Re-membering Conversations

Posted by on Jun 18, 2018 in Uncategorised | 5 comments

Introducing re-membering conversations

by Tileah Drahm-Butler

Re-membering reciprocal relationships

by Chris Dolman

A reflection from Aunty Barbara Wimgard

Now please read a reflection from Aunty Barbara about Chris' video:

Bringing lost loved ones into our conversations: Talking about loss in honouring ways.

Who’s your mob? Aboriginal mapping: Beginning with the strong story

This article by Justin Butler describes ways in which his conversations are guided by Aboriginal worldviews and narrative therapy:

'Who's your mob? Aboriginal mapping: Beginning with the strong story' by Justin Butler


Saying hullo again when we have lost someone we love

Carolynanha Johnson

Having a yarn with those who've passed on.

This short piece of writing by Carolynanha Johnson is about having a yarn with those who have passed on.

Creative Letters to Elders of my Past and Present

In this video Annette Dudley describes a project about writing letters to significant Elders who have influenced her on my life journey.

Re-membering Practices

Now please read this article from Paul Martin about Re-membering Practices.

Reflecting on re-membering conversations

by Tileah Drahm-Butler


  1. Chris Dolman and David Denborough have given me a lot to think about as I reflect on the western and pathologizing ways of experiencing grief. It has given me so much to think about in terms of those situations where the ‘stages of grief’ are just not ‘working’ for people – the notion of saying hello again is so beautiful and healing. I really appreciated that.

  2. Re-membering and honouring our lost loved ones is such a great way to help people turn grief and sadness around and as Barbara Wingard states; ‘mainstream ways of talking about grief, there is sometimes a focus on the actual pain’. I loved Chris Dolmans video on “Re-membering reciprocal relationships”, how he was able to turn a simple statement into an honouring of re-membering of the lost loved one and bringing forward that story to be built upon thus refocusing the pain from the self to re-emerge into a re-membering and honouring of the Other (the lost loved one) and possibly other people who are still in their lives.

    Justin Butler’s paper “Who’s your mob? Aboriginal mapping: Beginning with the strong story”, was a refreshing read and as an Aboriginal person, I could relate to what he was saying about the Aboriginal mapping questions because its common to ask another Aboriginal person these 3 questions and to find out if we are related or connected in some way. In relation to re-membering I feel these questions keep our history and our ancestor alive. The article, Re-membering Practices by Paul Martin, he writes; “I feel  when thinking of  ways of  re-membering are we limited in what we are enquiring about  in conversations, are we always  looking to reconnect with the ones that we have lost or is it possible we are looking to find parts of ourselves that may have been lost or forgotten through time”. This gives another spin on re-membering as I feel it widens the scope for deeper “innerstanding” (understanding) of our personal journeys with those loved ones who may have helped influence that journey.

  3. I was really intrigued by the Aboriginal Mapping article by Justin Butler. Particularly the questions he posed that asked what one might speculate about how their continued cultural practices or ways of living would be seen by their ancestors. It takes the idea of re-membering conversations and applies them to ancestral contexts. What a brilliant way to intimately connect past, present and future in the most respectful acknowledging of culture, kin, land, and family.

  4. Reflecting on the reading material and video’s watched I have been made more aware of while a person is sharing their story to look for ‘ Acts of resistance’ and ‘Personal agency’ in their stories and to get them to give more detail to where they may have got this from. I have a guide to use now when dealing with indigenous inmates who have lost a love one. What stood out for me was getting the person to tell me their thoughts on how they may have contributed to the life of whom they speak about. I think this would benefit the person, as they are in prison isolated from family and can have feelings of shame, not being able to attend the service. Creating the space for the person to see by talking about the positive effects they have made to another person’s life and becoming more aware of their own identity, would be very powerful to use with indigenous males.

  5. A reflection on Re-membering Practices by Cheree Morton

    Saying Hullo Again (White 2016, p. 95) resonates with me. I am often yarning to clients who have lost a family member and the hullo again metaphor strikes a chord with me as I am sure it would with my clients as each of them are finding ways to deal with the loss of a loved one in their life.

    My client stated that she was feeling depressed because she had a lot of sorry business over Christmas and lost her sister/cousin (In Aboriginal culture we describe our cousins as our sister/cousin or cousin/sister which is culturally respectful and honouring). I thought about the hullo metaphor and began asking her re-membering questions. I first began to have a discussion with her about externalising the depression explaining that the depression she was feeling was outside of who she is, separate from her, she looked confused so I continued with the re-membering questions with her.

    After yarning with her about Aboriginal people being spiritual people and discussing the way we often carry the people we have lost with us (Wingard, B 2001), we also had a yarn about honouring our people who had passed away and that it was ok to do so if she wished, (Wingard B 2011), She began to elaborate saying, “our family who passed away are always with us, but I still feel lost without her”.

    I said, “How does the loss make you feel’?

    She said, “Isolated, worrying all the time for my children”

    I said, “If your sister were here now, what do you think she would say about the way you are trying to deal with her passing and about the worrying you have for your children”?.

    She said, “I don’t know, I guess she would want me to be the best Mum I can be to my children and to stop worrying for my children”.

    I said, “What would your sister say about you as a mother to your children”?

    She said, “She would say I am a good mother, a caring loving mother”,

    I felt my re-membering questions began to fade so I started yarning with the kids about their attendance at school, one of the children was a brilliant artist, I said to her, “would you draw me a picture or a painting that would describe the feelings you are having that stops you from returning to school and show me next week when I come over for a visit”? She said, “Yes”, as she enthusiastically nodded her head. As I left the family home, the mother, said, “Thankyou sis, I feel so good”

    As I was driving back to my office I began thinking about the following week when I meet with the family again and how I could continue the re-membering yarns with the family as I could see that they resonated with them and the family began to open up because my clients face lit up when I asked her questions about her sister/cousin.

    I was also reminded of another conversation I had with a client.

    She described the frustration she felt with family members who were interfering in her relationship and how her x-partner had let her down. She began to describe herself as a failure as a mother because her relationship “failed”, she further explained, she moved into a new home, applied for domestic violence order because her x-partner was abusive toward her and transferred the children to a new school.

    Sometimes in Aboriginal culture, when you marry or have children with an Aboriginal man or woman you often take on the whole family, Aboriginal people often have this joke with one another, in our family we do. We are very family orientated and sometimes this can feel like a hindrance for people who are not aware of the bond we share with our Aboriginal families.

    I began to explain the club of life to my client, I further explained that there are good and bad people in our club of life and we can sift out the bad people who don’t serve us or our families well and keep the good people in our club of life, those who make a positive contribution to our lives” (Russell & Carey, 2004 p.47).

    I said, “How does the failure make you feel”

    She said, “Debilitating”.

    I said, “if you were to name the failure, what would you call it”?

    She said, “draining”

    I said, “If you could see yourself through another’s eyes, and see how you moved house to a safe environment for your children, you applied for a domestic violence order and you left the abusive relationship, what would you say about that person”?

    She said, “I would say that that person was a good mother, a mother who put her children first, strong and resilient, a person who could do whatever she wanted when she put her mind to it”.

    I said, “would there be a name that could describe that person”.

    She said, “yes, strong woman”

    I again felt my landscape of enquiry began to dwindle but when I reflect back on my conversation with this client I could see the potential for a sparkling moment and re-authoring of the the thin description my client had of the failure.

    Having a yarn with those who’ve passed away (Johnson 2018), I began thinking about our ancestors and how important it is to keep their legacy alive, to honour them. I thought about questions I could implement with clients who often speak about their ancestors with sadness and mourn at the loss of them and other family members.

    I reflected on questions such as those described in the Remembrance: Women and Grief and Loss (Denborough, Pitcher, Leibeherr & Hedtke 2011), with particular focus on three themes, the cultural, the spiritual and the legacy questions. Some questions I reflected on were;

    “Are there any things about our ancestors who have passed away that you would want to carry forward in life for you and your family’?

    “Do you think our ancestors had cultural ways of responding to grief and loss that would be significant to you’?

    “As you deal with the grief and loss of your ancestors, culture and language, can you think of ways our ancestors would want us to engage spiritually and culturally to keep their legacy alive”?

    What questions did the readings/videos raise?

    The following is more of a thought rather than a question or a dilemma. Aunty Barbara Wingard (2001) talks about how Aboriginal people sit in silence because of the loss of a loved one is to painful to speak about. I find the Aboriginal people in my community have forgotten how to honour their loved ones who have passed.

    Re-membering conversations give our people, our families permission to talk about their loved ones who have passed in respectful and honouring ways, thereby keeping the spirit of the loved one who has passed away alive because their spirit is our spirit.

    Our ancestor’s voices weren’t often heard and as a result Aboriginal people can sometimes feel like they are not heard, that they don’t have a voice, maybe that’s why they are silent. I’ve named this, “silent tears behind a bottle” because too often drinking is how some of my people choose to cope with grief and loss.

    Some Aboriginal people in my community have forgotten how to grieve a lost loved one, re-membering conversations help us to honour them and to sit collectively and celebrate them as their spirit lives on in us and through us, their spirit is in the land, the trees, the rivers, oceans and the animals that often visit us from time to time to let us know that they are near.

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