“It felt like I was being crushed. My stomach contracted as if someone had taken a blow to my gut. Despite grasping for breath, I didn’t want to find air. I wanted to die with my babies.” Through the tears and in between sobs, Leeann Tomasi of Vaitele told her tale of grief; of losing her two babies Puamanuvaea (1 years old) and Bension (1 day old) to the measles.
Sitting around Leeann were her 3 surviving children, who by their looks, were also in mourning.
It was a struggle, even for the counseling team that have taken the road trip over the last 12 days with the SVSG Measles Outreach, to even maintained their composure. This is because in her state of confusion, Leeann is moving through her grief; she knew exactly what her loss was; her two babies and the fact that her family will never be complete again.
Robert and Fa’aaloalo of Nuu-Fou are amongst the 3 sets of parents visited by the Outreach whose children are not buried at their place of residence, but either at the mother’s family or the father’s family.
For Blessing the 2 year old only child, she was laid to rest at the village of Siufaga Falelatai at Robert’s family.
As such, the parents are not only grieving the loss of a child, but also, living away from the visible sign of her existence, her burial place, when they moved back to Nuu-Fou in town.
The 12th day of the SVSG Measles Outreach took us deeper into our people’s pain, reaching out to reassure the grieving mothers that God’s grace will heal and mend the broken hearted.
And in standing together as a family in mourning, we saw a glimpse of hope behind the parent’s lost smile. Their surviving children are pulling them back to reality; that life goes on.
A total of 11 families comprised of close to 100 household memebers were visited during Day 12 of the Outreach. There were 6 deaths recorded from the families reached as the usual counseling support, wellbeing assistance and general hygiene information were provided. So while the grieving parents struggled to remain strong and put on a brave face when the Outreach Team reached their homes, we told them that it is okay to cry. They have a right to grieve.
“We are therefore grateful of the continuous support from our families and friends towards the Measles Outreach. Thank you Levaoatuamaaana Aati-Schuster and The Alofa Charitable Trust of Auckland New Zealand for the donation of $2,000.00; Ms. Maude Sewell NZD100.00 and Ms. Julie Tunumafono ST100.00 both of De La Salle College New Zealand.” Siliniu Lina Chang, SVSG President