Taking time to heal and deal with grief
I wanted to write a little more about myself, as completing the assignment today for the VOF programme brought up some issues for me. I mentioned in my journal how when i looked at some of the ways I used Web 2.0 i realised I had buried myself in my paid work over the last year. But actually, looking back, I realised that I had buried my voice since 2005. And I had not really spoken out about many things since then.
In August 2005 two things occurred that really affected me and my confidence deeply and affected how authentically I interacted with my friends, family and peers. The main thing was the death of my father. I had been a carer for my father who has suffered from dementia for several years beforehand, supporting my mother as she did everything to make sure he remained at home, and did not go into a care home. I willingly supported her in that, but it did take a toll on my opportunities, happiness and emotional wellbeing. Mainly because i did not share how sad it made me and ask for support.
The other thing was as a result of my activism at the United Nations to raise awareness of the plight of Indigenous women in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) of Bangladesh. Myself and other Indigenous activists called for the UN Department of Peacekeeping to have greater accountability of military and civilian personnel serving abroad in conflict areas, and for the UN to check the human rights records of the military to ensure rapists did not get sent abroad. We cited the CHT as an example where the Bangladesh Army had a well documented history of gender based violence and rapes, and these same personnel were then sent to places like Congo, Sierra Leone, Libera and had also been accused of raping women and in one case a young boy there as well. This led to uproar, especially amongst the Army in Bangladesh. And it also led to the Government wanting to charge those of us that had been at the UN with bringing the good name of Bangladesh into disrepute. We were fortunate enough that we had done nothing wrong, merely exercising and civil and political rights, and Amnesty mounted a small and successful campaign to get the Government to drop the case.
Both these things happened within days of each other, and so the case did not impact on me til much later as I was so distraught at the death of my father. Grief is an emotion of the voice and throat, according to chinese medicine. And i felt i had lost my voice and my ability to think clearly about some of the issues I felt really passionately about. I did many things to regain my voice over the years, but i found myself expressing myself through my photographs and films, which always focussed on the most disadvantaged in society. It took me many years and many people to help me regain the confidence I had before and to put the loss i felt into perspective, and to recognise the fear I had felt at the perceived persecution and discrimination I underwent at that time from larger forces or governments.
But, I suppose all of those things have made me stronger. And I feel now I want to regain my authentic voice and to speak out again about some of the issues I am passionate about, without fear of reprisal. As it is only in doing so that I will be proud of myself, and know that my father is also proud of me, for being me and happy again in myself, which is all he would ever want for me.
And for any of you who have lost loved ones, here is a poem that helped me greatly.
Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep
Do not stand at my grave and weep;
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.
By Mary Elizabeth Frye, 1932
And here is a link to a blog I set up about my dad's life:
Here are some links to some of the statements I presented at the UN: