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Wednesday , 1 December 2021

Getting through our collective grief

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Asther Bascuña Creo
Asther Creo is a writer based in Melbourne, Australia, where she’s lived for the last 15 years. Before that, she lived in Manila, Philippines, where she completed her Journalism degree from the University of the Philippines – Diliman. Asther works as communications professional in the daytime and is a mother to three and wife of a Catholic deacon. In November 2016, The Philippine Times published Asther’s first book Telling Stories. You can learn more about Asther on https://au.linkedin.com/in/asthercreo. Asther has been published in Kairos, Melbourne Catholic, Abbey of the Arts, and The Good Oil. She writes a column for The Philippine Times and has co-edited Climb the Mountain.

As I write this, the state number of new cases for COVID-19 has just ticked over 700, and a baby has been reported to be infected with the virus. Aged care facilities and workplaces like meat processing plants are registering as hotspots as people continue to turn up for work even with the mildest of symptoms.

As is characteristic of this constantly moving situation, that number and that scenario may have already changed as this article gets published.

However one thing remains – that we cannot deny who’s got control of the situation, and it is not us humans.

As we all monitor the spread of the virus across the world, we go through periods of fear, anxiety and a profound sense of loss of personal liberties. This particular week, I watched aghast as some brazenly break the rules that the rest of us have begrudgingly subjected ourselves – and I wonder at what we ourselves are capable of if the situation turns for the worse. 

What will be our tipping point? And what course of action would we take when we reach it?

I believe that the answer is different for each individual. For some who have been labelled a Karen, it may have occurred at that point when a mask was mandated to be worn in Melbourne and Mitchell Shire. For others, it may have occurred even earlier when protest actions on inequality provided the platform to express a growing discontent that had been brewing while we were all on our first lockdown or even earlier. 

Still, for others it may have been the increasing number of deaths specifically among the elderly – and the prospect of not being able to be physically present to care for, and bury their loved ones.

We have slowly been reaching our individual tipping point, in the guise of lockdown fatigue, contributing some to blatantly disregard the evidence-based health measures put in place by the government. A fellow Filipino has been a voice of public health messaging, sharing his family’s story about the virus, and I am appalled at the comments in the feed, asking how much he was paid or claiming it as fake news. On social media I still see a few still gathering in their homes, partying with no regard for physical distancing or wearing of masks.

Indeed the great tragedy when we reach our tipping point is in the harmful course of action we take to demonstrate our grief.

But there is another side to this picture. It is that majority of us recognise that our grief is collective and that only by taking the kinder route and journeying together will we be certain of getting through to a post-COVID world. It is when we have this regard for the other, and we see ourselves part of a community, that we are able to look inwardly and offer our self-sacrifice to contribute to the greater good.

One of the most inspiring stories coming out of COVID-19 is the generosity displayed by the Sikh volunteers, who provided warm meals for residents and frontline workers at the Flemington towers. Providing support for the vulnerable in such a way is an act of compassion and charity.

My very own cultural community also responded very swiftly and provided food and care packages to Filipino international students who have lost their casual jobs and the means to support themselves during the earlier lockdown.

And yet I only have to look closer to home at my neighbours knocking on my door and giving my family fruits or home-baked goodies as a gesture of care during these tough times. Some of my neighbours I have not spoken to before, and now here we are exchanging food – and first names. 

woman-wearing-face-mask-walking dog during pandemic

Every afternoon, I see walkers passing by my house with some regularity doing the right thing by wearing their masks and bringing a bag to clean up after their dogs. 

There will be no glib comments from me to say it is easy to just follow the rules and stay home (and even hashtag it) – because it is not. Our whole lives have been altered and there’s a different way to go about things nowadays. It is not easy, but we can choose to do the right thing, and even go beyond and extend a kind act to others. 

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