Malaysia’s National Cancer Institute Hosts Its First Bereavement Program

Written by: APHN Editorial Team (Malaysia) – Dr Caryn Shiao-Yen Khoo, M.D.

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Dr. Richard Lim Boon Leong, National Advisor for Palliative Care in the Ministry of Health, giving his opening speech

The Palliative Care Department of the Institut Kanser Negara (IKN) or National Cancer Institute in Putrajaya, Malaysia organized their first memorial service to commemorate the patients who have passed on and to provide support to their bereaved family members. The event, themed “In Memory Of…” took place on 23rd January 2016 and was attended by the family members of 30 decedents, with opening speeches given by the Ministry of Health National Advisor for Palliative Care, Dr Richard Lim Boon Leong, as well as the Hospital Director, Dr Asmayani binti Khalib.

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A family member leaving his handprint on the banner

The half day program included a sharing session by family members, a photo montage paying tribute to each patient, poem reading, group sessions and a three-part ceremony for the attendees to remember and honour their lost loved ones. First, family members were encouraged to leave their handprints on a specially made event banner as a token of remembrance. Then, they were given the opportunity to pen a personal message to their loved ones on a “leaf” to be permanently hung on the memory tree. Finally, they were escorted out of the building to release a helium balloon, symbolic of releasing any lingering pain they may have.

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A message left on the memory tree

The event was very well received by the attendees, with many calling for this to be an annual event. Many of them found comfort in hearing other people share similar stories of caring for a dying loved one. Others offered their own words of support and encouragement to fellow attendees, after having only met them hours before.

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Helium balloons were released as a symbol of allowing any lingering pains to be set free