How Processing My Grief Helped Me Confront the New Reality
How can we make space for grief in our lives?
The global health and economic crisis have completely upended life as we know it. We are collectively grieving a lost sense of normalcy but processing—and expressing it—differently. With 11.6M cases and 537K deaths worldwide as of writing, the surging statistics are crippling, to say the least.
On this week’s headlines alone, Broadway actor Nick Cordero passed away at the age of 41 after battling complications of the coronavirus since March. He is survived by his wife Amanda and one-year-old son Elvis. There are countless stories of the same nature. The venerable The New York Times created a special cover when it reached 100K deaths in May—a devastating milestone in history. An Incalculable Loss serves as a memorial-cum-obituary featuring a thousand short yet tender memories of the departed.
In the Philippines, friends Meryl Ligunas and Stel De Vera created A Tribute To, an online obituary for Filipinos lost to COVID-19, to help loved ones acknowledge and process grief. After all, they are more than just statistics.
We survey the expanse of paralyzing sadness everywhere; it blankets our vision and leaves us inconsolable. No matter how hopeful we are, nobody prepared us for the new normal. Still, turbulent times invite us to explore our grief and see where it can lead us.
Grief is a fierce yet comforting sensation, it sneaks up to us when we least expect it: when we get a notification past midnight of a memory from yesteryear; when we read a heart-crushing phrase from a good book. Grief reminds us that we are flesh and blood, that we are human. As much as we like to be in control, there are simply things way beyond our comprehension.
Lately, there is a part of me desensitized by the surplus of grief in every corner of our lives; it may be my way of staying sane. With empathy, we are but one in the same. We might not be in the same boat—with some storms more vicious than others—but carrying that heaviness without unpacking it is completely incapacitating. When we are past denial, anger, bargaining and depression, we pave the way for acceptance. But it shouldn’t end there.
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These unprecedented times bring us to our knees, which (hopefully) lead us to become “men and women for others.” This Jesuit virtue I learned back in university is firmly rooted in my heart and mind even after all these years. Pedro Arrupe, S.J. describes it beautifully in an address he delivered to a group of Jesuit high school alumni back in 1973 in Spain. He shares, “There is a new awareness in the Church that participation in the promotion of justice and the liberation of the oppressed is a constitutive element of the mission which our Lord has entrusted to her.” He adds furthermore, “It means that we have work ahead of us. We must help each other to repair this lack in us.”
Through the overflow of the heart, we share both material gifts and devote our time to serve others. Given such agitating headlines lately, we are stirred to not stay still but act. We pursue justice, especially for the poor and marginalized.
Throughout this heart-wrenching season, I am reminded of our duties as citizens of this broken but beautiful earth. In the face of adversity lies opportunity—the opportunity to stretch beyond ourselves and love fiercely without expecting anything in return. This is what it means to be human.
Art Alexandra Lara