Local Speakers

(in order of the Programme)

Speaker Biography Synopsis
 

Prof Pang Weng Sun

Professor Pang Weng Sun is currently Deputy Group Chief Executive Officer (Population Health), National Healthcare Group and Vice Dean, Clinical Affairs, Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine.  He is also a Senior Consultant in the Department of Geriatric Medicine, Khoo Teck Puat Hospital and Yishun Community Hospital.  He currently chairs the Advance Care Planning Steering Committee.

His previous appointments include Head of Geriatric Medicine in Alexandra Hospital; Chairman, Medical Board of Alexandra, Khoo Teck Puat and Yishun Community Hospitals, Acting Group Chief Executive Officer of Alexandra Health System and a former President of the Society for Geriatric Medicine.

Professor Pang Weng Sun has contributed geriatric expertise to various community services and worked with the Ministry of Health and other various voluntary agencies in eldercare and palliative care. He was a recipient of the Healthcare Humanity Award (2005), Public Administration Medal Silver (2012) and National Outstanding Clinician Educator (2016).

Plenary 1: Facing Our Own Deaths and Preparing Others

How Advance Care Planning Contributes to Grief and Bereavement Outcomes

Dying and end of life care are difficult conversation topics. Healthcare professionals and family caregivers both desire to see people with advance illnesses live on as long as possible, and often press on with aggressive medical treatments to sustain life. Many ill patients in the intensive care setting are non-communicative, either as a result of their advance illness, the medical equipment they are on or the heavy sedation they are given. The last memories that families often have are that of their loved one restrained in a hospital bed, with drips and feeding tubes and sounds of monitoring devices – far from a good pleasant death that one would wish for. Advance care planning provides opportunities for open conversations, not only on preferences on medical treatment, but also personal affairs and concerns that need to be addressed. It may also take away the burden of difficult decision making by family members, who may be torn between letting go and wanting their loved ones to live on. For advance care planning to be meaningful, the focus must be on the process and conversations, not on the mere signing of a form that indicates treatment preferences.

 Mrs Juliana Toh

Juliana is experienced in clinical practice and teaching in working with children and their families.  She is a qualified systemic psychotherapist, and pioneered family therapy training in Singapore.  She has been involved in supervision and consultation amongst counselling practitioners.

 

Plenary 1: Facing Our Own Deaths and Preparing Others

Dying as a Relational Experience

The dying process is located within the cultural milieu of the family and the individual. Embedded in the familial context, lies the interpersonal dynamics of navigating closeness and distance, the possible tension in expression of preferences of end-of-life-care, changes in family roles, structure and function. With the individual, the dying person will be dealing with changes to his/her sense of self arising from the beliefs and values held about life and living; death and dying.    

 Sr Geraldine Tan Sister Geraldine is the Executive Director of St Joseph’s Home, one of the largest integrated long-term care facilities in Singapore, which also offers hospice care, therapy services and a childcare centre. She has been a member of the Canossian Daughters of Charity since 1982 and is also a registered nurse by profession.

As one of the pioneers of palliative care in Singapore, Sister Geraldine continues to provide leadership and champion the cause of improving the quality of life of patients facing life-threatening illnesses. Her dedication to improving the standards of hospice care is augmented by her extensive knowledge and experience in Health Science (majoring in Nursing), Palliative Care, Clinical Pastoral Care and Oncology Nursing.

Plenary 1: Facing Our Own Deaths and Preparing Others

Dying as a Spiritual Experience

When people say they fear death, what they are actually referring to, sometimes, is the dying process which happens right before life passes away. This process could happen in an instant such as when a person dies of a heart attack or it could take some moments to manifest like in a near-drowning incident or disastrous flight experience. It could also be a long-drawn, painful affair as exemplified by those in the throes of end-stage cancer or a major life crisis.

In the latter two instances, pain is often not just physical, but emotional and it (re)/awakens the sense of mortality and vulnerability in us – that we are not as strong or as invincible as we thought. Feeling anxiety or distress may then cause the person to challenge their core values and beliefs about how things are and are supposed to be. And when reconciliation between the two becomes difficult, the person could lose a sense of meaning or purpose in life.

It is not necessary to have a religion or be religious to feel and face such things. Neither does one need to hold any particular belief or be part of a certain culture.

Anyone can have their spirit challenged and hence feel pain. Dying is thus a spiritual quest to address this pain and resolve the past before the future comes to rob the heart and mind in the form of Death.

 Ms Yang Shu-Ting Ms Yang Shu-Ting is a music therapist at Dover Park Hospice. She serves mainly people with terminal illness and their families. She was awarded a teaching assistant scholarship and received her Master of Science in Music Therapy at Indiana University, USA. Ms Yang is a professional member of the Association of Music Therapy (Singapore). She is elected as an executive committee member of the Association and has been actively promoting music therapy practice, and research in Singapore. She is currently a trainee for the advanced Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music (BMGIM). Break Out Session 1A: Facing Our Deaths Creatively

As professionals who work closely with people facing their last chapter in life, we are often reminded of our own death. Research suggests that people working closely with patients at end-of-life could benefit from opportunities to acknowledge and integrate death and dying into the continuum of life, both for themselves as well as for their patients (Sinclair, 2011). In this session, we will create the space to examine and experience different dimensions of death, by exploring multiple sensory awareness with selected media. Through cultivating creativity and expanding our awareness, we may face our own death more creatively and gain new insights from the process of integration.

 Ms Ng Wang Feng Ms Ng Wang Feng is a Board-Certified Music Therapist. She graduated with a Master of Music Therapy from Temple University, Philadelphia, USA, in 2005. She is currently serving St. Andrew’s Community Hospital, and is the lecturer of Music Therapy modules at Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts. She is also the founding President of the Association for Music Therapy (Singapore) and is a professional member of the American Music Therapy Association.
 Ms Candice Tan Candice is a Senior Medical Social Worker with Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH), and had attained her Master of Science in Palliative Care at King’s College London, United Kingdom. She now leads the Palliative Social Work service in TTSH, providing and developing psychosocial-spiritual support for persons living with and impacted by life-limiting illnesses. She also facilitates training and learning in the area of loss and grief for healthcare professionals and community partners. Candice has a keen interest in bereavement care, and believes in the need to build a compassionate society for living, aging and dying well. Break Out Session 1B: Use of Legacy Building in Grief Work

Legacy Building with Patients in an Acute Hospital Palliative Care Ward

Legacy building in a fast-paced and time-sensitive environment, such as that of a hospital, can often be challenging when having to manage multiple other acute issues. Yet this aspect remains a valuable medium in supporting certain groups of patients and families through their illnesses and grief. In this session, Candice highlights the importance of ‘legacy creation moments’– where the emphasis is on recognising opportunistic moments in our day-to-day interactions with patients, and capitalising them for creative exploration and building of legacy. While this usually suggests a final product that can be passed on to loved ones, the essence of legacy creation work truly lies in the therapeutic process, which is often a conduit for addressing pertinent psychosocial, spiritual and existential issues in the pre-loss, as well as post-loss phases. Through the lens of her work with patients and families in the hospital, Candice will share approaches and techniques she finds viable in a transitory acute setting, fundamentally beginning from the conviction that ‘everyone has a story to tell’.

 

Ms Ng San San

Ms Ng San San is a Principal Social Worker with the Children’s Cancer Foundation (CCF) and a registered social worker. She has extensive experience working with children and young adults with cancer and their families. Apart from casework management, psychoeducation, psychosocial risk assessments, San San also provides palliative care and bereavement counselling and support. Her passion is in grief and bereavement counselling and she has spearheaded the bereavement support group in CCF.

San San graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from National University of Singapore, majoring in Social of Work and has a Masters in Counselling from Monash University.  She is also a Certified Thanatologist, registered with the Association of Death Education and Counseling (ADEC).

Break Out Session 1B: Use of Legacy Building in Grief Work

Legacy Building with Bereaved Family Members in the Community

In bereavement support, it is important for bereaved families to make meaning of the loss and to maintain connection with their deceased loved one. Such connections provide solace, comfort and support for the families, and legacy building can be a platform for the bereaved caregivers to express their thoughts and feelings and make meaning of the loss. The Legacy Building Programme by the Children’s Cancer Foundation (CCF) hopes to:

1.      Provide a creative and artistic way for the children with cancer and their families to make meaning of their cancer journey and to promote family bonding through doing the activity together.

2.     Bring solace to bereaved families through efforts to build memories and reassurance that their loved ones will be remembered.

The positive effects and benefits of legacy building and how the legacy building process helps the bereaved in their journey will be illustrated in a case study.

 

Ms Vivien Ee

Vivien Ee is a Social Worker and Certified Thanatologist with Children’s Cancer Foundation. She graduated from Monash University with a Bachelor in Social Work and was conferred Certification in Thanatology by the Association for Death Education and Counselling (ADEC), from the United States of America.

Vivien supports children with cancer and a poor prognosis, and their families, specializing in palliative and bereavement services which focuses on improving the quality of life and wellbeing of these children and their families through casework and counselling, wish fulfilment, legacy-building and bereavement support.

 Ms Gillian Ong Trained in Australia as a social worker and art therapist, Gillian has worked with diverse populations that include the area of disabilities, HIV work, mental health and palliative care. A self-taught artist, Gillian believes in the healing power of the arts and is passionate about harnessing the therapeutic value of creativity for social change and good in her work. Currently an art therapist working with the terminally ill in a hospice, Gillian witnesses the tremendous capacity within us for transformation, forgiveness and healing through art. Her work has helped her understand more deeply the need for compassion to self and others in the journey of life. Break Out Session 1B: Use of Legacy Building in Grief Work

Legacy Building with Patients and Their Families in a Hospice

Art therapists can be facilitators of legacy projects and their work is often part of an individually tailored therapeutic process. Through the use of various different mediums patients can make meaning of their experiences and communicate what may be difficult to speak of.  Gillian will share how she uses different techniques in her approach to legacy work, viewing this as a therapeutic process rather than a means to creating a ‘product’ to pass onto loved ones, though this may ultimately be the outcome. What may appear to be a simple legacy project can often be the result of in depth, sometimes poignant work between therapist and client. At the end of the session, participants will learn how legacy can be explored from a creative perspective and facilitated in a therapeutic manner, emphasizing on the process and meaning of legacy work.

 

Mr Andy Sim

Andy is a Principal Medical Social Worker with the Department of Medical Social Services in Singapore General Hospital. He is a Certified Thanatologist (ADEC, USA) and holds a Masters of Social Work degree from New York University, USA. He is also a Fellow of the Zelda Foster Studies Program in Palliative and End-of-Life Care in NYU.

His professional interest lies in biomedical and clinical ethics, palliative and end-of-life care social work and advance care planning. In addition to being a trainer for SingHealth Residency’s Breaking Bad News (BBN) and ACP advocacy and facilitator training workshops, Andy is actively involved in educating healthcare professionals and also sits on several national workgroups and committees to contribute his expertise in ACP, palliative care, grief and bereavement work. Andy also co-chairs the Renal Social Worker Community of Practice (CoP) in Singapore.

Break Out Session 1C: Last Office? What’s Next?

After the Last Breath – the Final Offerings of the Healthcare Team

Often, healthcare providers will encounter the following questions from bereaved families after the death of their loved ones:

“What is going to happen next?”

“What should we (the family) do now?”

“Where do we go from here?”

“Who do we need to call?”

“How long must we wait before we can arrange the funeral?”

“How can we get the death certificate?”

“Will my loved one undergo an autopsy?”

This session will shed light on the various roles of the healthcare team in death certification, and the cleaning and preparing the deceased person for transfer. We will also examine how care providers can better support bereaved families while addressing common questions, concerns and issues raise after a death in the hospital or at home. Our responsibility of care for the dying patient and his or her family does not end with their demise. Being able and ready to offer a “holding space” for bereaved families, bear witness to their suffering and loss, and provide clear and useful information to them after the death of their loved ones extends the act of service and care by the healthcare team.

 Mr Ang Ziqian Mr Ang Ziqian is Deputy Chairman of the Ang Chin Moh Group of Companies and Founder of the Ang Chin Moh Foundation. His beginnings into the funeral profession started at 13 helping his father during school holidays instead of doing what other teenagers do! Starting as a funeral assistant to his father Mr Ang Hong Hin, owner of Ang Chin Moh Funeral Directors, Ziqian rose to Chief Executive of the Group.

Today, as Deputy Chairman of the Group, Ziqian provides strategy and direction to a management team of veterans and young professionals, keen on taking the Group and Singapore’s bereavement industry to greater heights with active rejuvenation. As Founder of the Ang Chin Moh Foundation, Ziqian has worked tirelessly on several public education campaigns to demystify dying, death and funerals. He believes that educating the masses is going to remove the stigmas, superstitions, and taboos that surround death and the profession.

Break Out Session 1C:  Last Office? What’s Next?

The Profession of Providing Meaningful Funerals

You have only ONE funeral and you will know NOTHING about it! The people who love you most have to do EVERYTHING about it.

If we don’t tell our loved ones what we want, we are asking our families to second guess. This is unfair. We must not leave this world and leave the guilt for them to bear. Funerals are for the living. Meaningful funerals help the living cope with the huge loss of a loved one. In his talk “The Profession of Providing Meaningful Funerals”, Ang Ziqian, Deputy Chairman of the Ang Chin Moh Group and Founder of Ang Chin Moh Foundation talks about the pains, and the pangs that families face when funerals are not planned.

 

Ms Sally Kong

Sally Kong majored in Social Work from the University of Singapore. After working as a Medical Social Worker, she moved to the field of organ donation and transplant in 1980s when there was a great need to develop a structured and systemic approach to deceased organ donation and to increase the supply of deceased organs for transplant. She was the pioneer transplant coordinator bappointed in 1986. Working closely with surgeons, physicians, transplanters and the Ministry of Health, she established a national protocol to facilitate deceased organ procurement. Through her leadership, she established a national protocol for deceased organ donation and put in place training programmes for transplant coordinators and other healthcare teams in effective high stakes family interaction – from breaking the bad news to broaching the topic of organ donation. She reviewed and introduced initiatives in hospitals nationwide to improve organ donation.

Sally is currently the Assistant Director of the National Organ Transplant Unit – the operational arm of Ministry of Health that oversees donation and transplant activities, ensuring that policies are translated into practice. Her passion in this field is evident having dedicated most of her working life to it.

Break Out Session 1C:  Last Office? What’s Next?

Turning Grief into Gift of Life, the Untold Struggles

The key challenge of working on an organ donation is timing. Organ donation takes place when the heart is beating but the brain is irreversibly damaged. The circumstances of the death are often unexpected – massive stroke, brain aneurysm or an out-of-hospital collapse resulting in a brain injury that is irreversible. Pacing the families through their journey across various phases of their loved ones’ conditions to eventually providing them with the vision of the goodness that may come out of the unfortunate event can be a very daunting task. The struggles faced are not only those of the families but also the healthcare team especially the transplant coordinators – trying to balance caring for the families with that of making organs available to save the lives of others.

 Mr Lance Ng Soo Ann

Lance Ng Soo Ann was a volunteer befriender with Children’s Cancer Foundation from 1998 to 2009 and served in various capacities in the organization. As a trained spiritual director, formator and retreat giver, he provides spiritual accompaniment, workshops, retreats and spiritual formation to both individuals and groups/organisations in both religious and secular settings. 

He received his formal training at the Sentir Graduate College of Spiritual Formation, University of Divinity (Melbourne, Australia) with a Graduate Diploma in Theology and a MA in Spiritual Direction.

 

Break Out Session 2A: Conversations with Grief
(previously named ‘My Friend, Grief’)

Human beings whether they are conscious or not, begin their great journey of death the moment they are born. To know life fully, is to know death equally, and when we inoculate ourselves from encountering the grief with the passing of a dear one, we also inoculate ourselves from a fundamental part of life. The invitation that life makes during a time of bereavement is to grow in heart. And to do so is to make friends with all that life invites, not through denial, avoidance or suppression but through a real conversation.

At this workshop, we will explore what it means to simply take time to have a conversation with grief – the anger, the fears, the sadness, the regrets, the guilt, etc. This is where we begin to receive the much understated gift of compassionate listening and its integral role in helping one to not only live life, but to live it to the full. For life is deeply felt and received when one can acknowledge the depth of sadness and emptiness in this place of loss and bereavement.

The workshop would provide the necessary space needed for a time of listening – to ourselves, to others and to what is authentic within us. Through the interaction of listening to each other and ourselves, we find that we can better listen to our truths, just as we listen more deeply to the truths articulated by another. And it is in this process of real conversation with another, founded on compassionate listening we experience the gift of life that one only can give with their passing. Are we ready to receive what life has to offer here?

We can’t face up to our bereavement alone, we need the help of each other to face up to it. When we allow ourselves to feel and face up to our sadness and sorrow, and accompany other people in their sadness, we actually open a way into intimacy. We share with them our common vulnerability to human loss and limitation. And as the relationship grows in greater depth and strength, we too grow in meaning, hope and joy.

Death is the doorway to not only new life, but towards a deeper and fuller life. It is only when we can go through mourning that we discover the part of life that we would not otherwise have lived if not for the experience of bereavement.

 Ms Yenn Ang Yenn is a Registered Art and Sandplay Therapist with the Children’s Cancer Foundation. She supports children and youths impacted by cancer through art therapy, and conducts weekly open studios at the KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital and the National University Hospital. Yenn also runs therapy groups for caregivers in bereavement.

Break Out Session 2B: Partners on the Grief Journey

Collaboration between an Art Therapist and a Social Worker to Support Grieving Youths

Grief is a universal experience and yet is unique in youths as they undertake key development tasks while navigating from childhood to adulthood. In between the face of grief and phase of growing up, sensitivity is necessary in interdisciplinary collaborations as professionals seek to identify, communicate and advocate for the grieving needs without compromising on the autonomy of their young clients. This talk discusses how the art therapist and social worker collaborate to manage case information and conversations in order to promote dignity and facilitate therapeutic work for grieving youths with cancer.

Case studies will be used to illustrate how the art therapist worked with adolescents with poor prognosis on resolving existential concerns through creative processes while the social worker focused primarily on supporting the family as a unit. The two professionals also act as a bridge of communication between the youth, the family and the medical team to synthesize information, create conversations to promote understanding, self-awareness and shared decision-making in the face of grief and growth.

 Ms Melanie Kwan As the Senior Music Therapist at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital, Ms. Melanie Kwan uses music to help hospitalized children and women from 0 to 100 cope with their hospital stay. For more than a decade, Ms. Kwan has seen first-hand how music engagement can effectively motivate rehabilitation exercises, decrease anxiety, and manage pain, amongst other medical outcomes. After completing her Master’s thesis on music therapy and pain at Temple University,

Ms. Kwan has continued to be fascinated by how the brain processes music and other stimuli, song-writing as legacy work, and the roles singing and active music playing in preventative health enhancement and wellbeing, in trauma focused care, as well as in supporting grief and bereavement.

Break Out Session 2B: Partners on the Grief Journey

Support during Critical Times: Inter-Professional Partnership

Caregivers are highly stressed when a loved one needs critical care. In the face of uncertainty when a baby or child is very ill, parents need to make agonizing decisions, sleep fitfully, and have poor appetites. Hoping against hope, they steel their wills to stay strong and fight anticipatory grieving until their child’s condition stabilizes. In these moments, music may help to contain anxious thoughts, express feelings, and communicate care and concern along with difficult-to-verbalize messages. In this way, music serves to strengthen family bonds on the road to recovery, or toward the final goodbye. This session will highlight the inter-professional care partnerships within KKH’s Neonatal or Children’s Intensive Care Unit, and how musical legacies are woven in the grief journeys to celebrate the child’s life.

 

Ms Peh Cheng Wan

Cheng Wan has a curious nature and she is still alive. She practices as a Medical Social Worker and counselor, as well as clinical supervisor and mentor, specializing in the field of palliative and end-of-life care. In recent years, she has been focusing her work in building the capability of the psychosocial care and counselling professionals in the health and social sectors. Currently, she also leads the Psychosocial Support Services (PSS) team in Assisi Hospice, and, takes care of her family. Break Out Session 2B: Partners on the Grief Journey

Continuity in Care – Inter-Agency Partnership
Everyone matters.

It is not only one agency’s work. It takes partnership and collaboration with different health and social agencies to be able to do the work we do to support individuals and families. In this session, Chengwan will share her experiences and learning of the benefits and challenges of collaborative inter-agency partnership in the course of her work as a hospice psychosocial care professional.

 

Dr Lim Wen Phei 

Dr Lim is a Consultant Psychiatrist with Woodlands Health Campus (WHC). She is currently practicing in Tan Tock Seng Hospital, where she first developed her interest and training in palliative psychiatry. She is also a Visiting Consultant to Dover Park Hospice.

She is the Clinician Lead for the WHC Wellness, Resilience, Care and Engagement (WellCARE) Peer Support Programme, and advises the programme on managing staff affected by workplace-related distress.

Her primary practice is consultation liaison psychiatry, with a special interest in palliative psychiatry and psycho-oncology. Her clinical work involves working with healthcare professionals in palliative medicine and oncology in acute care services, as well as in hospice and community care. Of note, she is interested in the role of medical psychotherapy in helping palliative care providers develop a holistic approach in the management of psychological issues in end of life care.

She is passionate about health professions education and has had opportunities to develop her role as an educator since her residency years. She won the NHG Best Teacher Award (Junior Category) in 2014, was one of the recipients of the TTSH Top 10 Teacher Awards in 2014 and 2017, and won the Bronze Medal in the Singapore Health and Biomedical Congress (SHBC) Health Professions Education Research Investigator Award in 2016. At present, she serves as a Core Clinical Faculty Member for the NHG Internal Medicine residency, and provides consultation on issues pertaining to psychological resilience, burnout and adaptive coping in trainees.

Alongside her primary interests, she is developing her capabilities in healthcare leadership and faculty development. She was the Chief Resident for National Psychiatry in 2014/15, and is an alumnus of the Singapore Chief Residency Programme (Healthcare Leadership College). She is a certified Meyer-Briggs Type Indicator® Practitioner, and provides training and consultancy in various leadership development programmes.

Break Out Session 2C: Panel Discussion – Supporting Staff and Other Patients Affected by a Death: A Case Study

Panel Discussion with a Psychiatrist, a Social Worker and an Art Therapist

 Ms Jacinta Phoon Ms Jacinta Phoon is a Principal Medical Social Worker at National Cancer Centre Singapore. She is also a Pastoral Psychotherapist and a Family and Marital Therapist. She is currently a member of the curriculum committee for the Palliative Care Course for Social Workers – a program to educate social workers from both hospital and community settings on palliative care principles. She is also a fellow with Singhealth-Duke University’s Academy of Medicine Education Institute. Break Out Session 2C: Panel Discussion – Supporting Staff and Other Patients Affected by a Death: A Case Study

Panel Discussion with a Psychiatrist, a Social Worker and an Art Therapist

Losses and transitions are prevalent in oncology patients and their families. Supporting their resultant grief reactions and bereavement experience are part of the services offered by the psychosocial oncology professionals. However, often times, we tend to forget about the workers from the multi-disciplinary team who are caring for them. The presentation will look at professional grief, offer ideas how clinical supervision and peer support may be helpful. It will also explore how the context and culture of the organisation support. constrict such support.

 Ms Ling Choon Lian Choon Lian is a qualified hospital play specialist and art therapist trained in the UK. She has worked in hospitals, schools and family service centres in Singapore. She moved to work at a home care setting in 2012 when she joined HCA Hospice Care. Her work with children and adults in palliative care focuses on nurturing and harnessing a sense of wholeness within the individual. Repeatedly she finds herself on a journey with the patients and their family members on learning to maintain a posture for living well. Over the last few years, her practice has increasingly been informed by the research in neuroscience specifically in the area of attachment, creativity and mindfulness, and she hopes to further develop it through research. Break Out Session 2C: Panel Discussion – Supporting Staff and Other Patients Affected by a Death: A Case Study

Panel Discussion with a Psychiatrist, a Social Worker and an Art Therapist

Once a newly bereaved mother asked me, ‘How do you keep going when seeing suffering is part and parcel of your work?’ I paused. Honestly, my mind went blank. I was transported with a sense of loss that is often difficult to put into words when a patient, especially a child or a young parent dies.

As caregiving professionals we often remind the care-giver of our patient, ‘be gentle and take care of yourself’. Have we forgotten that we are not immune to grief? What can we do to reduce the risk of losing ourselves in the process of caring for others?

The session aims to create a space and time for caregiving individuals to reconsider the pain one may experience while journeying with those who are facing suffering and death. This process seeks to reconnect with a vital part of ourselves that has the potential to transform the way we care.

 Ms Ng Hwee Chin Hwee Chin has been working in medical and healthcare settings since 1999. She is a trained Social Worker & Family Therapist with certification in Thanatology. She has special interest in the areas of palliative care and bereavement support to clients with life-limiting condition and their families. Hwee Chin assumes various roles in Children’s Cancer Foundation – at the management level, she is the Director of Strategic Development; in clinical practice, she is the Principal Social Worker and Family Therapist.  She currently focuses her attention in service development and capability building, mentoring future clinicians in pediatric oncology and palliative care.

Hwee Chin is one of the founding workgroup members who develop the basic palliative care course for social workers and is an active member of the Community of Practice for grief and bereavement practitioners.

Plenary 2: From Caregivers to Bereaved Individuals – Issues & Responses

Bereaved Parents: When A Parent Loses a Child

In Greek mythology, Thanatos is the son of Nyx (Night) and Erebos (Darkness). He is also the twin brother of Hypnos (sleep). Over the course of time, the ancient Greeks came to use Thanatos as the word for death and defined thanatology as the study of death. In the current society, many avoid talking about death as it is seen as a taboo, what’s more to study death. As we try to avoid the topic, we un-armed ourselves against it and hence, are often shaken when we are forced to face death. It would be worst when death happens to our children who are often considered the crux of many parents’ future. In this talk, I will discuss how death shakes the boat and rob the hope of parents who lose their child and their journey alongside with death as much as they despise its membership into their voyage of life.

 

Dr Lee Geok Ling

Geok Ling is an Assistant Professor with the Department of Social Work, National University of Singapore. She is also a registered social worker with the Singapore Association of Social Workers, a certified fellow in thanatology with the Association of Death Education and Counseling (ADEC), and a member of the International Work Group on Death, Dying and Bereavement (IWGDDB). In addition, she is also appointed as a member of Palliative Care Network and Bereavement Work Group at national level. Her research interests include death, dying and bereavement; loss and grief. Her studied populations include patients with cancer, palliative care and end-of-life care, as well as their families. She is currently involved in multi-disciplinary research projects on quality of life of family caregivers of palliative care patients and bereavement care. Geok Ling has published numerous peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapter, has presented at the regional and international conferences. Plenary 2: From Caregivers to Bereaved Individuals – Issues & Responses

Bereaved Spouse: When the Better Half is No More

When a death occurs in a family, multiple griefs exist simultaneously at individual, sub-system, and family system levels. Although some thoughts and feelings are shared, others are not. The marital system is one such unique sub-system in a family. In a couple, when one of them dies, the other surviving spouse is left to mourn and often finds him- or herself in a complex web of emotions and reactions. The psychological, social and physical effects of loss are articulated through the practice of grief, which is mediated largely by the relational and caregiving experiences prior death. In this talk, I will discuss, based on research findings and literature review, how the spousal caregiving is both influenced by and influences the course of illness and the eventual perceived death experience, and how the death of the spouse brings a change in the surviving spouse’s identity, role, and ‘what’s next’ in his/her life.

 Ms Wang Jing Wang Jing holds a Degree in psychology and an advanced Certificate in Training and Assessment accredited by Singapore Workforce Development Agency. She has more than 20 years of experience in counselling, training and family life education. For the last 13 years, she has been involved in aged care, in the area of counseling and supervision. Besides providing individual and family counseling, she runs group work with elders and is instrumental in setting up the training course on Specialist Diploma in gerontological Counselling. She has been conducting training programmes in Singapore and in the region in the areas of psycho-emotional aspects of eldercare for professional, family caregivers and volunteers. Plenary 2: From Caregivers to Bereaved Individuals – Issues & Responses

Bereaved Seniors: The Rocky Road Ahead

Loss of loved ones can have great impact in old age. This presentation shares on the common responses of older persons to grief and bereavement, explore the internal processes that they may be undergoing and how to work on to overcome psycho-emotional barriers to achieving acceptance and finding hope, possibilities and inner peace.

 Dr Ivan Woo Dr Ivan M. H. Woo is Principal Medical Social Worker with Tan Tock Seng Hospital and a Certified Thanatologist with the Association for Death Education and Counselling. He has received several awards in recognition of his contributions to research, clinical practice and education, including the highly competitive Li Ka Shing Prize, given annually for academic excellence to the best of the elite students at the University of Hong Kong, and the Promising Social Worker Award, one of the highest accolades to be bestowed to a social worker in Singapore. His research interest is in health social work, grief and bereavement. Plenary 2: From Caregivers to Bereaved Individuals – Issues & Responses

The Disenfranchised Caregivers

This presentation adopts a conventionally neglected social perspective to the management of grief among bereaved caregivers, a departure from the familiar psychological lens that have much influence in the development of the criteria for persistent complex bereavement disorder published in DSM-V. Central to the social management of grief is the concept of disenfranchised grief. Beginning with definition of disenfranchised grief, this presentation will bring the audience through possible cost of unrecognised grief and social interventions to address shame and guilt, emotions that tend to be experienced by disenfranchised grievers. This will be followed by an assertion that while there are circumstances that warrant psychological management of grief to acknowledge the complications in grief among a very small and targeted group of individuals, sustainable enfranchisement of grief is only possible in compassionate societies that accept their grievers unconditionally. Ending this presentation will be guiding principles to help one balance social with psychological management of grief among bereaved caregivers.

 Ms Jeanette Chan Jeanette is an art therapist with Singapore Cancer Society (SCS). She holds a Masters of Arts, Art Therapy degree (MA Art Therapy) and qualifications in counseling psychology.  She is also trained in Trauma-informed expressive arts therapy from Trauma-Informed Practices & Expressive Arts Therapy Institute. 

Besides journeying with people undergoing cancer rehabilitation, Jeanette also serves people with special needs (e.g. elderly with dementia, children and youth with learning disabilities).  She is currently the President of the Art Therapists’ Association Singapore (ATAS) and an activist in advocating art for mental well-being.  She has contributed articles in various art therapy publications, newsletters, and has been conducting workshops with schools, Health Promotion Board, and People’s Association.

Break Out Session 3A: The WHOLE | HOLE

Knowing that with every beginning there will be an end… how would you choose to live your life?  Do you look at what’s there, or what’s not there?  How should you integrate the “good” and “bad”, “right” and “wrong”, “gains” and “losses” in life, and to assure yourself that, “Hey! This is a good enough life I have.”  This session allows participants an opportunity to reflect about life, and to explore through symbols and images the meaningful experience of life as a whole, amongst the hole(s).  It is only when we accept ourselves as who we are (as a whole), that’s when we can better cope with losses (the holes) in our lives.

 

Dr Gilbert Fan

Dr Gilbert Fan, RSW, FAPA is a Clinical Supervisor (Satir), Fellow of the American Psychotherapy Association (USA) and Registered Social Worker. He is also a member of the International Workgroup for Death, Dying and Bereavement.

Gilbert’s professional doctorate is in Social Work & Futures Studies. He has extensive experience as a medical social worker, having worked in both general and tertiary hospitals and a short teaching stint at the Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP) lecturing in the Behavioural Sciences. He continues to teach in various capacities in social work and counselling programmes at both local and foreign universities. He was appointed as Master Practice Leader by the Ministry of Social & Family Development in 2015 and Fellow of the Social Service Institute in 2016.

Gilbert is the Chair for Volunteer Engagement, Co-Chair for Patient Support and Advisor & Master MSW to the Department of Psychosocial Oncology, National Cancer Centre Singapore.

Break Out Session 3B: Use of Groups for Grief Support

The Use of Professionally Led Group: National Cancer Centre Singapore’s Experience

Dealing with one’s grief reactions over a cancer diagnosis and treatment involves one’s own personal journey into his / her inner experience, to tap on those inner feelings, to be able to express and communicate from within. It is about assisting one to locate his / her inner resources in the grief process. It is about making realistic changes and adopting a positive, if not, a balanced stance of living despite a calamity. For many, the management of grief as portrayed by their underlying feelings contains fears and hurt which are crucial aspects to ‘let-go’ or to take better care of. Some of these issues are best to be handled collectively as a therapy group where patients and their families learn from one another’s grief experiences.

The grief-in-recovery therapeutic groupwork that the National Cancer Centre Singapore has in place are found in the following programmes:

  • Enreach Retreats (a residential weekend programme)
  • Support Through Empowerment, Enrichment & Resourcefulness (STEER Programme – a community-based programme)
  • Growth Enhancement Series (an intensive and change-focused therapeutic group); renamed as Patient Empowerment Series
    • adaptation & moving on series, marital / family relationship enhancement series, spousal support series & letting-go series

The grief-in-recovery therapeutic groupwork sessions allow cancer patients and their families the opportunity:

  • to deepen their insights and awareness of their grief over critical life issues
  • to tap and connect with their inner resources so as to empower them to grow from within themselves.

The central focus is to assist patients to de-enmesh / let-go of hurts and pains and to move on to be more congruent with themselves. It is a facilitation to activate some degree of emotional release for those who wish to try or who are ready and wanting to experience their lives more positively.

 

Ms Cheong Ee May

Ee May holds a Master Degree in Social Work and has been in the medical setting as a social worker since 1999.  She is currently the Head of the Social Work and Psychosocial Services department in Dover Park Hospice. She has been working in end of life care for the past seven years and finds it a privilege to journey with patients in this very difficult time of their lives.  Working in the hospice has given her the opportunity to witness the powerful impact that dedicated professionals makes in providing comfort, care and meaning to patients and their loved ones, during the last phase, and even extending beyond death. Break Out Session 3B: Use of Groups for Grief Support

The Nuts and Bolts of Organizing a Secular Memorial: A Hospice’s Experience

A memorial is an unique part of hospice work. It is an event helmed by the hospice for families and loved ones to remember the patients who have passed on under our care. At the same time, it allows a reconnection of ties between the families and the hospice workers as we remember them.  In this session, Ee May will share about the experience of organising a secular memorial which allows space for people to grief together as a group and also illustrates how it is an important and integral component of bereavement work.

 

Mdm Joyce Lye

 

Having the experience in dealing with her own pain as a widow, Mdm Joyce Lye started an informal support group to help widows in 1993.  Subsequently, the support group was registered as Wicare Support Group in October 1998. Over the years, under the leadership of Joyce, Wicare grows in strength to help widows cope with the loss of their husbands, providing socio-emotional support, counselling and financial assistance.  

In recognition of her outstanding contributions, Joyce was awarded the Rotary Shine On Singapore Award for the Unsung Heroes by the Rotary Club of Singapore in 2008. In the following year, the President Social Service Award (Individual Category) was presented to Joyce for her exceptional voluntary contribution made to the social service sector. She is very grateful for all the opportunities given to her, and every widow she met has impacted her to find life useful and fulfilling.

Break Out Session 3B: Use of Groups for Grief Support

The Power of Self Help Group – Wicare’s Experience

Wicare Support Group is 20 years old since its inauguration in August 1998.

It is a community for the widows and fatherless, a safe place for bonding, caring and healing. In Wicare, the widows and the fatherless share the same background, speak the same language, and they are readily understood and accepted.

This presentation focuses on the uniqueness of such a self-help group, and how it fills the gap between professional assistance and family support.

Through the various stories of widows and the fatherless children, the workshop serves to illustrate how a supportive community that accepts, encourages and affirms, helps its members rekindle hope and rediscover courage to move on.

 Mrs Sylvia Mun Mrs Sylvia Mun, Assistant Director, Allied Health Office, and Master Medical Social Worker of KK Women & Children’s Hospital (KKH) is a trained social worker from the National University of Singapore.  She is currently heading the Education, Research and Professional Development office for Allied Health professionals in KKH.  She headed the social work department in KKH since year 2000 until she went to pursue her PhD in Social Work in 2012.  Besides management and supervision of social workers, Sylvia’s areas of specialty include working with Pediatric health related issues and she has special interests in bereavement, ethics and child family violence.  She was awarded the Outstanding Social Worker Award in 2010 and the National Day Award – Commendation Medal in 2008.

Sylvia sits in several committees including the MOH Transplant Ethics Committee, Review Board with MSF and the Advocacy and Scholarship committees of Duke-NUS.  For her PhD, Sylvia conducted a phenomenological study in understanding the grief experiences of bereaved mothers.

Break Out Session 3C: Unspeakable Grief

Bereaved Mothers-To-Be: Who Am I?

A wife who loses a husband is called a widow. A husband who loses a wife is called a widower. A child who loses his parents is called an orphan.  There is no word for a parent who loses a child (Neugeboren, 1976).  This quote hints at the extent of displacement and identity loss that a parent experiences with the death of a child.   The loss of a child is described to be one of the most poignant and indescribable type of grief.  It has been said that when one loses her parent, her past is lost.  But when one loses her child, her hopes for the future is lost with the child.  The loss of a child is likened to that of a limb amputation, while the prosthesis is fixed to enable the individual to carry on in life, but each time when the prosthesis is removed, the presence of the stump reminds them of the loss.  This presentation covers the concepts surrounding pregnancy and child loss, and stresses the importance to recognize that while grief is universal, a mother’s grief experience is unique and is determined by her cultural, religious and spiritual worldviews.

 

Ms Christine Wong

Ms Christine Wong has 30 years of experience in the social service sector and currently serves as the Executive Director with Caritas Singapore. Prior to that, she has spent about 10 years with the Samaritans of Singapore (SOS). Christine holds a Master of Science (UK) and a Master in Social Work, is an accredited Social Worker and a registered member of the Singapore Association of Social Workers.  

Christine has spoken at many local and overseas conferences over the years. For overseas conferences, Christina was invited to Thailand for the last 3 years, presented in Sri Lanka and also in Los Angeles at the University of Southern California. She was also selected as an overseas applicant in the Asia-Pacific region for an Overseas Exchange programme and spent 2 months in Japan working with mental health agencies.

Break Out Session 3C: Unspeakable Grief

And When No Hope Was Left In Sight…

What is the definition of grief? What are the differences in grief experience of someone bereaved by losing a loved one due to an accident/an illness versus someone through a suicide death? In our community, suicide is associated with a stigma and survivors are often isolated and secretive about the death. Due to the taboo and shame, many survivors do not seek professional help nor share their grief.How can the community support the survivors in their initial journey of grief and bring a ray of hope for the future?

 

Ms Lin Jingyi

Jingyi is a Senior Medical Social Worker (MSW) who has been based in Communicable Disease Centre (CDC), Tan Tock Seng Hospital for the past 6 years. She provides close psychosocial support for patients and their families, and specialises in supporting persons living with HIV (PLHIV). Counselling, psychoeducation, financial aid, practical assistance, advocacy and group work are amongst the many tools that she uses to support or empower her patients in the face of an illness.

For her dedication and passion in her patient care, she was presented with the Healthcare Humanities Award and the Promising Social Worker Award in 2016. She has also a keen interest in education, and is actively involved in training fellow healthcare workers about loss and grief, and psychosocial support to PLHIV.

Break Out Session 3: Unspeakable Grief

Death through HIV: The Aftermath

In End-of-life (EOL) care amongst persons with HIV, the impact of HIV stigma is an important consideration. The fear of stigma impacts a patient’s disclosure to family in their lifetime and even in their EOL, because patients may be especially vulnerable and fearful of family’s rejection in a critical time of need. For family members who only find out the patient’s HIV in EOL care or upon death, the process of grief can be complicated by the need to cope with the death as well as the range of emotions associated with HIV.

Following the patient’s demise, HIV stigma also limits a bereaved family member’s ability in sharing about the death and receiving the emotional support they need. Given that the gay community is one of the key affected population for HIV, disenfranchised grief can occur amongst bereaved partners of gay patients if their relationship is not socially recognised. Through vignettes of patients and caregivers, the speaker hope to unveil the complexities of grief, and the tenacity that may arise from one’s grief journey.

 Ms Chee Wai Yee

Wai Yee is currently a Programme Director with Singapore Hospice Council and Montfort Care. She was the former Executive Director of Children’s Cancer Foundation and Head of Department with DoverPark Hospice leading a team of Social Workers and Creative Arts Therapists to provide psychosocial care for patients and their families. 

Since receiving her MSc in Palliative Care from King’s College London, she has helped built a curriculum in palliative care for social workers, contributed as a committee member of the palliative care guidelines implementation workgroup and currently chairs the workgroup for grief and bereavement under the auspices of Singapore Hospice Council. She received the Outstanding Social Worker award from the President of Singapore in 2016.

Plenary 3: Building A Community of Support – Local & Regional Experiences

Work in Progress: Singapore’s Effort in Promoting A Community Model for Adaptive Grief

Where in Singapore do the bereaved go for support? Who provides them and to what extent are the needs of the bereaved met? How do we measure up? What can we do to better support the bereaved? The presentation will draw lessons from voices of the bereaved and service providers interviewed in a local research study, surveys on bereavement services provided by palliative care teams and health institutions, and the collective practice wisdom of members of the cross-sector Community of Practice (CoP) for grief and bereavement. A proposed framework to consider grief and bereavement work for Singapore will be discussed.