Clea Jonquil Hargreaves, MAS, E-RYT-500+, Archivist, Researcher, Grief Counsellor, Somatic Therapist, Trauma Informed.
As an archivist, researcher, grief counsellor, somatic therapist, complex trauma survivor and compassionate human it is my desire to provide a safe space for witnessing and healing as we journey together through this beautiful and at times heartbreaking gift of life.
The Greek philosopher Aristotle stated that “Memory is the scribe of the soul” calling awareness to the fact that the body absorbs both life and memory like ink on paper. A compelling observation, Aristotle linked the now scientifically proven theory that physiological effects of trauma are not only stored within our brains and bodies, but that they can also reprogram our autonomic nervous system creating new insights into the effects of trauma, memory, and functional capability. This means that memory can serve to shape not only ourselves but also our societies and the world as a whole, past, present, and future. It also means that memory holds an astonishing amount of power, accurate or not, in a rather uncertain world.
For years I have been enraptured by the connection between memory and preservation, and the increasing awareness that is being explored as a way to explain how grief, loss, trauma and memory affect our most basic functions of life and survival.
Long held as a fundamental assumption of archival theory and practice, the notion of impartiality is being questioned as archival scholars and practitioners examine the nature of emotion, empathy, grief, trauma, and loss in the archives. Grief and loss find resonance not only within the fonds but also with those whose purpose it is to witness and preserve our collective narrative of existence. Sir Hilary Jenkinson stated, “The archivist’s career is one of service. He exists in order to make the other people’s work possible…the good archivist is perhaps the most selfless devotee of truth the modern world produces” (1957, p.23). With Jenkinson’s teachings remaining influential within archival theory and practice one can’t help but wonder if there is a place for tears in the archive, past, present and future. Are we able, and willing, to hold both archival professionalism and form alongside empathy? Must a good archivist hold space for grief, and further, where does the historical and emotional context fit within the natural processes of “good” archival and grief work?
Archival work and grief work are both intrinsically devoted to the documentation and preservation of humanity. In 2013, Samantha Dancunto stated in the article “Dying to Get Archived” that “death is the reason we archive, whether it is the fear of it, the anticipation of it, or the aftermath of death” (2013), leading one to wonder how discussions of grief, loss, and death in the archives have not been more central to our work. One explanation, from psychologist and grief expert Megan Devine, is that “ the way we deal with grief in our culture is broken” (2017, p.xv), linking the socially accepted internalization, and hiding away, of grief in our society to an inability to face the reality of our place in the cycle of life and death. In recognition of the most natural and common aspects of archival work relating directly to grief, death, and trauma, as archivists we must ask ourselves what happens to our holdings and institutions when emotions cease to exist, and further, how to address the emotional denial so embedded in our societal and institutional infrastructures.
In my Master of Archival Studies degree I was able to explore the connection to ephemeral memory and personal story and to study and observe the impact that narrative, trauma, experienced memory and myth, have on our conscious and unconscious minds. I was tasked with research that allowed me to delve into the idea put forth by Dr. Peter A. Levine, PhD, of whether or not “a memory [can] be trusted”, and how that question alone can encompass a myriad of variables including how we define ourselves and what it means to be human. As well, I was able to research the process of archival trauma and memory through the lens of individual and collective survivor testimony and witness how the process of deaccession and repatriation, along with the construction of a safe space for witnessing and voice to emerge, ultimately led to the retelling of their own cultural narrative after experiencing the trauma of dictatorship and the creation of a representative healing space. Throughout my work as a freelance personal archivist and grief counsellor I have repeatedly witnessed the power of memory on both a personal and collective level and continue to learn about the power of memory in aiding and abetting traumas stronghold on individuals, families, community, and the world. Handling and safeguarding the ephemeral and emotional histories of lives lived, loved, and lost, has allowed me to observe the body mind connection and to see how the manifestation of simple and often unconscious acts can be impacted by grief, loss, trauma, memory, and environment, both internal and external, on an individual and collective level.
I believe passionately that everyone deserves to be supported in their grief, trauma and loss and offer unconditional acceptance alongside tools and practices designed to help discover, honour and integrate the numerous individual and collective losses, traumas, and disconnections we all experience within our past, present and future. In combining intellectual, sensory, somatic, and energetic modalities we will be able to illuminate and work with many parts relating to the impermanence of life, loss, and death while exploring how archival work seeks to shape and re-shape the narratives of the past and present allowing for a more expansive and inclusive historical record.
"It is said that in every loss there is an opportunity to uncover and heal the losses of a lifetime. The deeper the loss, the deeper the opportunity" (Stephen Levine).
It is an immense honour to hold space for you as you journey home to yourself, thank you.