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 Text by : Chan Hiu-Lui | Translated by : Vane Communications

 


Over the past 14 years, a group of volunteers—the ‘PARACLETE– Care and Comfort Angels’ have been providing voluntary grief counselling and bereavement support for bereaved persons and family members of dying patients. From offering emotional support through home visits to handling practical matters such as funeral planning and after-death arrangements in relation to different authorities like Social Welfare Department, Housing Department, Probate Registry and Court of First Instance, these Angels are here to walk those in need through the grieving and healing process of losing a loved one.

 

The group consists of 163 trained volunteers, among which around 50 are core members. From September 2016 to June 2018, there was an average of 44 requests for assistance each month; as of now, there are more than 1,000 ongoing cases under the care of the group. In simple terms, volunteers are required to commit a considerable amount of time every week to service: travelling through mortuaries, funeral homes, cemeteries and crematoria.

 

That is not what Chinese people would love to do, and certainly not when it comes to death, a taboo subject not easily and openly discussed in Chinese culture. When being asked about why they signed up to this, all volunteers agree without a moment’s hesitation that it is indeed a blessing in disguise to offer people help at the difficult time of bereavement.

 

 


 

 

Lam Yuk-Ling – The Regular Shopper at Coffin Shops

 

The 75-year-old Lam Yuk-Ling started her career as one of the first four female taxi drivers in Hong Kong in the 1970s. As an experienced investor, she has been writing columns, mostly about investment, in newspapers and magazines. In 2005, she volunteered to be one of the Angels helping the bereaved with funeral arrangements and accompanying them to coffin shops and funeral homes after taunted by the thought that people were born with tears of joy but left in the end with nothing.

 

Ling said she was bold enough to develop unique networks with those working in the funeral industry. However, she admitted that the process and the average cost of a funeral could vary dramatically as there were hardly any standards on the form and service charge of each ritual. At the beginning of the campaign, the group had partnered with only four to five coffin shops due to small demand for the bereavement services. With the rising number of people and families seeking help, new connections have been established and there are now a total of 10 coffin shops with whom the group has built strong and trusting relationships.

 

To Ling, whose children are all working professionals, volunteering in the campaign only seems natural to her. “People often asked if I experienced trauma before that makes me join the project. Actually what motivates me to volunteer is my commitment to help and to give back to the society, as my children are all grown-ups now and I don’t need to worry about my life,” she said. It normally takes $600 to order a funeral wreath but the price for Ling is $180. With Ling’s help, the bereaved can have fair pricing and transparent information for everything regarding the funeral. “I help the bereaved families with death registration, burial arrangements… I even help decide the allocation of the cremation niche--the best is at your eye-level. If that is not available, those in the lower deck will be better as you will find it easier to clean,” she said.

 

Apart from the funeral supportive services, Ling loves to visit nursing homes to lend a helping hand as well as sharing with the elderly her views upon death, dying and end-of-life care. She hopes, as an example, she can help reinforce a positive attitude of the general public, especially among the elderly. “What is so wrong about preparing for your death when Chinese emperors had their tombs built soon after they ascended to the thrones? It should become less of a taboo to talk about death. You should treat yourself like an emperor, make a will to ensure fair allocation of your legacy and choose the right clothes and photo in advance so you appear good and elegant,” Ling said. The humor of Ling always earns the audience’s applause.

 

 


 

 

Kit-Yee – The Guardian Angel in Mortuaries

 

Kit-Yee joined the Angels in 2005. She has been actively involved in volunteer work for the elderly and the disabled since the time when her son was still in kindergarten. Her curiosity and desire to learn more sparked her interest for this programme despite her husband’s disapproval.

 

She recalled the first time when she entered the hospital mortuary helping to deal with the cremation of an old lady who died alone. As she pressed the button to trigger the cremation procedure, she could not help but feel a sense of hopelessness, “As the youngest daughter in the family, it is never my turn to press the button to ignite the furnace. Why would I, a stranger, be held accountable for the after-death arrangements of an 80-year-old woman I have never met? I have no idea.” But, that night, she slept well with a feeling that her support would be of great help to the lonely soul.

 

Kit-Yee added that, however sad the situation is, volunteers have to be able to remain calm, as they have pledged responsibility for helping the bereaved through the procedures. She remembers the heartbreaking letter that a pair of bereaved parents wrote to their 50-year-old suicide son. She also remembers lending hands to a despairing single mother whose 10-year-old son tragically died of leukemia. So what is her secret in coping with the negative emotions that are often associated with people who are grieving? “Swimming and talking to other volunteers will surely help,” she continued, “I will also call my son, who is in Australia, just to hear his voice.”

 

Kit-Yee’s commitment to the project in helping the bereaved throughout the years has inspired her husband to follow her into volunteer work for charities. In spare time, he volunteers in St. James’ Settlement helping the elderly with home renovation work. From an idle retiree who spent most of his time at home to an active volunteer who acquired skills in home maintenance and repairing, Kit-Yee is more than delighted to see the changes in her husband.

 

 


 

 

Daisy – The Dedicated Funeral Helper

 

It was when her mother-in-law fell ill and became overwhelmed with suicidal thoughts that Daisy decided to throw herself into volunteer work. She first joined the Suicide Prevention Services hoping to learn how to deal with people with suicide ideation, but only to find out that it was indeed hard to change people’s minds, especially those in older generations. A few years ago, she joined the Angels.

 

A day in the life of an Angel can be busy and stressful. Talking to the bereaved families, registering the death, planning the funeral, walking the families through the procedures and dealing with related paperwork, just to name a few. Of all the cases Daisy has been involved in, there is one she has felt most deeply connected to.

 

“She was an 80-year-old widow whose husband died three days after being sent to the hospital,” she recalled, “Her husband took care of everything at home. As there was no telephone at their residence, it was the police who broke the news to the old lady that her husband had passed away in the hospital.”

 

Knowing that the old lady was both physically weak and mentally vulnerable with no one close around her, Daisy took up the responsibility of caring for the widow. She accompanied her to funeral home, banks and related government departments. She helped handle all the necessary arrangements and legal-related paperwork. Sometimes, the old lady called Daisy for help; other times, Daisy arrived at her place early in the morning to see what she needed.

 

A few months after her husband had passed away, the old lady was found hanged at home---apparent suicide. She deliberately committed suicide one day before someone was taking her to body check. “Am I not doing enough to help her at this difficult time?” Daisy could not help but wonder, “But what can be done is done. I can only be here for her during these last months.” While tidying up the things left behind at their apartment, she found the telephone number of their niece.

 

“The couple had no children or close friends. They lived by themselves and had little, if any, interaction with others over the years,” their niece said. With her last hope of having the couple’s urns placed in the same cremation niche, Daisy was busy again with the funeral arrangements of the old lady.

 

 


 

 

Ming-Yin – The Devoted Carer

 

Of all the Angels, Ming-Yin is undoubtedly the most devoted one. With her phone buzzing and beeping constantly, she spends most of her time managing new cases and coordinating work schedule among volunteers. Who will be available to help during weekend or who will not be available during recent days – she knows the schedule of each volunteer like the back of her hand.

 

As a mother of two and a wife to a husband who suffers from stroke, Ming-Yin understands firsthand the struggles families can face in keeping it altogether, let alone those with dying or deceased members. In 2005, she was helping in a local care home where she signed up by chance as a volunteer in the Project.

 

Ming-Yin admitted she could never see herself as one who helps people through bereavement, “I used to avoid the funeral home near my living place. Whenever the hearse passed by, I looked away for fear of bad luck.” Now, she is the one who frequently visits these “places of taboo”, much to her surprise. Her family also voiced concerns over her decision and her husband once asked her not to come home straight from the funeral home.

 

But Ming Yin finds it meaningful. “People are all scared when they don’t know what to do or how to deal with it, no matter they are rich or poor. The families feel very much relieved when they know there is someone taking care of the procedures,” said Ming Yin. In the past, she was quiet in front of strangers, but as she has been paying visits to the deceased's family members, she has learnt the skills in offering comfort and compassion, which has also enhanced her own family relationship at home. “I was a grumpy person, but now I’ve learnt to think from a different perspective, to hear people out and be more considerate by asking questions like, ‘May I know what’s on your mind?’”

 

Life-and-Death Education
In 2013, Fu Tak Iam Foundation funded the publishing of the two books, 《死在香港:見棺材》 and 《死在香港:流眼淚》, which share a lot more stories about the work of the Angels and feature many articles around the subject.

 

 

Author: Chan Hiu-Lui | So Mei-Chi
Publisher:  Joint Publishing HK
ISBN: 9789620434273

 

 

 


 

 

‘PARACLETE– Care and Comfort Angels’ Project

 

Pre- and post-grief counselling, funeral planning, accompaniment service, death registration and after-death arrangements in financial and legal aspects are the core work provided by the ‘PARACLETE– Care and Comfort Angels’. Initiated by S.K.H. Holy Carpenter Church District Elderly Community Centre in 2004, the project still operates to the same principle aimed at providing comfort and vision to grieving souls.

 

Over the past 14 years, a total of 4,841 bereaved families or individuals were assisted. Most of them aged between 30 to 80 years old; and were grieving couples or parents-and-children. 28 couples who lose their children under two have also been helped. 75 percent of the deceased were male over the age of 60.

 

Arnold Leung, who is the Senior Service Manager in S.K.H. Holy Carpenter Church District Elderly Community Centre, believes that the Angels are more than just helpers – they are true friends who will be there for you through the hard times. “The number of annual deaths in Hong Kong has reached 40,000. Apart from social workers, counsellors, psychiatrists and other funeral professionals, we need more trained volunteers to help us meet the expanding needs of bereavement services. Service users often treat us as social workers but they can easily treat volunteers as friends to whom they will be more willing to open their hearts,” he added.

 

So far, a total of 28 volunteer training programmes have been conducted with more than 480 participants. Most of the volunteers are pensioners, homemakers and people who work flexible hours. Besides handling the practical matters related to funeral planning and after-death arrangements, they will evaluate the bereaved on a case-by-case basis to see if referrals to social workers or outside professionals are needed. While some of the tasks, such as accompanying the bereaved to the park, may seem minor to an outsider, they play a critically important part in rebuilding the lives of the bereaved.

 

 

To become an Angel, volunteers are required to go through screening process and complete 10 training workshops and 20-hour practical sessions.

 

 

 

 

 


 

What’s Next – Further Development of Bereavement Care in Hong Kong

 

‘PARACLETE– Care and Comfort Angels’ is one of the few projects that receive long-term grants from Fu Tak Iam Foundation. After supporting for eight years, the Foundation will join hands with Lee Hysan Foundation in providing funding support for the project in the next three years. Arnold Leung, the lead advocate of the project, conveyed his heartiest thanks for Fu Tak Iam Foundation’s unsparing support throughout the years, but opines that government support is desperately needed in facilitating and promoting bereavement care in the city.

 

“We hope the government can acknowledge the needs of bereavement services in our local communities,” said Arnold Leung, “When death is inevitable, we cannot simply call off our services. Sadly, we cannot ensure the continuity of the services without stable sources of income. There was a suggestion for us to generate revenue and become more self-sustainable but it is not that easy.” He revealed that nearly 85 percent of the beneficiaries are from underprivileged and low-income families, making it even more impossible to impose a service charge.

 

Though anyone who has been bereaved or is facing an anticipated death is welcome, the project has targeted in particular those under the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme. Among them, the following three groups often need longer-term accompaniment and counselling services: widowed elders, new immigrant widows who has children and suicide-bereaved individuals.

 

 

Volunteers visiting cemetery and learning to see death as natural events.
Volunteers visiting the Jockey Club Life Journey Centre.

 

 

 

Regarding the future development of the Project, Arnold already has a plan in mind for the development of children bereavement services. “As there are grieving adults, there are grieving kids, too. Adults often find it difficult to talk to kids about death and dying. It should not be the case,” he commented. He believes grief education will help bereaved children and teenagers to transcend their feelings and to cope with grief and loss without creating negative impacts on personal development.

 

Another area of future development will involve providing grief support for the bereaved after sudden or unexpected death of a loved one. Unlike the usual feelings of bereavement, grief after sudden or unexpected death can be a particularly complex process with a number of conflicting emotions. As it will take longer time for the bereaved to heal, more support should be made available for them. Arnold said approximately 30 percent of the cases followed up by the Angels have to cope with sudden or unexpected loss of a loved one. The group sometimes receives referral cases the next day after the heartrending stories are reported in the news. Nevertheless, they insist on handling each case as quickly as possible despite the shortage of manpower, as this is something that cannot wait, in terms of both the after-death arrangements and the mental need of the service users.

 

Lastly, Arnold hopes to develop a stronger regional support network which can serve as an example for government departments. For instance, a regional support network can be established in Kwun Tong, Kwai Chung and Tuen Mun (where United Christian Hospital, Princess Margaret Hospital and Tuen Mun Hospital are located). Regional networking will not only help volunteers overcome geographical restrictions, but will also allow better consolidation and management of the bereavement services.

 

 

A Project that Promotes Self-Growth
When Arnold Leung joined the ‘PARACLETE– Care and Comfort Angels’ Project, he was only 26 years old with no experience of death of someone close to him. “It is a coincidence that I came on board, but I am glad that my work allows me to talk to and interact with the bereaved. Knowing that life is fragile and tenuous, I become more at peace and open-minded,” he said, “I also learn to cherish the time I get to spend with my families and friends. The problem is you think you have time, but you don’t. You never know when death comes. Spend time with your loved ones while you still can.” Feeling that he has gained more than he has expected, he determines to devote himself to life-and-death education. “I want to contribute positively to the communities we live in, and I can foresee myself engaging in death-related subjects in the way forward,” he reiterated.

 

 

 

Editor’s notes: Some of the stories in the article are copied from the book “Dying in Hong Kong: Shedding tears”. 《死在香港:流眼淚》

 

 

 

 

 Text by : Chan Hiu-Lui | Translated by : Vane Communications

 


Over the past 14 years, a group of volunteers—the ‘PARACLETE– Care and Comfort Angels’ have been providing voluntary grief counselling and bereavement support for bereaved persons and family members of dying patients. From offering emotional support through home visits to handling practical matters such as funeral planning and after-death arrangements in relation to different authorities like Social Welfare Department, Housing Department, Probate Registry and Court of First Instance, these Angels are here to walk those in need through the grieving and healing process of losing a loved one.

 

The group consists of 163 trained volunteers, among which around 50 are core members. From September 2016 to June 2018, there was an average of 44 requests for assistance each month; as of now, there are more than 1,000 ongoing cases under the care of the group. In simple terms, volunteers are required to commit a considerable amount of time every week to service: travelling through mortuaries, funeral homes, cemeteries and crematoria.

 

That is not what Chinese people would love to do, and certainly not when it comes to death, a taboo subject not easily and openly discussed in Chinese culture. When being asked about why they signed up to this, all volunteers agree without a moment’s hesitation that it is indeed a blessing in disguise to offer people help at the difficult time of bereavement.

 

 


 

 

Lam Yuk-Ling – The Regular Shopper at Coffin Shops

 

The 75-year-old Lam Yuk-Ling started her career as one of the first four female taxi drivers in Hong Kong in the 1970s. As an experienced investor, she has been writing columns, mostly about investment, in newspapers and magazines. In 2005, she volunteered to be one of the Angels helping the bereaved with funeral arrangements and accompanying them to coffin shops and funeral homes after taunted by the thought that people were born with tears of joy but left in the end with nothing.

 

Ling said she was bold enough to develop unique networks with those working in the funeral industry. However, she admitted that the process and the average cost of a funeral could vary dramatically as there were hardly any standards on the form and service charge of each ritual. At the beginning of the campaign, the group had partnered with only four to five coffin shops due to small demand for the bereavement services. With the rising number of people and families seeking help, new connections have been established and there are now a total of 10 coffin shops with whom the group has built strong and trusting relationships.

 

To Ling, whose children are all working professionals, volunteering in the campaign only seems natural to her. “People often asked if I experienced trauma before that makes me join the project. Actually what motivates me to volunteer is my commitment to help and to give back to the society, as my children are all grown-ups now and I don’t need to worry about my life,” she said. It normally takes $600 to order a funeral wreath but the price for Ling is $180. With Ling’s help, the bereaved can have fair pricing and transparent information for everything regarding the funeral. “I help the bereaved families with death registration, burial arrangements… I even help decide the allocation of the cremation niche--the best is at your eye-level. If that is not available, those in the lower deck will be better as you will find it easier to clean,” she said.

 

Apart from the funeral supportive services, Ling loves to visit nursing homes to lend a helping hand as well as sharing with the elderly her views upon death, dying and end-of-life care. She hopes, as an example, she can help reinforce a positive attitude of the general public, especially among the elderly. “What is so wrong about preparing for your death when Chinese emperors had their tombs built soon after they ascended to the thrones? It should become less of a taboo to talk about death. You should treat yourself like an emperor, make a will to ensure fair allocation of your legacy and choose the right clothes and photo in advance so you appear good and elegant,” Ling said. The humor of Ling always earns the audience’s applause.

 

 


 

 

Kit-Yee – The Guardian Angel in Mortuaries

 

Kit-Yee joined the Angels in 2005. She has been actively involved in volunteer work for the elderly and the disabled since the time when her son was still in kindergarten. Her curiosity and desire to learn more sparked her interest for this programme despite her husband’s disapproval.

 

She recalled the first time when she entered the hospital mortuary helping to deal with the cremation of an old lady who died alone. As she pressed the button to trigger the cremation procedure, she could not help but feel a sense of hopelessness, “As the youngest daughter in the family, it is never my turn to press the button to ignite the furnace. Why would I, a stranger, be held accountable for the after-death arrangements of an 80-year-old woman I have never met? I have no idea.” But, that night, she slept well with a feeling that her support would be of great help to the lonely soul.

 

Kit-Yee added that, however sad the situation is, volunteers have to be able to remain calm, as they have pledged responsibility for helping the bereaved through the procedures. She remembers the heartbreaking letter that a pair of bereaved parents wrote to their 50-year-old suicide son. She also remembers lending hands to a despairing single mother whose 10-year-old son tragically died of leukemia. So what is her secret in coping with the negative emotions that are often associated with people who are grieving? “Swimming and talking to other volunteers will surely help,” she continued, “I will also call my son, who is in Australia, just to hear his voice.”

 

Kit-Yee’s commitment to the project in helping the bereaved throughout the years has inspired her husband to follow her into volunteer work for charities. In spare time, he volunteers in St. James’ Settlement helping the elderly with home renovation work. From an idle retiree who spent most of his time at home to an active volunteer who acquired skills in home maintenance and repairing, Kit-Yee is more than delighted to see the changes in her husband.

 

 


 

 

Daisy – The Dedicated Funeral Helper

 

It was when her mother-in-law fell ill and became overwhelmed with suicidal thoughts that Daisy decided to throw herself into volunteer work. She first joined the Suicide Prevention Services hoping to learn how to deal with people with suicide ideation, but only to find out that it was indeed hard to change people’s minds, especially those in older generations. A few years ago, she joined the Angels.

 

A day in the life of an Angel can be busy and stressful. Talking to the bereaved families, registering the death, planning the funeral, walking the families through the procedures and dealing with related paperwork, just to name a few. Of all the cases Daisy has been involved in, there is one she has felt most deeply connected to.

 

“She was an 80-year-old widow whose husband died three days after being sent to the hospital,” she recalled, “Her husband took care of everything at home. As there was no telephone at their residence, it was the police who broke the news to the old lady that her husband had passed away in the hospital.”

 

Knowing that the old lady was both physically weak and mentally vulnerable with no one close around her, Daisy took up the responsibility of caring for the widow. She accompanied her to funeral home, banks and related government departments. She helped handle all the necessary arrangements and legal-related paperwork. Sometimes, the old lady called Daisy for help; other times, Daisy arrived at her place early in the morning to see what she needed.

 

A few months after her husband had passed away, the old lady was found hanged at home---apparent suicide. She deliberately committed suicide one day before someone was taking her to body check. “Am I not doing enough to help her at this difficult time?” Daisy could not help but wonder, “But what can be done is done. I can only be here for her during these last months.” While tidying up the things left behind at their apartment, she found the telephone number of their niece.

 

“The couple had no children or close friends. They lived by themselves and had little, if any, interaction with others over the years,” their niece said. With her last hope of having the couple’s urns placed in the same cremation niche, Daisy was busy again with the funeral arrangements of the old lady.

 

 


 

 

Ming-Yin – The Devoted Carer

 

Of all the Angels, Ming-Yin is undoubtedly the most devoted one. With her phone buzzing and beeping constantly, she spends most of her time managing new cases and coordinating work schedule among volunteers. Who will be available to help during weekend or who will not be available during recent days – she knows the schedule of each volunteer like the back of her hand.

 

As a mother of two and a wife to a husband who suffers from stroke, Ming-Yin understands firsthand the struggles families can face in keeping it altogether, let alone those with dying or deceased members. In 2005, she was helping in a local care home where she signed up by chance as a volunteer in the Project.

 

Ming-Yin admitted she could never see herself as one who helps people through bereavement, “I used to avoid the funeral home near my living place. Whenever the hearse passed by, I looked away for fear of bad luck.” Now, she is the one who frequently visits these “places of taboo”, much to her surprise. Her family also voiced concerns over her decision and her husband once asked her not to come home straight from the funeral home.

 

But Ming Yin finds it meaningful. “People are all scared when they don’t know what to do or how to deal with it, no matter they are rich or poor. The families feel very much relieved when they know there is someone taking care of the procedures,” said Ming Yin. In the past, she was quiet in front of strangers, but as she has been paying visits to the deceased's family members, she has learnt the skills in offering comfort and compassion, which has also enhanced her own family relationship at home. “I was a grumpy person, but now I’ve learnt to think from a different perspective, to hear people out and be more considerate by asking questions like, ‘May I know what’s on your mind?’”

 

Life-and-Death Education
In 2013, Fu Tak Iam Foundation funded the publishing of the two books, 《死在香港:見棺材》 and 《死在香港:流眼淚》, which share a lot more stories about the work of the Angels and feature many articles around the subject.

 

 

Author: Chan Hiu-Lui | So Mei-Chi
Publisher:  Joint Publishing HK
ISBN: 9789620434273

 

 

 


 

 

‘PARACLETE– Care and Comfort Angels’ Project

 

Pre- and post-grief counselling, funeral planning, accompaniment service, death registration and after-death arrangements in financial and legal aspects are the core work provided by the ‘PARACLETE– Care and Comfort Angels’. Initiated by S.K.H. Holy Carpenter Church District Elderly Community Centre in 2004, the project still operates to the same principle aimed at providing comfort and vision to grieving souls.

 

Over the past 14 years, a total of 4,841 bereaved families or individuals were assisted. Most of them aged between 30 to 80 years old; and were grieving couples or parents-and-children. 28 couples who lose their children under two have also been helped. 75 percent of the deceased were male over the age of 60.

 

Arnold Leung, who is the Senior Service Manager in S.K.H. Holy Carpenter Church District Elderly Community Centre, believes that the Angels are more than just helpers – they are true friends who will be there for you through the hard times. “The number of annual deaths in Hong Kong has reached 40,000. Apart from social workers, counsellors, psychiatrists and other funeral professionals, we need more trained volunteers to help us meet the expanding needs of bereavement services. Service users often treat us as social workers but they can easily treat volunteers as friends to whom they will be more willing to open their hearts,” he added.

 

So far, a total of 28 volunteer training programmes have been conducted with more than 480 participants. Most of the volunteers are pensioners, homemakers and people who work flexible hours. Besides handling the practical matters related to funeral planning and after-death arrangements, they will evaluate the bereaved on a case-by-case basis to see if referrals to social workers or outside professionals are needed. While some of the tasks, such as accompanying the bereaved to the park, may seem minor to an outsider, they play a critically important part in rebuilding the lives of the bereaved.

 

 

To become an Angel, volunteers are required to go through screening process and complete 10 training workshops and 20-hour practical sessions.

 

 

 

 

 


 

What’s Next – Further Development of Bereavement Care in Hong Kong

 

‘PARACLETE– Care and Comfort Angels’ is one of the few projects that receive long-term grants from Fu Tak Iam Foundation. After supporting for eight years, the Foundation will join hands with Lee Hysan Foundation in providing funding support for the project in the next three years. Arnold Leung, the lead advocate of the project, conveyed his heartiest thanks for Fu Tak Iam Foundation’s unsparing support throughout the years, but opines that government support is desperately needed in facilitating and promoting bereavement care in the city.

 

“We hope the government can acknowledge the needs of bereavement services in our local communities,” said Arnold Leung, “When death is inevitable, we cannot simply call off our services. Sadly, we cannot ensure the continuity of the services without stable sources of income. There was a suggestion for us to generate revenue and become more self-sustainable but it is not that easy.” He revealed that nearly 85 percent of the beneficiaries are from underprivileged and low-income families, making it even more impossible to impose a service charge.

 

Though anyone who has been bereaved or is facing an anticipated death is welcome, the project has targeted in particular those under the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme. Among them, the following three groups often need longer-term accompaniment and counselling services: widowed elders, new immigrant widows who has children and suicide-bereaved individuals.

 

 

Volunteers visiting cemetery and learning to see death as natural events.
Volunteers visiting the Jockey Club Life Journey Centre.

 

 

 

Regarding the future development of the Project, Arnold already has a plan in mind for the development of children bereavement services. “As there are grieving adults, there are grieving kids, too. Adults often find it difficult to talk to kids about death and dying. It should not be the case,” he commented. He believes grief education will help bereaved children and teenagers to transcend their feelings and to cope with grief and loss without creating negative impacts on personal development.

 

Another area of future development will involve providing grief support for the bereaved after sudden or unexpected death of a loved one. Unlike the usual feelings of bereavement, grief after sudden or unexpected death can be a particularly complex process with a number of conflicting emotions. As it will take longer time for the bereaved to heal, more support should be made available for them. Arnold said approximately 30 percent of the cases followed up by the Angels have to cope with sudden or unexpected loss of a loved one. The group sometimes receives referral cases the next day after the heartrending stories are reported in the news. Nevertheless, they insist on handling each case as quickly as possible despite the shortage of manpower, as this is something that cannot wait, in terms of both the after-death arrangements and the mental need of the service users.

 

Lastly, Arnold hopes to develop a stronger regional support network which can serve as an example for government departments. For instance, a regional support network can be established in Kwun Tong, Kwai Chung and Tuen Mun (where United Christian Hospital, Princess Margaret Hospital and Tuen Mun Hospital are located). Regional networking will not only help volunteers overcome geographical restrictions, but will also allow better consolidation and management of the bereavement services.

 

 

A Project that Promotes Self-Growth
When Arnold Leung joined the ‘PARACLETE– Care and Comfort Angels’ Project, he was only 26 years old with no experience of death of someone close to him. “It is a coincidence that I came on board, but I am glad that my work allows me to talk to and interact with the bereaved. Knowing that life is fragile and tenuous, I become more at peace and open-minded,” he said, “I also learn to cherish the time I get to spend with my families and friends. The problem is you think you have time, but you don’t. You never know when death comes. Spend time with your loved ones while you still can.” Feeling that he has gained more than he has expected, he determines to devote himself to life-and-death education. “I want to contribute positively to the communities we live in, and I can foresee myself engaging in death-related subjects in the way forward,” he reiterated.

 

 

 

Editor’s notes: Some of the stories in the article are copied from the book “Dying in Hong Kong: Shedding tears”. 《死在香港:流眼淚》