You can buy my book online from Wheeler's books

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Diary of a bereaved Mother: Wonderful friends and a wonderful holiday

The beautiful Waipu beach.

Steve and Lynn Peeters, this photo was taken on a farewell party for us at Gary's place in 1990. We were leaving for Singapore.

The little Northland Township holds a special place in my heart.

Twenty one years ago, when my baby Andrew died, I was miserable with empty arms and grieving. My friend Steve Peeters invited me to his mother Nelly's kiwi fruit farm near the beach in Waipu. There I found solace as I sat by the little jetty looking at flounders lie on the shallow creek. Steve's dad had just passed away, and Nelly told me that life had to go on. She had to, because she had a big kiwi farm to run.

We came back to Auckland, and I found inspiration to live on. This is a condensed part of my book. I haven't seen Steve and Lynn since this photo was taken in 1990. I spoke to Lynn a few times over the phone.

Recently a friend quoted this: “Let your dreams be greater than your memories.” I want to marry the two, a dream based on memories.

Andrew 27th April 1990

I am in turmoil again. Just before Easter, I was reverting back to when I couldn’t control myself. Margaret Honey said perhaps my medication was working as it does happen. She changed the meds but I felt nauseas so I stopped taking the meds for two week. I was really depressed and didn’t want to do anything. The house is a mess and I didn’t go out to Keep Fit, or to the Play groups. I was thinking I should go back to Margaret Honeyman to put me back on the old meds. Last week, I didn’t go to her appointment and today she rang me to see how I was. She told me to go back to see her tomorrow. Things had been really terrible. Even the weather is not co-operating. It has become very cold and gloomy and wet. I had not done much writing for my journal.
Gabrielle was suffering, she didn’t like her bandages. I even bargained with God. I said you took away Andrew, that was enough for me. Please relieve Gabrielle of her dreadful itchiness. I kept reminding God of the pact that I made when Andrew was first born when I said, you can take Andrew, I won’t ask why me, but promise me that my life will be good from now on. God, you didn’t keep your part of the deal. I can’t end it all because I love my girls.
God must have listened. Steve Peeters from our Young Adults group invited us to go up north to Waipu and spend Easter with his mum. Steve’s family and us went back to 1977 when my sister Margaret went to Waipu to do her intern as a farming student. She got to know Steve’s family as they went to the Roman Catholic Church. Steve and I both taught the same Sunday School group before Deborah was born in 1984. We got talking when he said he came from up north. He got very excited that I was Margaret’s sister. He was a young boy when Margaret came home to lunch on Sundays.
We drove up to Waipu and Nelly Peeter’s kiwi fruit farm was by the sea. There was a little jetty, and I could see flounders lying on the bottom of the sea floor. We tried to catch them, but didn’t manage to get any. God had also brought us to Nelly. Steve’s Dad had died recently, and Nelly cooked for us, and told be to relax and enjoy ourselves. She said I deserved a good holiday. In the evening, Nelly sat down with me and told me about her husband’s death. She said she had a kiwi farm which was just beginning to ripen. Every morning, she had to wake up at 6 am, cut a couple of fruits and test for the sugar. She said, she had to do it, there was no one else to do it. If she didn’t check for the sugar, and they pick the fruit, the whole harvest would be wasted. She would lose her livelihood. We sat holding hands. I thanked God for Nelly. She was brave out of necessity. My necessity was the girls. If the girls didn’t have me, they would have nothing. We walked on the beach, it was already very cold. We didn’t swim. The girls played under the kiwi fruit vines and it was just so serene to see the egg shaped Kiwi fruits.
The beach, coupled with Nelly’s kind hospitality brought me back to the road of recovery again. I came home rejuvenated. I told God, I am giving you another chance, don’t leave me. I am fragile. Don’t let Satan snatch me away. God told me to lay down my burdens and assured me he would carry me. I took out Betty Steven’s Footprints poem and thank God for Betty.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Diary of a Bereaved Mother: a tribute by a very good friend.

Ann Chin - Sarawak born Author
This is extra-normal way of introducing a new author from Sibu.

Ann Chin (Chan) Kit Suet was born in the Rajang Valley. Her parents were both Cantonese from the Kwong Tung Pah (now Sg. Salim). I left Sibu in 1970 and she left Sibu in 1975.

How did I get in touch with Ann Chin after 40 years? This is an exceptional cyberspace tale.

In her own words "I.....was googling Billy Abit when I came to Sarawakiana's post on the boys hostel of Methodist school. The more posts I read, the more intrigued I was. I was convinced I knew who the blogger was. But this blogger would not reveal her ID for a long time, until I read the post of the blogger's dad's accident.So I wrote: CY, I think I know who you are, don't let me stew in my own juice.
Finally, the blogger revealed herself. It was such a happy day, because the blogger was my hero in school.
The rest is history."

I couldn't be more surprised to be connected in this way. Here I was...blogging happily as a retired person who has been worried about Alzheimer's disease and Dementia. Writing a personal journal and taking a cyberwalk cost nothing but truly it has enriched me in more ways than I could believe. And being connected with a dear but long lost friend was really unbelieveable. She was only about 13 or 14 and I was already getting ready for university and the adult stage of my life. When I took off at the Sibu airport for KL I said to myself "I must leave my childhood behind and become a real tough female warrior....and nothing should stop me..."

My precious gem of a friend thus came in the form of Ann chin who encouraged me by her sheer strength and enthusiasm for life and writing via the blogging world in the last two years..

And on my part I am only too happy to help her connect with more people in Sarawak and the rest of the world.

She is no longer the shy little Form One kid in the Methodist School but a nice mature writer and teacher who has been inspiring people who have come in contact with her. She lives a full life in Auckland (New Zealand) .

For several years she has been thinking in a very humble way how to get her book published.
Eventually it has come out. And it will be a hit with parents who have lost their children at a young age and for those who empathise with this agony.

For those who would like to know more about this Sibu born daughter of Cantonese ancestry she has done more than her share to serve Sarawak. You can read an article about her interview in a local newspaper or go to

Ann has been away from Sarawak since 1975, and not many people know that she has taught in Kai Chung School in Bintangor I(originally Binatang). Although some students have already found her on Facebook recently many may like to find her by other means. It is interesting to note that most Sarawak students like to find their teacher and thank them in the later lives.. Hence school reunions are very popular and I have also noted that many teachers get invited to their children's weddings especially in Sibu because the ties are definitely maintained for many generations.

Ann Chan Kit Suet (her full name) was educated in the Methodist Primary School from 1961 till 1966. She then went to the Methodist Secondary School from 1967 to 1973 which was then still an English medium school. After she completed her Upper Sixth she taught in Kai Chung School, Binatang, Kuching High School and SMK Binatang before she left for Canada to further her studies.

Today she is teaching in Auckland and is married to Singaporean Dr. Chin. She has two daughters and a son.

Several of her siblings are still residing in Sarawak while others are all over the world. Her father the late Mr. John Chan Yui Fei served a brilliant career in the Sarawak Education Service as an Education Officer. Her late father was also an alumni of the Methodist Secondary School and a former teacher .

Her family photo below still brings a tear to my eye...how much I would like to have such a family photo taken with my dad and mum and grandmother in this manner. This is the kind of family photo most Chinese Sarawakian families would still take in the 21st Century!!

You can read more of her writing in the three blogs she maintains. She is such an energetic and prolific writer. Sibu should be very proud of her!!

And the good news is - she would want to connect with you!