Facing Our Ghosts of Unresolved Grief | Sojourners

Facing Our Ghosts of Unresolved Grief

‘The Eternal Daughter’ shows us how we can better carry unwelcome burdens.
Julie from 'The Eternal Daughter' (Tilda Swinton) is seen from a side profile staring out a window, where you can see her image reflecting in the glass and a view of a forest in the background.
From The Eternal Daughter

IN HER POEM “Flare,” Mary Oliver writes about grief and the relationship between memory and reality, especially when it comes to parents. She writes: “My mother / was the blue wisteria, / my mother / was the mossy stream out behind the house, / my mother, alas, alas, / did not always love her life, / heavier than iron it was / as she carried it in her arms, from room to room.”

Our relationships with parents are shaped by our memories, what parents tell us about their lives, and what we come to understand about them. The Bible tells us to honor our father and mother, but we can never do that perfectly because we never fully know them. This becomes more poignant when those who raised us are no longer around.

Like Oliver’s poem, Joanna Hogg’s The Eternal Daughter (available on video on demand) captures this liminal, lonely feeling in an intensely personal way. Hogg’s semi-autobiographical film is a ghost story about memory, family, and the pull between the stories we know, the ones we don’t, and unresolved ways they differ.

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The cover image for the May 2023 issue of Sojourners, featuring an illustration of blue disembodied hands pulling white strings in various directions in the shape of the Enneagram symbol. The background is a mixture of bright colors of the rainbow.
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