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Unexpected Healing

By Elizabeth Collins

Saturday Sinead Crumlish came to speak with us about photojournalism and the important role photographers played in capturing “The Troubles” photographically. As the discussion developed we got a bit off the topic of photography but we asked her questions about how she was affected during the troubled time. Although she stated that she hadn’t really been affected, her response revealed something much different. She spoke to us at length about checkpoints she had to go through every day; seeing British soldiers on the street day in and day out, not feeling safe entering the city, seeing her brother taken out of her house at gun point, and more – I’d say that she was largely affected by “The Troubles”, wouldn’t you? 

…As one of my favorite comedians might say… 

I told you that story to tell you this one… 

Today we met with Maureen Hetherington who developed the Towards Understanding and Healing organization (TUH). This organization’s purpose is to “facilitate creative conversation and thinking that moves beyond personal and societal conflict”. TUH retreats and workshops allow people from both sides and family and friends affected by the conflict here to recollect and divulge their personal stories in order to promote recovery. 

Maureen explained to us that in the early stages of the organization she had heard from many ex-combatants and family members. One day, Maureen was caught off guard when another facilitator that would generally be seen as on the opposing side of her, asked for her story. She recalled feeling surprised yet touched that someone wanted to know what she had been through. This unexpectedly allowed her to explore her story as well as experience the process she had facilitated others through. Maureen said that after she described her story she felt empowered, which immediately struck me. I instantaneously thought of Sinead, the photographer we met on Saturday. It made me wonder if we had possibly opened a door for her to explore her story. When we were asking her questions it seemed as if she hadn’t been asked before what things were like for her; we could tell her answers were raw, honest, and truthful. Maybe, hopefully, she found a bit of unexpected healing.

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