Saturday, October 30, 2010

Weaving meaning into loss

Sunday Inquirer Magazine/FEATURES/By Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

JOY and hope. These a mother continues to weave into the fabric of her life even after a loss that tore into her heart. She wears them like the bright shawls of silk that she fashions from nature's looms.
Rather than dwell in the abyss of grief and sorrow, Jean Margaret ?Jeannie? Lim Goulbourn decided to put meaning into her daughter?s life and death and, by so doing, help those who find themselves on the verge of a similar tragedy.
But it took time for her to gather strength and focus on something that would make sense of the tragedy that shook her family to the core. ?No one ever totally recovers from this,? Jeannie muses of her daughter?s death.

What makes the difference is this woman?s will to work it out and joyfully rise above it.

A former fashion model known for her distinct oriental look, Jeannie is also a noted fashion designer, entrepreneur (Silk Cocoon) and now a passionate health and nutrition advocate (Global Vital Source). She is wife to Canadian Sydney Goulbourn and mother of two beautiful and talented daughters, Katrina and Natasha. Close-knit and happy, the Goulbourns were not prepared for the pain that slammed into their life in 2002.

Jeannie recounts that Natasha, then suffering from depression, was being given a cocktail of medication by her doctor. The lethal dose ended her life on May 23, 2002 at the age of 27.

At the time of her death, Natasha had just finished working with an international fashion company in Hong Kong and was going into her own product line. There was a lot going for her. Her international education and travels had exposed her to enriching opportunities. She had a very supportive family.

"She and her sister Katrina were very close," Jeannie says. ?They were born 15 months apart. They were like twins."

Jeannie would rather not dwell on the details of Natasha?s passing, as per her daughter?s wishes communicated to her vicariously. The Goulbourns grieved Natasha's passing as a family but each one grieved in his/her own way. A mother?s pain of loss is like no other. Jeannie searched for answers. And, to her surprise and comfort, she found some. Natasha provided them, she adds.

"Several weeks after Natasha died, our family and close friends went back to Puerto Galera where we last spent a beautiful weekend together," Jeannie recalls. On their return trip to Batangas port, all Jeannie wanted was a sign that would tell her where Natasha was. Natasha loved dolphins so Jeannie asked to be shown dolphins, with their number signifying where her daughter was. They all got on a boat to scour the open seas.

Lo and behold, a pod of dolphins suddenly showed up. Not five, not 10, but more than a hundred of them jumping, dancing and prancing to the delight of everyone. Even the boatmen were amazed at what they saw, they had never witnessed anything like it, Jeannie recounts. "I knelt and grabbed my rosary and promised to serve the Lord in this mission through the Natasha Goulbourn Foundation."

There were other signs after that. Jeannie went to Hong Kong to visit Natasha's favorite haunts and as she was entering the lobby of the Hyatt hotel she heard strains of her daughter's favorite tunes being played as if on cue. "Moon River, March of the Siamese Children and Fur Elise," Jeannie recalls.

Later, Jeannie would receive an unusual gift from a friend that would lead her to a medium based in London through whom, she says, Natasha communicated with her. "Natasha said she owed Peter, her flatmate in Hong Kong, two weeks' rent and that I should pay him." How the medium could have known that, Jeannie could only wonder. "Through another medium she told me I would save five lives. And through the help of Dr. Rene Yat, I did!"

Jeannie can now bravely look back and share her observations. "I remember Natasha was not sleeping well and was losing weight. But she seemed happy and was very focused on her work. Or maybe she was a very good actress. Then she broke up with her boyfriend."

Jeannie describes Natasha as happy, gregarious and friendly. "Then I observed how her personality changed after she started taking medication. We had her see a psychiatrist who gave her anti-depressants. She did tell us that there was something about the medication, that she felt funny and lightheaded. Her perception of reality changed. She had mood swings, she avoided crowds." These were warning signs.

Three months later, Natasha was gone. "It was a case of wrong medication and overmedication," Jeannie says firmly. "Through the medium, Natasha said she does not remember how it happened and that we should not sue the doctor. But how many lives under his care had been lost? A year and a half later, the doctor took his own life."

Jeannie insists that anti-depressant drugs should carry strong warnings. "In America, there is a warning on the package and in ads, saying that anti-depressants increase the risk of suicidal thoughts and behavior. Patients need heavy monitoring." She strongly suggests that a patient taking such drugs should have notarized written instructions for responsible persons to take over when the patient is not in a proper mental state.

"According to statistics, less than 30 percent of those taking anti-depressants get better, but a local psychiatrist admitted that it could only be 10 percent effective. In the end, talk therapy and family support are most helpful."

Jeannie is not totally anti-medication, but she is becoming increasingly biased for proper nutrition and exercise to enhance one?s physical and mental state. These she advocates through her wellness company. "There are new accepted modalities such as hypnosis, acupuncture and energy healing," she informs.

In 2007, the Goulbourn family set up the Natasha Goulbourn Foundation (NGF), whose chief aim is "bringing depression to light.? NGF aims ?to share with the world the need for education and information on depression" what it is, what causes it, how to manage it and how to heal from it.? Depression can be treated and those afflicted must seek the correct help. Suicide, NGF strongly reminds, should not be an option.

NGF has linked up with UGAT, In Touch Community Services and Dial-a-Friend, that provide hotlines for those seeking help.

"Depression is highly treatable and curable," Jeannie says. "It is not insanity. We must remove the stigma." She wants to see NGF reach out to corporations, schools, communities, OFWs and their families. "We have a team of lecturers who can speak on wholeness, on how to achieve spiritual, emotional and physical well-being."

Jeannie adds: "Scientists have discovered that hormone-enhanced meat, vegetables sprayed with pesticides and chemical fertilizers are some factors that cause chemical imbalance in the brain."

In this season of remembering, Jeannie?s thoughts constantly turn to Natasha. ?My faith was shaken. This girl had a lot of dreams for the poor, the sick and the aged. She had a clear purpose. How could we allow these to go to waste? But there is a reason for everything. Natasha was really on loan to us, and she had a purpose."#