Moving Beyond Despair and Uncertainty


We all have had our fair share of despair and uncertainty at one point in our life. Since Covid-19 pandemic, the despair and uncertainty has gone on overdrive. A big number of the population lost their livelihood. Some were forced to stay at home, while others lost their homes and some others lost their loved ones. But somehow, we all learned to weather the storm. Families, friends and communities came together in support of each other.


During the peak of the pandemic in China, Japan sent them aid packages. On one of the packages, they wrote two lines of poetry from Shijing or the Book of Songs, the oldest existing Chinese poetry collection. It reads, “How can you say you lack clothes? Don't worry, I will share mine with you”. On another package they wrote eight Kanji character pieces that reads, “Mountain, River, Different, Areas/ Wind, Moon, Same, Sky” (Even though we live at different places, we live under the same sky), which is said to be a Chinese poem that a Japanese Prince wrote 1,300 years ago, addressed to Tang Dynasty’s high monk Ganjin.


While disasters of various magnitude bring despair and uncertainty to individuals and communities, history shows resilience of humans in the face of calamity. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book on “On Death and Dying” suggested that individuals and families go through the five stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance when faced with grief and loss. David Kessler who co-authored books with her added a sixth stage of finding “meaning”. When we are faced with life changing tragic events, we all eventually go through these stages even though we may not experience them in one order. The sooner we reach the acceptance stage, we will be able to find a meaning for ourselves and get back to normality.


To understand some of these grieving processes, we could look at the life cycle of the butterfly. The joyful world of the caterpillar has to collapse before it gains its wings and gets the opportunity to fly around as a butterfly.


While on the face of it, Covid-19 brought despair and uncertainty into all of our lives, we have taken unimaginable leaps on the opportunities that we would otherwise never have in years to come. But to get into the growth opportunities, we should first go through the grievance process and accept the reality. We need to come into terms with the current situation. We are being put into a cocoon for a while so that we can come out of the cocoon with our wings. The wings that will help us fly.


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