Restrain from Despair
English Translation by Tom
I was in Hakone about this time last year. I was staying at a ryokan, and trying to relax. At that time, my wife's phone rang at two o'clock in the middle of the night. Calls in the middle of the night are mostly bad news. And just as I had guessed, it was a call to say that my wife's grandmother had passed away. I could hear a sobbing voice through the receiver. The word was that she passed away so quickly because an aneurism suddenly burst.
After hearing that news and seeing my grieving wife, I didn't know what to do. I had met my wife's grandmother many times, but my sadness could not compare as my wife grew up living in the same house as her grandmother.
I remember those feelings when I see the people who have suffered in the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. I can't understand their grief. I can only estimate the depth of their emotion. I'm troubled by the same uselessness I felt when I could only move closer to my grieving wife and gently rub her shoulder.
You cannot share grief.
If you lose a common friend or family member, you might be able to share your grief up to a point, but as everyone's connection to the deceased is different, their sadness is their own.
Recently I have felt uncomfortable due to the atmosphere of "self-restraint" that has spread across the Japanese archipelago. I wonder when we might we stop this self-restraint. We won't be able to understand the survivor's emotion. If we face up to this fact, return to our normal lives, and through our jobs and interests indirectly assist them – this should be enough.
Despite all this, life continues.
The road to restoration may be a long, steep path. If that's the case, we should restrain from superficial "self-restraint" and return to our normal lives. It's important to conserve electricity, but cancelling a farewell party will not save power. Even if we restrain from eating tasty food and happy times, the grief the survivors feel will not change. If we continue to cancel events that many people will enjoy, the people will lose vigour and eventually the economy will suffer catastrophic damage.
Those who are living in areas that escaped devastation can help those affected just by restraining from despair.