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[personal profile] hollymath
Thanks to a link from a link on [personal profile] silveradept's latest collection of links, I found something that ties in with what I wrote about the Doctor Who episode "Smile" the other day.

It's an episode called "The Myth of Closure," of a podcast called On Being and it seems to be about several myths about grief that our societies have taught us, like that it's a linear process we progress through and emerge from in a straightforward way. And it does talk about immigration as a state that involves grieving for what's been left behind, no matter how positively the decision was made.
MS. TIPPETT: Pauline Boss is an Emeritus Professor at the University of Minnesota. Her 1999 book Ambiguous Loss coined a phrase that has become a field in psychology and family therapy. She grew up in a first generation Swiss-American immigrant family in Wisconsin.

And you said, “Homesickness was an essential part of my family’s culture.”

DR. BOSS: It was. I think it may be true for all immigrant families, but it certainly was for mine. And it was even in the village because there were many immigrant families there.

And so it became a sort of pathos that would be in the family when we weren’t even aware of it, except that I could see the sadness periodically, like when my father would get a letter from Switzerland, or worse yet, a letter with a black rim around it, which meant announcement of death in the family.

So, I was always aware that there was another family somewhere, and that there was some homesickness, except where was home? And I figured that home was in Wisconsin where we lived, but yet I knew he had this other family across the Atlantic that he pined for.

And my maternal grandmother was the same. And, of course, she refused to learn English. She said she lost her mountains, she lost her mother, she lost her friends, and she wasn’t going to lose her language. So I think that, too, is not unusual for immigrant families today, especially the elders.

MS. TIPPETT: One thing reading that about your family made me reflect on is that we talk a lot about immigrants, right? And especially now. And we even talk about things like people sending money back to family. But we don’t kind of acknowledge the grief or that homesickness or that sadness, that loss that must always be there, even when people have made a choice to go far away.

DR. BOSS: I think that’s part of our American culture that we don’t want to hear that. We don’t just deny death in our culture, I think we deny ambiguous loss that comes with things like immigration. And homesickness comes along with that and we really want people to get over it.

And they don’t. And in fact, it’s paradoxical. The more you want people to get over it, the longer it will take for them. And why not remember your former country, your former island, your former culture while you’re learning to fit into the new one? In other words, having two cultures is what it ends up being. And you have one foot in the old and one foot in the new. And one can live that way. That may be the most honest way to do it.
"We talk a lot about immigrants now," the interviewer says, and I don't actually think that's true. We talk a lot about immigration, in terms of swarms and statistics, but we don't talk about immigrants as people. We don't talk about the old people who've lost their mountains and their mothers and so refuse to lose their language. We don't talk about people who get black-rimmed letters or the modern equivalent.

We struggle to allow people any kind of actual grief because it's messy and awkward and makes us uncomfortable. But we'll never think of immigration as something that involves grief until we get past thinking of it as economic statistics or political debate. Until we think of the people and not just the abstraction: immigrants, not immigration.
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