When Death Becomes Our Light

(On the Demise of Friends and Family)

When I think of death–and of late the idea has come with alarming frequency–I seem at peace with the thought that the day when I will no longer be among the living in this valley of strange humors will dawn.

I can accept the reality of my own demise but not that of anyone else. To let a friend or relative go into the country of no return I find impossible.
Disbelief becomes my close companion, and anger follows in its wake.

I answer the heroic question: “Death, where is thy sting? With it is here in my heart and mind and memories.”–Maya Angelou

Sympathies are in order for those people whose friends and loved ones have departed. As far as Facebook is concerned and among my list of friends, notifications of the change of profile picture into candles and/or a plain shade of black have been the common mode. These deaths are not attributed to COVID alone. For many, as it symbolizes the demise of a person, the mere sight of it could be really a depressing scene. For some, even as an outsider, it could be easy to share in another person’s sorrow.

Death, on the part of those who have been left behind, evokes profound emotional reactions that may or may not be transparent towards others. No one knows the extent of a person’s pain or suffering. Even when one is seen to be bawling, it does not explain the exact emotion that goes through a person’s mind. It could just be the tip of the mourning iceberg. There are those who could express their thoughts freely, but there are some who would rather keep such feelings to themselves.

I have experienced losing relatives, so I could say that I identify with the latter. But when triggered, I would feel emotional shudders and shed a tear or two. Our family saw through three recent deaths in a row: an aunt (2018), her brother (2019), and my dad (2021); but yes, we dealt with those individually and independently. We each had our own ways of coping, but only saw the strength of each one on the outside. Friends, relatives, and acquaintances poured in their commiserations and compassion towards our family in all ways possible.

A friend of mine, after recently losing her partner for sixteen or so years, is having a very tough time. Because she has been living in her lonesome for quite a while, she always resorts to social media as the sounding board of her emotions, hoping someone would come along to interact and validate her thoughts; maybe answer the questions looming in her head. She copes by sharing photos of her loved one and memories that are attached to them. She expresses her inner feelings in ways no one has known about her before.

That being said, and although it may be an arduous task, to allow oneself to grieve is the best therapy. Going through the process of grief is a major step for a person to move on. People grieve in different ways and for a myriad of reasons. Coping for the loss of a loved one (pets included) involves a lot of patience. Let yourself heal at a pace through which your own mind and body is capable of.

Moving on doesn’t necessarily mean that one has forgotten the memories. Memories, once they are created, form part of a person. We become who we are because of what he have gone through. We create these memories as we take each step and breathe. Moving on is a decision that we make to grow, move forward, and rise above the experience.

Grief is love with no place to go. It is love that one cannot give away. It is the feeling that wells up inside and fills the void. We gain back our strength and willpower when we decide to move forward to make a change in ourselves.

I know many people would agree that expressing sympathies and commiserations may be a good gesture in consoling a grieving person, but finding the right words is utterly difficult. Just remember that the goal is to share the sorrow of a grieving person and not to impose on them on how they should feel. Patience and kindness extended will mean the most.

Overall, death may have been the end of another person’s life, but the grief and the process through which one submits oneself will serve as the torch that will light one’s way towards self-knowledge. Therefore, the process one goes through will help in his growth, to keep moving forward, past the pain and suffering.

Keeping an open heart and mind will allow good things to find their way again into your life.

*Currently working at the Philippine International Convention Center, where she began services 22 years ago, Kathryn Valladolid Ebrahim is an alumna of St. Scholastica’s College–Manila; she finished a degree in Bachelor of Arts, major in Sociology, at the University of Santó Tomás; drawing and writing are her primary avocations.