Turning Grief into a Life Mission

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Part 1: Ah Ma 👵🏼

It all started a few years ago when I lost my grandmother, fondly known by her grandkids as Ah Ma to a sudden bout of pneumonia. Her passing was a tough pill to swallow; after all, she was the anchor of the family and was known to be a beacon of kindness and love.

I stood by the hallways of SJMC sobbing while my mother and her siblings huddled around in a circle trying to figure out what’s next. Unlike the grandkids, they had to toughen up just moments after their mother had passed because like it or not, it’s now their responsibility to handle the aftermath.

The following weeks were a real eye-opener as I witnessed Ah Ma’s children struggling to handle her passing. Everything from the funeral arrangements to the settling of the estate seems to cause friction between the siblings. Looking back, this was to be expected since none of us was prepared to lose her that soon.

Ah Ma was not a wealthy woman and I always thought only rich families would have a hard time dealing with death. I knew I was wrong as I watched one of my aunts arguing with her brother on the stupidest thing ever, what type of food to serve at the wake. How would Ah Ma feel if she can see us now?

“Something is wrong with the way we deal with death. This is nothing new, we all know it’s coming so why aren’t we doing anything to ease the journey of the people we leave behind?”

Part 2: Ah Kong 👴🏼

My grandfather, otherwise known as Ah Kong to us grandkids stood by and watched as his children were consumed by the death of their mother. He was old, exhausted and in grief. Throughout the entire ordeal, I don’t really remember him saying much to anyone.

A few short months later, tragedy struck our grieving family once more. Ah Kong was suddenly diagnosed with stage 4 parotid cancer after noticing an abnormal growth on his face. He seemed strangely unfazed by his diagnosis (read: death sentence) and refused any further treatment.

Ah Kong was known for his pragmatism within the family, always one to be prepared and logical in whatever he does. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he went home from the hospital and started to give his children instructions on how to deal with his death, who to inform when the time comes, organised his documents and even had time to clean his room.

It was odd to watch him literally plan for his own death but when he passed not long after that, we finally realised the value of planning and communication. The death of 2 equally loved individuals within the same family somehow felt so different. Why?

“All it takes to ease the burdens of your loved ones when you’re gone is just a bit of planning and communication. Why isn’t everyone else doing this already?”

Part 3: Turning Grief into a Life Mission 💪🏻

Both these deaths hit me hard in different ways. Ah Ma’s was too sudden and particularly painful because she was my biggest supporter. My grieving process revolved around plenty of self-hatred and blame. Why didn’t I visit her more often when she was still around?

Ah Kong’s passing was even more devastating because I was 10,588km away in London with one of my cousins when he took his last breath. Again, I spiralled down a path of guilt. Repeatedly chastising myself for not staying behind and being there for the man who gave so much and received so little.

I come from a very typical Asian family where grieving is more of a personal journey and nobody really talks about their feelings openly. Mental health unfortunately didn’t seem like a big priority within my household. For months, my life was consumed by guilt, darkness and loneliness.

I became obsessed with death, reading stories of families dealing with death on Reddit and watching an endless stream of videos of families gathered around their dying loved ones during their final moments. Suffice to say, I had no idea what to do with my own feelings.

Until one day, I decided to dive deeper into understanding why both of these deaths were so different. For weeks, I laid on my bed staring at the ceiling wondering if there’s anything I can do to stop this from happening again. Not just for my family but for billions of families everywhere. I wondered if technology has a role to play in solving this basic human problem?

And that was it, that was my eureka moment. Gears started turning in my head and I felt a sudden rush of excitement, there IS something I can do about it! I quit my job the very next day and started working on the blueprints for Bereev. And here we are 2 years later, Bereev is so much more than just another app.

It is the culmination of 1 family’s pain and pure conviction that others should never have to go through senseless confusion and overwhelming burden during the toughest moment of our lives. It is my personal grieving process and I dedicate it to the 2 people who started it all, Ah Ma and Ah Kong.

Bereev is a Death Preparation App that helps you prepare yourself and your loved ones for your own death. Sign up for your FREE account here.

📝 Plan
Leave instructions for your funeral, financial and personal arrangements.

📂 Vault
Store vital documents like your will, insurance, medical records and more.

💌 Message
Leave messages for your loved ones which will be sent after you’re gone.

👥 Share
Invite the people you trust to view your plan and customise their access.

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