by Gary Pekas, July 9, 2010.
Except for the truly innocent among us, at some point in life we shall experience grief. Our experience of grief, like our experience of other emotions, strips us of our innocence, making us all the more aware of the things that make us human.
The emotion often develops other worldly feelings such as anger, frustration, suspicion, or guilt. Some of us who grieve become depressed, disoriented, or otherwise lose contact with reality.
Grief also makes us question the reasons for our existence, sometimes making us believe that our lives are totally useless and inconsequential. Even those who piously cling to certain beliefs, whether animist, theist, or scientific would have their faiths shaken when in their lives they go through times of anguish.
While the sources of human anguish are both manifold and varied, perhaps a universal cause is death, primarily because it reminds us of our mortality.
Yet mortality is a reality that we can not deny, and its occurrence is not altogether rare. What makes us grieve is when those who die are personally known to us, and loved. What makes us grieve, even if we do not know those who die, is when the cause of death is so deplorable, as in wars, extrajudicial killings, or the wanton violence of crime. What makes us grieve, even if we do not know those who die, is when the manner of death is so tragic, as in natural disasters like earthquakes and typhoons. What makes us grieve, even if we do not know those who die, is when those who die are still in the innocence of infancy and childhood, or they are still in the prime of youth and yet to experience life to the full.
Fortunately, though all of us will see some of our loved ones die, very few would see the death of the young. For those who do, the experience of one, while comparable to others, is at the same time totally different. The ordeal of adjustment and acceptance to such grief must also be personal and unique.
For most of us, we try to give words of comfort, to somehow help in alleviating the anguish. Yet as we try to say something appropriate, we find ourselves at a loss for words, for truly anything we say would be inappropriate. So we content ourselves to just be there for those who grieve. We try to somehow empathize, though knowing that such empathy will not approximate the depth of their feelings.
Our Igorot ancestors must have understood this fully well, for when it is the innocent and the youth who leave this world, our people are silent during the wake. This is so different from wakes for the elderly who leave this world.
Wakes for the old are more celebratory than sorrowful. Wakes for the young are silent somber events.
We grieve with them, though we do not presume to know all the answers to the questions that are running through their heads. We grieve with them, though we do not presume to know how they are feeling.
We grieve with them in silence.
We just make them feel that we shall be there by their side when they need us.
And we hope never to go through similar ordeals.