On Mourning

Käthe Kollwitz. “The Mothers (Die Mütter)”. Brooklyn Museum, Carll H. de Silver Fund. ©2012 Artists Right Society (ARS). Licensed under CC by 3.0.

Guest post by Hillary Kirkham

Thoughts and feelings have been swirling in my mind about the massacre in Orlando since the news broke on Sunday. I feel like anything I say is woefully inadequate, for I cannot begin to grasp the depth of the pain and trauma felt by the victims, the families and friends of the victims, and the LGBTQ community as a whole. But I take seriously the call to “mourn with those that mourn.” So know that I am here. I am beside you. I am crying with you. And I’ll still be here when the coverage of this event stops because I understand that violence and prejudice and hate is continually happening all around us.

Furthermore, I believe that we as a society mistakenly attempt to move past trauma way too quickly. Mourning is allowed for a brief window of time and then we are expected to move past it, to resume our daily routines as if nothing has happened. But that’s not how it works. Trauma is complex and deep and haunting. One does not simply move past it. In many ways, surviving is its own kind of trauma. Continuing to live with the memory of the past that continually repeats itself, constantly coming back to haunt the victim, can be just as traumatic as the original moment itself. As trauma scholar Cathy Caruth explains, “for those who undergo trauma, it is not only the moment of the event, but of the passing out of it that is traumatic; that survival itself, in other words, can be a crisis” (Trauma: Explorations in Memory 9). So please–talk or cry or scream or whatever else you need to do, for as long as you need. I am here.

Hillary Kirkham is a PhD student in Cultural Studies at Claremont Graduate University. She loves museums, baking, and travel.

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4 Responses

  1. Rachel says:

    Thank you for these wise, kind words Hillary. They are perfect. (I love and resonate with the seriousness of the responsibility to mourn with those who mourn, and your recognition that sometimes mourning can take a long time, and that it is rarely over when the news cycles say it is.)

  2. spunky says:

    This is spiritual manna, Hillary. Thank you for your wise words.

  3. Emily says:

    “And I’ll still be here when the coverage of this event stops . . .”

    So vitally important, Hillary. The news cycle is woefully short, and it must be so discouraging to feel like people are going to focus on something else in a day or two, but you’re going to be stuck with the pain forever.

  4. Liz says:

    I love this, Hillary. We seem to want to skip mourning and move right to blaming, I think because we think it will help tidy up our grief. But how do we know what we grieve if we don’t sit in it and allow ourselves to experience it? Thank you for your wise words.

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