A Grieving Community
2022-12-18 | Ecclesiastes 7:2a

Wang Zhixi (′13 MACS, ′14 MATS, ′17 PhD)
  • Honorary Research Associate and Part-time Lecturer of Divinity School of Chung Chi College

 A spectre is haunting the city—the spectre of grief. Grief, as defined by Sigmund Freud, “is regularly the reaction to the loss of a loved person, or to the loss of some abstraction which has taken the place of one, such as one’s country, liberty, an ideal, and so on” (Freud 1917: 243). If we feel like we have been experiencing emotional disturbances within us now and then for the past few years, then we may be grieving—grieving for the loss of a beloved city. It is this communal grief that makes us a grieving community. 
 A grieving community has common experiences of grief. We grieve for “those in whom we have invested our practical identities” (Cholbi 2021: 33). Those may be our friends and family we had to leave or see leave. Those may also be public figures or our role models who have been persecuted for righteousness’ sake. In grieving for them, we may undergo various emotional processes, such as denial, anger, bargaining, depression, fear, guilt, and—perhaps—acceptance. 
A grieving community has collective reasons for grief. We grieve because we have lost the relationship we had with the city and what it used to represent, a relationship that has defined who we are. We grieve because this relationship has been severed by a lethal force felt everywhere. 
 Our communal grief is not pathological; rather, it is a healthy response to what has been happening for the past decade. It can be good for us because grieving becomes an occasion to reflect upon what that lost relationship really means for us and how we should go about our life without that relationship anymore. It can be good for us because grieving prompts us to appreciate more about what we are living and fighting for. Let us, therefore, heed what the Qoheleth has to say, as “it is better to face the reality of death than to be caught up in the euphoria of a wedding celebration” (Seow 2008: 245). 
Cholbi, Michael. Grief: A Philosophical Guide. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2021. 
Freud, Sigmund. “Mourning and Melancholia.” In The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, edited by James Strachey, 243–58. Vol. 14. London: Hogarth Press, 1953. 
Seow, Choon-Leong. Ecclesiastes: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. New York: Doubleday, 1997.