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ONCE AGAIN we are a nation in grief. It?s been a terrible and tragic week for the Philippines.
We found ourselves grieving over many things, foremost of which was the Quirino hostage-taking that ended in tragedy on a rainy Monday evening. All eyes were upon us?a people known to the world for our hospitality, smiles and resilience.
All that was forgotten, however, and now, in the world?s eyes, we are country of hostage-takers, inept at rescue.
I stopped watching the news and selected what I read instead. I got tired of the bashing, the discussions and the disturbing visuals. I love my country and despite everything, I am still proud to be a Filipino.
The crime of one man is not the crime of the whole country. And sadly, in a way, due to apathy perhaps, we all contributed somehow to the events that transpired that day.
My good friend, Atty. Trixie Cruz Angeles, said it best in a note on her Facebook???we will not be defined by this tragedy. But we must learn from it. And the first lesson should and ought to be not to add any more hurt to a nation prostate with grief. So much blood ignites so much passion. But we can either flagellate ourselves until there is nothing left of our self esteem. Or we can turn this into an impetus for change. Real change.?
Pain and loss are transformative experiences if we are able to courageously see what went wrong, to glean lessons, and address the issues leading to the tragedy.
The country, the world, most especially HK is in grief, gripped by anger and sadness?emotions that are part and parcel of the grieving process.
My friend, thanatologist Shep Jeffreys in his book ?Helping Grieving People? outlines the four components of grief:
Psychological, which covers the emotional (feelings) aspect of grief, marked by sadness, anger, guilt and shame?all of which we went through as people (and continue to go through) over the last week.
There are the three cognitive components?physical, which manifests itself in illness and physical symptoms. Didn?t you just feel all lethargic and weary this last week? Since Monday, there have been mornings I found it difficult to get out of bed and shake off the sadness. One thing I found helpful was to minimize my exposure to the sadness and to take short breaks instead. The Miss Universe pageant somehow helped ease the tension.
The social component is the way we deal with family and others in the face of grief. An example is what goes on in Facebook and Twitter, you almost expect the screen to ignite and your laptop or PC to explode! The social component tackles society and its attitudes towards grief?how the Philippines has been portrayed in the world news, how countries have responded to the tragedy.
Culture is a key factor in the grief process, but pain is pain, whether you are Catholic, Protestant or Buddhist. We differ only in how we cope with loss.
The last component is the spiritual?one?s faith resources and life philosophy. Do we try to find a deeper meaning in this horrible tragedy, or do we remain apathetic and complacent?
Do we look at this as a challenge to initiate change, as Trixie says, or do we remain bitter, complaining and finger-pointing?
Do we just apologize and hope that our apologies soothe the pain of a people?
We?ve always been known as a resilient people. Think ?Ondoy? and remember its many heroes. The Quirino Grandstand tragedy was not a natural calamity but nevertheless we should summon resilience.
Edward Rynearson is a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Washington and medical director of the Homicide Support Project at the Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle. He has had 30 years of clinical practice and research on those who suffered a violent death in their family.
His wife committed suicide, which led to his lifelong interest in the subject of violent death. He talks about his own resilience in the book ?Retelling Violent Death.? He describes something we can all learn from?"Resilience is directional?it points towards living?so I became a survivor of violent dying by first surviving. My family, my friends, and my work reconnected me with being resilient and alive. It was only after my mind was re-anchored in living that I could be resilient for myself?If my mind, like a hand with a third degree burn , could not have recovered its inherent resilience, I would have remained numbed, and finally disabled. My mind would not have restored itself by forming an enlivening awareness around the annihilation of Julie?s dying, and I would have stayed deadened.?
Enough of the bashing, the anger and the blame, our first duty, is to restore and find our resilience and hope as individuals and as a people so that we can return to the business of living and begin to seek the change we strongly desire.
?Weeping may last for a night,? the Psalmist says, ?but joy cometh in the morning.?
For all the lives lost and for this tragedy and pain not to have been in vain, we must find the courage to look deeper into the issues that caused it and do our part to make sure it never happens again.
E-mail the author at email@example.com