Finding God In Our Darkest Moments (Part 1)

Post Series: Pieta: Peer Ministry for Bereaved Parents

Anyone who has lost a child will know the indescribable pain of the loss and the tremendous challenge of the grief process. While some find comfort through secular support groups, others need a faith-based process to help with the healing. Pieta was set up in September 2016 to fill that gap for the Catholic community. Named after the famous sculpture of Mother Mary cradling her dead son in her arms, Pieta is a peer ministry for bereaved parents, set up to help parents find healing through their faith.

The founders of Pieta; Greg and Elizabeth Krygsman, Valerie Lim and Audrey Kuang, explain why they set up the group and how it has helped them to move forward.

You are not alone

Greg and Elizabeth Krygsman lost their 24-year-old son Andrew suddenly in 2015. While they were blessed with the support of family and friends, and received counselling individually and as a couple, they struggled with the answer as to why Andrew had been taken from them.

“When we suffered the loss of our child, we looked for support and we found a community called the Child Bereavement Support (Singapore),” explains Greg.  “We found this group very supportive and consoling, but yet, because it is a secular group and not faith-based, we felt that we needed to speak of the hope that we have in Christ and have our grief centered on God so that healing and peace could come.”

Greg and Elizabeth's children - Andrew (rightmost) died at 24 years.

Elizabeth adds: “We wanted to share with parents who suffer the loss of their child that they are not alone and that we are with them on this difficult journey which calls for great faith in God who loves us. We say to parents in our group that we don’t know why this has happened and we offer no reasons.  All we know is that we who are still alive need to grieve and allow ourselves to reach out to God in our darkest moment, and just hold on to Him, to cry our hearts out and feel His arms embrace us, and know that He loves us and our child too.”

“In a crisis like this, you blame God,” says Greg. “The path splits into two, and you can either move closer to Him or away from Him. I had to make a conscious decision to not give up.”

Answering a calling

The couple knew that their faith would be a major component of the grieving and healing process. When they met two other grieving parents, they understood that they had been called to create a support group for other parents going down the same journey.

“In our search, the Holy Spirit led us to find Valerie and Audrey, who provided the community support and shared experience that we needed in our grief journey,” said Elizabeth.

They didn’t realise when they started Pieta that there were so many other parents who had lost a child. They found that attending a support group allowed them to not feel alone. Saying their son’s name and talking about him and his passing allowed them to continue to feel his presence in their lives, and they look to God and his mother, Mary, to continue to look after Andrew since they are not able to do that anymore.

“As long as we have the faith to know where and who our son is with,” says Elizabeth, “then we feel a sense of peace despite our missing him so very much every day.”

Receiving full support from the community

The couple have been very blessed in that the Archdiocese allowed them to start the group and they were given the support they needed to get things moving.

“ACF has been tremendous in taking us into their fold and supporting us. Agape Village welcomed us with open arms when we asked whether we could conduct our sessions on their premises,” says Greg. “At our first few sessions, it was just us the original founders, but we felt God’s presence in these sessions and continued to post our sessions in church bulletins and the Catholic News. We also met with as many parish priests as we could to introduce ourselves, and shared with them our pamphlets for them to give to any bereaved parent they would meet, especially when celebrating the funeral mass of a child. At our recent session, we had a total of 16 parents.”

Anyone is welcome

Pieta welcomes any parent grieving the loss of a child, regardless of faith. The Pieta sessions are not tied to compulsory attendance. If a bereaved parent wants to be there, then they are welcome, but they are not obligated to attend.

“We feel that this freedom is important in their grief journey,” explains Elizabeth. “The sessions are open to people of all faiths, but we advise anyone who wants to come that we are centered on the light of Christ, and we also draw much consolation from his Mother Mary, who accepted the death of her Son and saw Him at the Resurrection.”

The couple is proud of the achievements of Pieta in only two years. One highlight has been organising the first memorial mass for bereaved children in November 2017 at Good Shepherd Convent. They received the support they needed and were able to publish an inspirational prayer and reflection book for each family to help guide them on their journey.

Tealight holders that parents brought for the first Memorial Mass in November 2017

This year, they held a memorial mass at the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd and specially hand-made rosaries (by a bereaved mother to honour her child’s memory) were given to each family. And this month, they organised their first Day of Reflection for bereaved parents.

Reaching more couples

Moving forward, Pieta hopes to offer its monthly sessions at more venues around Singapore so that bereaved parents can come for sessions more easily.

“This really is a group that nobody actually would want to join if they could help it,” adds Greg, “but the important thing is that people know we exist and we are here to provide any support when needed.”

What to expect at a Pieta meeting

  • Members of Pieta meet on every fourth Tuesday at Agape Village.
  • Each meeting begins with each parent lighting a candle for their child, saying the child’s name and placing it at the prayer table in the room. This simple gesture of remembrance draws our minds and hearts towards Christ’s light and reminds us of His presence in our families.
  • Those present then read a chosen scripture and reflect on its meaning.
  • If they choose to do so, they also share their thoughts as a means to expressing their sorrow and talking about their faith with others who have also suffered the loss of a child.
  • Every session is closed with a prayer or hymn to bring healing and hope to all who come each month.

Just come

There is no obligation to speak during these walk-in sessions, or even to attend them regularly. Any bereaved parent is welcome, no matter how long ago the loss happened, no matter how old the child was, and no matter what the circumstances were. Pieta also welcomes non-Catholics, as long as they are open to the group’s faith expressions. “Just come” is the team’s personal invitation.

Next Pieta Meeting

When: Every fourth Tuesday of the month, 7.30 pm
Where: Agape Village, 7A Lorong 8 Toa Payoh, S319264

Archdiocesan Commission for the Family

Archdiocesan Commission for the Family