Let­ting go of hor­ror and grief

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE -

It had been a search that had gripped the world and hogged the head­lines, but al­most 20 days later, the fear and trep­i­da­tion fi­nally came to an abrupt end. Hope was bru­tally killed off with a terse state­ment that of­fered no clo­sure.

For the fam­i­lies and friends of the pas­sen­gers on the ill-fated flight MH370 from Kuala Lumpur to Bei­jing, agony was re­newed when they were told their loved ones were never com­ing back, but were lost on a flight that “ended in the south­ern In­dian Ocean”.

The blame and shame quickly started with the fam­i­lies’ grief turn­ing to anger, and with var­i­ous NGOs call­ing for the boy­cott of both the air­line and its par­ent coun­try.

From this day on, March 8 will be re­mem­bered in China as more than Women’s Day, it will also be­come a me­mo­rial for the 154 Chi­nese pas­sen­gers on board that miss­ing jet.

For the fam­i­lies, es­pe­cially, it will be an ex­tremely dif­fi­cult jour­ney for­ward. Not know­ing where their loved ones lie, and not hav­ing hard proof that they are re­ally dead com­pli­cates the clo­sure we all need.

In Chi­nese cul­ture, the dead are hon­ored and re­spected, and dur­ing Qingming, the Bright and Clear Fes­ti­val, graves are vis­ited and swept— in rites and rit­u­als that al­low the liv­ing to ex­or­cise their sorrow, and face the free­dom to move for­ward.

Qingming ar­rives next week, and for the fam­i­lies of the 154 pas­sen­gers, there will be no graves to sweep.

They may have to wait months, or even years, be­fore in­ter­na­tional search teams find any ev­i­dence, if any at all, that the plane re­ally is at the bot­tom of that ocean.

Con­spir­acy the­o­ries of all sorts are al­ready fly­ing about the Wild Blue Yon­der, and in­dig­nant ne­ti­zens are sug­gest­ing all sorts of pun­ish­ment for those re­spon­si­ble.

Some the­o­ries are more be­liev­able than oth­ers, but sadly, most re­volve around plots of po­lit­i­cal power and gain and a to­tal dis­re­gard for hu­man lives. In this case, it is the lives of the 239 people on board that plane, in­clud­ing the chief sus­pect.

Many years ago, as I pon­dered the puzzle of the age of vi­o­lent tur­bu­lence that shook China in the ’60s and ’70s, my hus­band had told me that the Chi­nese lived in a cul­ture of no re­grets.

It is how this coun­try has sur­vived suf­fer­ing and hard­ship, he said, and it is how the people have been molded into a re­silient mass that is hard to put down.

I agree about the re­silience, but I also see the scabs and scars. Bury­ing the wound and al­low­ing it to fes­ter de­stroys the spirit and sears the soul. It also warps hu­man­ity.

We have to learn to grieve fully, and af­ter the sorrow is spent, we have to learn to let go.

There was a re­cent re­port on a pro­posal for China to for­mally com­mem­o­rate theNan­jingMas­sacre and the­War of Re­sis­tance against Ja­panese Ag­gres­sion (1937-45). My first re­ac­tion was in­com­pre­hen­sion.

Why would a coun­try want to re­live such pain and suf­fer­ing, and with an­nual re­minders? Later, it dawned on me that per­haps this is how the chap­ters are fi­nally be­ing closed.

Per­haps, too, the se­ri­als that are aired on Chi­nese tele­vi­sion can fi­nally find new­con­tent and in­spi­ra­tion, and the pro­duc­ers will no longer have to rack their brains on how to find a newan­gle on yet an­other war­time drama.

The world is clos­ing in on us and the global city is forc­ing us into un­com­fort­ably close prox­im­ity with all our neigh­bors.

We have to deal with get­ting along with each other, and we have to learn to deal with the fall­out of an­other coun­try’s po­lit­i­cal prob­lems, es­pe­cially if the fall­out in­volves our own sons and daugh­ters.

Let grief and anger reign, then, but af­ter the emo­tions are spent, let us move for­ward, sad­der but wiser. Con­tact the writer at paulined@chi­nadaily.com.cn.

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