An interview with Episcopal priest Carl Russell about the childhood sexual abuse he experienced at the hands of the priest of his family’s congregation. Carl tells the story of how both he and his family were groomed for the abuse, as the priest worked to gain his family’s trust and esteem. [Read more…]
An interview with author and professor, Meredith Hall about her experience of being shunned when she became pregnant at 16. Meredith speaks of the deep messages to pregnant girls that they are bad, and must be made to keep silent about the pregnancy for the rest of their lives. Meredith describes what it was like to be shunned by her entire community and to be pushed out of her mother’s house when she most needed support. She speaks about three levels of grief, the profound loss of losing the child, the loss that no-one ever spoke to her about this loss, or even acknowledged it, and the loss of her family and entire social world. Meredith speaks about how her anger helped protect her dignity and how seeing that she too had abandoned her child helped her make peace internally with her parents who had abandoned her. She ultimately affirms that she has been able to see the large grief she carries as a gift that has enlarged her capacity to love.
An interview with poet and writer, Catharine Murray about grieving and poetry. In 2004, Catharine’s son Chan died of leukemia despite months of chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant. Catharine has been writing poems about her grief since the week after he died. She talks about how her poems help her slow down and listen to the pain inside. They also provide a little space between her deep grief and the mundane act of typing on the keyboard. Catharine reads three of her poems that speak to her sense of loss, capturing the way that he is “still as close as our hearts can bear to hold him.”
An interview with Professor Lawrence L Langer about his book, Holocaust Testimonies: The Ruins of Memory. Professor Langer describes his own difficulty trying to imagine what it must have been like stand in a gas chamber facing death. He developed courses on the literature of atrocity to try and help people find a way to imagine this experience. He describes stories that survivors have told him, stories of such horror that the teller literally became speechless in trying to communicate. He states the importance for listeners in not judging survivors for what they had to do and not do, in situations of “choiceless choice.” One of the many ways that survivors suffer, is their own internal judgment for ways they were unable to protect and save their own loved ones. He tells of the challenges survivors face in trying to communicate their experiences in ways the listener can bear, will not be damaged by, and can begin to understand.
An interview with author Art Frank about telling stories about illness. Art describes his own experience with an early heart attack and later cancer. He describes the way the medical world can be oblivious to the patient’s needs and subjective experience. He talks about the importance of finding your own voice after your body has been colonized by treatment. He offered examples of the ways that medical professionals can connect more personally with the stories of their patients. He also describes ways that it is both difficult and imperative that we learn to stay present with difficult stories of illness, our own, and those of others. Art’s book is The Wounded Storyteller: Body, Illness and Ethics.