How Shamaine and Nonie cope with daughter’s death
Since the aunt of Nadine Lustre, Nona Clemente, is my close friend, I wanted to interview her so she could shed light on the alleged suicide of her nephew, Isaiah (brother of Nadine). But, Nona politely declined because their family would rather not comment about it.
So, in light of Isaiah’s alleged suicide, I thought of interviewing my UP comrade, Shamaine Buencamino, whose daughter Julia took her own life two years ago. Shamaine and her husband, Nonie, have channeled their grief into enlightening others who also lost loved ones to suicide.
As Shamaine puts it, “We heal by helping others.” She and Nonie put up a volunteers’ group that sponsors “Julia’s Bench,” whose proceeds are then donated to schools. It serves as a reminder for families to sit down and talk things over.
They’ve been giving talks in universities about the suicide of a loved one. They have also created a Facebook page, Julia Buencamino Project, for their advocacy.
Shamaine and Nonie are such great thespians, but they’re even greater as parents for doing all they can to make sure that their daughter did not die in vain.
The pain will never leave them, but instead of sulking, they choose to befriend pain. Amid the darkness, Shamaine and Nonie have found a way to be a light to others.
Here’s my chat with Shamaine:
What’s your advice to parents on how to cope with grief after a child’s suicide? It’s called “complicated grief,” because nothing will be as it was. Accept that you will be living a “new normal.” This grief will always be a part of us, because we have loved and will never stop loving the child we lost. Take your time, lean on your pain and strengthen your faith.
Most of all, know that the cause of your child’s death isn’t suicide, but depression. It’s an illness. The Catholic Church has allowed its blessing and burial on holy grounds, precisely because our child was not fully responsible for her actions.
Also, nobody really knows if she was able to ask God for forgiveness before her last breath. This fact does not condemn our child to hell. Forgiveness is the Lord’s grace. Ask for it.
What did Julia’s untimely death make you realize? It made me keenly aware that life is short and fragile. It’s a gift—and every day is a blessing.
What’s your message to millennials who are on the verge of suicide? Please ask for help from an adult now. Do not self-diagnose. It’s a dangerous illness. Do not be afraid to be judged. This isn’t your fault.
Does Julia send you messages or signs? I asked our Lady of Sorrows to intercede for me and specifically asked for a paper crane as a symbol that Julia is at peace with the Lord.
On our first visit to the columbarium, around two months after Julia’s death, there was a paper crane that was slipped behind the flower holder. But, I was not convinced because it was my husband who first saw it. (We of little faith!)
Five days after Julia’s birthday, I asked Meryll Soriano to accompany me to her tattoo artist to discuss a commemorative design. I brought Julia’s drawing pad and pointed to her rendition of a green paper crane.
The artist offered to do it without any fee. He had found three green paper cranes on his shelf earlier that day, which he couldn’t account for.
And since we started with our advocacy, Julia’s photo would always pop up on FB memories on specific days that we had events.
Tell us about your recent symposium in Bohol. We were invited to the 14th Scientific Forum in Bohol by the Central Visayas Pediatric Society. The theme was “Trending Topics in Child Care.” It was alarming to note that there had been an increase in suicide among the young in the Visayas. We were asked to talk about “moving on,” and Nonie said it was better to talk about “coping,” because that was all we could do.
What was the hardest part of the healing process? The healing process does not end, because the pain does not end. All we can do is cope.
We rely on our faith. What helps us now, aside from spending time with family, is doing our advocacy.
Healing happens when we help others. It allows us to talk about Julia. We hope to generate discussion, ease the stigma, and encourage young people to seek help.
Julia’s death brought our family closer. We went to grief therapy, and we monitor each other more closely. We give each other support, instead of expectations.
My marriage is stronger, as well, because Nonie and I have learned about what’s truly important in life. Mind you, we still argue, but saying sorry and forgiving each other have become quicker and easier to do.
If you could bring Julia back to life, what would you do differently as a mother? I would monitor her closely, read her blogs, and secretly open her diaries. Had I taken a peek, I would have read about her suicide ideations at the early age of 12! I’d be kinder and less demanding.
She was so talented that I felt she was not performing as well as she did in middle school. I would put less importance on academic work. I would check for cuts and signs of self-harm. I’d ask her friends about her.
Julia wrote in her suicide blog: “Mom+Dad, I wish you could have noticed, but it’s not your fault, I promise. I know you loved me and I love you. I’m sorry for doing this to you, guys.”
If you could send Julia a Viber message in heaven, what would you tell her?
My dear beautiful Julia, thank you for your kindness. I know you’re free from pain now, but I still wish we were able to help you live longer. Guide us in using your writings and drawings to help others.
Watch over Ate, Kuya Gorio, Jose and Daddy. I’ll see you again, baby! Please, visit me soon in my dreams. I love you!
If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Center for Mental Health hotline at 0917-899-USAP (8727); (02) 7-989-USAP; or 1553 (landline to landline, toll-free).
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