Friday, July 31, 2009

Sudden shock, so they can't accept truth

New Paper
31 July 2009

NTU Student's Death

Sudden shock, so they can't accept truth

WHY is it so hard for David Hartanto Widjaja's family to accept the truth about his death?

Psychiatrists contacted by The New Paper said their emotions are typical of a grieving family.

Dr Danny Ng, a clinical psychologist with Raffles Hospital, said a family would find it easier to accept the truth if the person had died from a prolonged illness or old age rather than from sudden tragic circumstances.

In cases of death from sickness and old age, family members have time to prepare themselves emotionally and to rationalise the death, Dr Ng added.


But David's death was a sudden shock to his family, he said.

'The fact that David's family is finding it hard to accept the ruling that he is responsible for his own death is highly natural,' he said.

'Whether or not it be the case, it is normal and human tendency that the family will choose to believe that their flesh and blood was a victim rather than the one responsible for his own death.'

Dr Tan Chue Tin, a consultant psychiatrist with Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre, agreed.

'It's one thing to say that he died but another to say that he committed suicide. There's a negative connotation when we mention the latter,' he said.

The family is still in denial, Dr Tan noted.

'From a psychological standpoint, I understand why the family reacted this way. But I guess it's a question of preserving good memories of the deceased,' he said.

He added that it normally takes at least six months for a grieving family in denial to finally accept the truth. It has been 51/2months since David died.

Psychologist Daniel Koh said the time a family takes to heal depends on how close they are to the deceased and how much the deceased means to them.

Support is also important, he added.

Ervina Mohd Jamil, newsroom intern