Tag Archives: Trauma

“Salt to the Sea”: healing through story

I was chatting with some friends recently and we were talking about the idea that after a while, there might be a burn-out of how many WWII novels and movies we can consume. What about the other wars? Or, is it that WWII has left its mark on the world and it’s something we are still trying to fully understand. There are millions of stories that we haven’t heard yet because everyone’s experience was different. During this conversation, I had just started to read Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys. What a great novel! And I have to say that I found it didn’t just retell the same stories I’ve heard or read before. It was something new. Terrible, yet new.

salt

Source: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25614492-salt-to-the-sea

Salt to the Sea is the story of three young people caught up in the war and all trying to find hope and freedom in the docks. Thousands of people are trying to escape the Germans and Russians and end up getting onto refugee boats seeking safety. I had never heard of the Wilhelm Gustloff ship disaster before, but in fact I feel that I should have. The sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff caused more loss of life than the sinking of the Titanic. The Titanic sunk because of hitting an iceberg, whereas the Wilhelm Gustloff, full of mostly women and children and injured men, was torpedoed by the Russians.

Just looking at images online was heartbreaking.

wilhelm.1

Source: https://www.welt.de/geschichte/zweiter-weltkrieg/article136893332/Der-Trinker-der-die-Wilhelm-Gustloff-versenkte.html

wilhelm.2

Source: https://europebetweeneastandwest.wordpress.com/tag/wilhelm-gustloff/

wilhelm.3

Source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/142567144425047906/

wilhelm.4

Source: http://worldwartwo.filminspector.com/2016/01/sinking-of-wilhelm-gustloff.html

wilhelm.5

Source: https://www.zyjepodwoda.pl/en/wrak-wilhelm-gustloff-morze-baltyckie/

The novel is told from the point of view of four different characters. Each character has a unique story, yet they all end up seeking safety on this ship. One young man is running from the Nazis because of something he stole from a prominent Officer. One young woman is running because she is trying to be reunited with her family after being given permission to stay in Germany because of her skills as a nurse. Another younger woman is running away from both the Germans and the Russians because of her nationality. And the last young man is a German officer who is desperately trying to prove himself as courageous without actually doing anything that requires sacrifice. This cast of misfits intertwine with each other and use and help each other in order to get onto the boat.

Like all war stories, this one has a tragic ending for all involved, even those who survive the wreck. Those who survive are fortunate, yet have to live with the visions of seeing hundreds of people, fellow passengers and asylum seekers, die in the waters around them.

I can’t help but think about all of these people who survived and how they most likely spent their lives living with post-traumatic stress disorder. And not only that, but this book made me start to think about intergeneration trauma: trauma that is transmitted to next generations.

In an article in Psychology Today by Molly Castelloe, she includes this thought:

Transmission is the giving of a task. The next generation must grapple with the trauma, find ways of representing it and spare transmitting the experience of hell back to one’s parents. A main task of transmission is to resist disassociating from the family heritage and “bring its full, tragic story into social discourse.” (Fromm, xxi)

So perhaps we need stories about WWII because we aren’t finished sharing the trauma and the stories. Perhaps people like my parents, who both had fathers in WWII, need to write and produce art that still tells the stories of their parents. Perhaps a world that is afraid of another war, because Veterans from WWII and the Vietnam, Korean, and Gulf Wars, needs to share and tell stories about WWII in order to carry the trauma into the future in order to find healing. In a world that is in desperate need of healing, perhaps stories are the way to healing.

story

Source: http://izquotes.com/quote/342421

“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.” -Phillip Pullman

 

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“The Outside Circle”: hope for healing

Two items came across my Facebook creeping this week. Both are timely and important.

The first: a video of Wab Kinew talking about common stereotypes Canadians have about Aboriginal people.

The second: an article from the Toronto Star by Noah Richler called “The hard, important truths of Indigenous literature: The “truth” in Truth and Reconciliation is not a surprise to readers of Canadian and First Nations stories.”

Maybe I am more aware of these videos and articles because I have chosen to be aware, or maybe all of Canada is becoming more aware. Reconciliation. That is a heavy word and it requires action, not just reports and acknowledgement. Even in Calgary, there is talk about renaming the Langevin Bridge (Langevin was one of the men who spearheaded the residential schools). Action and awareness.

Perry Bellegarde, Murray Sinclair
Source: http://www.macleans.ca/politics/for-the-record-political-leaders-on-residential-schools/

I have had the graphic novel The Outside Circle sitting on my ‘to-read’ pile for a while. Wow. What a powerful, emotional, important story!

circle
Source: http://houseofanansi.com/products/the-outside-circle

The Outside Circle tells the story of an Aboriginal man in Alberta who goes through stages of healing after a rough beginning. Issues of residential schools, the 60s Scoop (where children were put into foster care), disturbing stats on Aboriginal youth in Alberta and Canada, number of Aboriginal people in prisons, and also the power of walking the Red Road (a conscious decision to live the right path of life).

This is a novel I hope every Canadian reads. It truly gives some perspective into the pain, anger, and shame some Aboriginal people feel and the effects these emotions have on their lives, their families, and their communities. Throughout the novel, the images by Kelly Mellings are powerful and staggering.

For more information on the graphic novel, here is a great interview with Patti LaBoucane-Benson (author of the graphic novel) and a woman who has beat the odds and is a graduate of the Spirit of the Warrior Program, run by Native Counselling Services of Alberta.

In the interview, Patti LaBoucane-Benson states that today’s First Nations people are bleeding colonial history. There is a direct connection and is a historic trauma response. She also says that this generation needs to learn: we need education on who our first people are and the relationship we have.

tattoo.4
Source: http://thewalrus.ca/a-hard-road-to-walk/

Although fictional, this graphic novel, the story of Peter Carver, is a similar story for hundreds of First Nations people in Canada. This novel also shows the importance of programming within the prison system and especially before people end up in prison. There is a potential for change in Canada. I hope that there is a change in how Canadians see Aboriginal people and how Aboriginal people see themselves. Our entire country needs healing.

“My goal in this book was to tell the truth, whether it was an ex-gang member that picked it up or someone from the government who’s in charge of policy.” (Patti LaBoucane-Benson)

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3)

healing
Source: http://www.yesmagazine.org/peace-justice/first-nations-take-their-last-march-canada-s-dystopian-tar-sands

“We Were Liars”: mind games

We Were Liars, E. Lockhart. What?! If you have read the book, you know. If you have not read the book, according to the jacket cover, “If anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.”

This was another work Book Club book where the students chose it. No one predicted what the outcome would be, but now that I’ve finished reading it, all my questions along the way are finally answered.

liars
Source: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16143347-we-were-liars

Some of my favourite things:
-It included a map and a family tree.
-It included a few twists and turns.
-It was shocking and upsetting.
-It had rewritten Fairy Tales.
-Like any good thriller, it had clues along the way.
-I actually hated some of the characters and was disgusted by their actions.

So, well done E. Lockhart. Even if I wanted to guess and predict what the book was about, there is no way I would have gone where she went. That being said, I can’t wait to get back to work so I can talk with the Book Club about their reactions.

**SPOILER** If you wanted to read the book, stop reading this blog! 🙂

What is it about human nature that has us so fascinated with mystery and the supernatural? I think of myself and my love for the bizarre. Tim Burton movies. The X-Files. Supernatural. The Others. That idea of what happens to us after death is something that at times consumes our thoughts. I know that I believe in ghosts and spirits on earth. I’m not sure I fully understand ghosts or why I believe in them, yet it is just something that intuitively makes sense to me. So, reading We Were Liars poses a great question: are ghosts real or are they things that our minds make up?

ghost
Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/10/28/most-haunted-canada-place_n_4169116.html

Our minds are capable of a lot, including keeping us safe after traumatic experiences. I like to think that if We Were Liars was a movie it would be a beautiful mix between Fight Club and The Others. In the book, the main character Cadence spends an entire summer with her cousins in a beach house on her Grandfather’s East Coast island. At the end of the summer it is revealed that her cousins are dead and have been dead for two years. So, were the cousins ghosts or creations of her mind trying to protect her from the awful truth?

A group did some research on brains and how they can create ‘ghosts’:
“We show that when there is some damage to the brain or some trick played by a robot, a second representation of our body arises in a way that gets perceived by us but not as our body but as the presence of another human being. Physically this presence is already hidden inside our minds.” How bizarre! Our brains are so fascinating and it is amazing what they can do in order to shield and protect us.

That being said, I still like to believe that the spirit world is close by and that in those special thin spaces we are able to connect more closely with those we have loved and lost. And I know I’m not the only one interested in ghosts, because Canada Post has created a whole series of stamps that pay homage to the most famous ghosts of Canada.

stamps
Source: http://canadianstampnews.com/halloween-also-includes-coins-stamps/

“Dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.” (Ecclesiastes 12:7)
“Be sad, be sorry-but don’t shoulder it.” (E. Lockhart)

liar
Source: https://www.pinterest.com/butlerpublic/we-were-liars/