Mental Health

My journey through grief, guilt and self-harm

Ofelia Chua // July 2, 2019, 11:22 am

Battle with self harm

In 2016, I went through something I never expected – losing my dad to brain cancer.

At the time, I really thought that my dad would be fully healed. But he wasn’t, and I lost him. His death crushed me. I cried a lot and regretted that I didn’t spend more time with him.

It was a really painful time for me. I battled with thoughts about harming myself but I never told anyone. And in the midst of all the hurt and grief, I lost myself. I gave in and began cutting myself because I just couldn’t bear the pain I was going through.

I was only 14 then.

See you soon, Dad

For a long time, I didn’t tell anyone about how I harmed my body. That was guilt which I carried by myself.

This self-harm carried on until one day at a church camp, where I surrendered everything to God and felt peace for the first time in a long time. I returned to church for services and cell group, and I also opened up to my cell leader about my situation.

To my surprise, she told me that she went through similar things as well and understood how I felt. It was really heartening to know someone else went through the same thing that I did and could empathise with how I felt.

Yet, soon enough, I was back to my old ways. I didn’t know how to handle the overwhelming emotions I was feeling and I didn’t believe I could get any better. I had no idea how I would ever break out of this cycle of hurt and pain.

I blamed myself a lot and that took a toll on my self-esteem.

So I bottled up my feelings and I eventually stopped going to church. Soon, I hit rock bottom again. I spent days staring into blank space, allowing more and more unwanted thoughts and emotions to enter my mind.

In the past, I would turn to calligraphy as a coping mechanism. But having done it for so much, it didn’t seem to be as therapeutic as it used to be. So even that little joy of mine had been sucked away.

I just wanted to give up.

My messed-up life … now a message of life

Out of the blue, a friend from church asked me if I was okay.

That question made me cry because I had stopped believing that anyone would bother about me. I thought I was a nobody, so I was touched to find out that people actually cared about me.

However, I still didn’t know what to do every time I was faced with dark thoughts. Until a day came when I was listening to worship songs and I heard a voice telling me to pray. At first, I was really reluctant – prayer wasn’t really a thing for me – but then I thought, why not?

I didn’t know what to pray about… so I prayed in tongues. I never thought I would feel the Holy Spirit touching me, but there and then I did. I broke down, came clean before God and found myself comforted by his peace.

Tongues-tied: The gift I never knew how to ask for

I told my cell group leader about what happened. When I went back to church, my leaders encouraged me to pray about my situation and against my thoughts.

I never had this habit to turn to God and pray about what was going on. But praying did help. Whenever I am tempted to harm myself, I pray about it and the temptation leaves.

Because of that, I started to grow in my prayer life. Self-harming tendencies still affect me, especially when I’m really stressed out, but God has taken me to a place where I’m better able to cope.

I’m glad that I opened up to my leaders and friends in church, even though it’s difficult to explain what I’m going through – sometimes I don’t even understand my own feelings!

Because they know about my situation, they can help me to be accountable. Though I fall every now and then, they help to keep me on the right track.

Looking back, I never had the habit to seek God first. Relying on my own strength was also the first thing I did. But now I’ve learnt that whenever such negative thoughts come, my best option is to give them to God’s hands. I know I’m never alone and will never be forsaken by Him (Romans 8:38-39)!

 Don’t struggle by yourself. No case is hopeless and no one ever has to go through life alone. Help is available: 


  1. What is the first thing you do when anxiety or depressive thoughts come?
  2. God is always close to the broken-hearted. What would you say to God if you had a chance to tell Him what’s on your heart? 
  3. What is holding you back from seeking professional help? There is no shame in embracing a helping hand.