You probably have broken down a dozen times throughout this pandemic.
You cannot anymore count the number of days you have been half-guilty that you have done nothing productive while half-guilty thinking you need to tone down a little to take a quick break.
You are in a constant tug-of-war between determining whether you need a rest or that you need to do a little more work to deserve it. You have been missing your friends.
You have been thinking of where you could have been, traveling around the country to see its innate beauty. You envy those who can afford to go to different places while they conveniently break health protocols.
You have celebrated life events—birthdays, anniversaries, milestones—without fanfare and the mood that fits the occasion.
By this time, too, you know someone who was or is positive with the coronavirus. The suffering does not seem to end.
There is much to be said about how the pandemic has taken lives that could otherwise be saved if not for our failing healthcare system.
Without too much effort, our social media feeds have slowly turned into virtual obituary pages of people we knew. Else, our social media feeds have become filled with appeals for help from all walks of life—asking for financial aid and prayers for hoped recoveries.
It does not help that even after a year into the pandemic, we cannot even process our grief nor console each other by being with them when all they had hoped for had collapsed.
In his homily last Holy Thursday, Manila Archdiocese Apostolic Administrator Bishop Broderick Pabillo lamented that online mass is “a poor substitute of the real physical participation…”
There is nothing farther from the truth. While we have adapted to new platforms for engaging with an audience on almost any occasion, Zoom and Microsoft Teams do not capture the emotions we collectively feel. Staring in front of the screen is as if staring at a blank wall while talking to yourself.
We have to keep in mind that while there is indeed a need to rethink our working schedules and arrangements post-pandemic, the work-from-home setup is only suitable to select jobs and at a flexible arrangement. How can you even call the young ones student when all they do is pass requirements and stare at gadgets all day long?
Our words have taken on a new meaning. Messages to family and friends of promised catch-ups, “I miss you,” “hope to see you soon,” and “after this pandemic,” have been all meant well but too helpless to act on. We end our conversations by saying “take care” which was then something we utter nonchalantly.
Now, we mean every single word in the face of dire consequences of merely stepping out of the door. In a crisis so devastating, our words, when uttered with much uncertainty, take on different meanings. When words are our only source of comfort amid the grief, pain, misery, and anger, we are left with no other choice but to savor the letters down to the last stroke.
But it is when we have run out of words that we find more power in our emotions. The pain of losing a loved one. The misery of losing opportunities. The feeling of knowing you are lost in the jungle of your thoughts and goals. The helplessness in the face of government officials who care more about their personal braggadocio than the public welfare hiding at will to evade accountability. Our words are found wanting and our lips fall silent.
The overwhelming turn of events, the restrictions we are bound to obey, and the hopelessness compound to a collective state of grief that consoling each other with kind words and modest gestures does too little.
Even the phrases “we are all in this together” or “you’re not alone” ring hollow. They, too, get absorbed into our collective grief with little to no effort. What made this worse is that aside from our unending grief, we also feel a shared sense of anger. It is an anger that sparks an outrage limited to the virtual space, a poor proxy for a show of warm bodies to express our disgust with all that is happening, pandemic-related or not.
Left with no choice but to be forced to move forward after every obstacle, we are too preoccupied to even acknowledge our grief. And even if we do so, we are left but with a few options to make amends and to answer the what-ifs.
In whatever manner we grieve—the silence of our hearts, the gnashing of teeth, clenching of fists, screaming at the top of our lungs, or in the overflowing of our tears, may we too forgive ourselves for all that had been, for all the things out of our control, for the things we thought we could have done better, and for what we could have become.
Let our grief be our catharsis, not to perpetually expunge the events of the past, but rather to acknowledge that it will never fully end.
We grieve until the end of our days. But we live to make it grief that shows our great love for people we care, from ourselves, family, friends, and the greater humanity bigger than any single one of us.
Grieve, but never forget to rage against the dying of the light.
About the Author
Edward Joseph H. Maguindayao is a graduate student at the University of the Philippines – Diliman.