Traumatised By Khalima

Traumatised By Khalima.

Sandra was an elementary school teacher who was also looking after her aged parents at home. Being the only breadwinner in the family, to continue working was important to her. She has had the services of house-helps from Indonesia and the Philippines over the years to care for her parents. Khalima, from Indonesia, was her last helper, and Sandra had found her to be an asset looking after her parents. She was proactive in her responsibilities and was a cheerful young lady. This was her first overseas job, as she had never left her village environment back on the island of Java since she was born. Sandra was aware of this and had not put too much pressure on her regarding her daily household chores. Apart from feeling a little home-sick a week into her job, Khalima seemed to be adjusting normally to her new environment. Sandra and Khalima got on well, and the latter was treated like a younger sister by Sandra.

Four months into Khalima’s service, one afternoon, Sandra received a call at school from the police. The police came straight to the point after identifying Sandra’s home address with her; they had found the body of her house-help on the ground floor of her apartment block, and could she go to the hospital morgue to identify the body. Sandra immediately froze and remained speechless in shock for a minute or so. After hanging up, her legs went numb and she collapsed on a chair. When she was more coherent, one of her colleagues drove her home to check-in on her parents first, arranging for someone else to be present with them. Her parents were just as traumatised as Sandra. Then she made her way to the hospital.

After a police investigation, Sandra began the process of contacting Khalima’s family and making the final arrangements for her body to be repatriated home as soon as possible. This involved flying Khalima’s older brother over to Singapore to accompany his sister’s body. Anticipating to explain to Khalima’s family was the most difficult part of the process for Sandra, as there were no clues to Khalima’s desperate condition prior to her suicide. However, Hussein, Khalima’s brother, apologised to Sandra, and shared that the family regretted sending her to Singapore to work, as she had suffered from depression following a marital breakup a few months earlier. They thought that her stint overseas would alleviate her disappointments. Nobody outside her family knew about Khalima’s illness, and she had kept this to herself while in Singapore.

Six months later, Sandra was still coping with a deep sense of guilt over Khalima’s death. She would wake up in the middle of the night dreaming about her helper and unable to fall back into sleep again. At times, she would be weeping over the loss. Thinking about getting another house-help for her parents would produce a phobic fearfulness. She could not bare going near the kitchen window, where Khalima had leapt from, nor the room she occupied. Talking about Khalima would almost paralyse her, and she would weep bitterly. It was around this time that Sandra was referred for counselling.