By Lakenzie Walls and Howard Rambsy II
In Nafissa Thompson-Spires's final story, “Wash Clean the Bones,” we meet Alma who's is struggling with endometriosis. Moonlighting as a funeral singer, Alma uses the money to fund her fertility treatments. Soon after her son is born, it sometimes felt “like another adhesion, a growth on her future happiness” (195).
Alma usually finds herself at the graveside of several young Black boys who have fallen victim to gun violence. This causes her to reflect on her brother's passing, whose femur she keeps wrapped and stored in her closet.
What's one way that this story led you to reconsider something, or how did the story prompt you to give more thought to an idea that you previously glossed over?
Stories like this don't necessarily cause me to reconsider anything, although I will say I like seeing how different people cope with harsh situations.
One thing this story led me to think more on is the depth of how different types of trauma can linger and affect one's life. Alma goes through various difficult and traumatic experiences that drive her to do things some would deem "crazy" or "unusual"; attempting to drown her son, for example. Especially in someone like Alma's case, who's worked so hard for so long to have a child of their own, you'd think it'll be backwards to go though all the steps she went through to have a child just to kill them. However, this would be the thought process of someone that hasn't gone through some of the highly damaging things like Alma. This alone made me look differently at how traumatizing events could lead one's entire mind and thinking process to be altered.
This story led me to give more thought to funeral singers. Before, I never considered why they chose that occupation or how the job could impact them. I would figure that job would be depressing but, like Alma, people may just need the money.
The story prompted me to give more thought to the idea of how different situations, including gun violence affects everyone differently. I know everyone reacts to their own situations in a different way and reading the story has really helped me give more thought to that. Some people may never recover from difficult situations and others may recover very fast. Reading this story made me realize that not everyone grieves the same way, but instead, everyone has their own way and process of grieving.
This story had prompted me to think more about how parenthood (especially motherhood) can add to one's trauma or cause past traumatic experiences to resurface. Alma's story has definitely shown how difficult parenting can be when going through both physical and emotional trauma, especially in regards to the complex feelings she had harbored for her son. I am sure that society as a whole would shame people like Alma who may feel that their children are a burden in some way, and although I am not saying that Alma had a healthy response to those feelings, I do think that we as a society could do a much better job at providing support to parents who are experiencing trauma, instead of immediately demonizing them (which could help prevent child abuse).
This story made reflect on how I handle my traumas and "demons" if you will, and as a young woman I always thought I was doing my best to get through them. But no matter how I got through it the people around me including strangers can still see the wounds that I tried to heal and reminded me I have to try harder and have a different approach to dealing with it. As a people we always look down upon getting healing from our traumas, it's almost as if we want to carry the baggage around because we are either to scared to let go or because that is all we know how to do. It also shows me that we have a choice to heal from our wounds and scars if we are willing to unravel the pain that we tend to bury in order to keep up with life.
From this story I am able to realize the effects of traumatic events and how they can carry in into our personal lives not only from personal experiences but from the experiences related to your surrounding environments. Therefore I think it is important to take in consideration Alma’s current situation by having a black son and seeing the constant reminder that there is no way for her to protect her black son, also how she can protect herself from her endometriosis.
This story has led me to really reflect on how one's past, traumatic experiences can really affect one's thoughts and actions. All of Alma's experiences has led her to act in different ways that may seem "crazy" to others. Her story shows how trauma can affect someone's life.
This story led me to rethink about how my Aunt and Uncle run a funeral home as the family business. Growing up I never thought about it but didn't like going there because If i was there that meant someone close to me died. After reading this story I am thinking about how some of my family deals with dead bodies and watch people mourn and cry for a lost loved one and they have been doing this for so many years. I wonder how much of a toll it takes on their mentality as it seems it can be very rough to deal with at times.
I'm not sure if she's a nurse but hearing these stories and how they affect Alma made me rethinking how nurses must feel especially on certain floors with more admission. The line "...level three-praying that the children would die, that mercy and grace would shorten their suffering..." on page 191 really makes me think about how devastating it must be to see someone like that. I think about how loved ones in my life have passed and while it hurts to know they're gone, I feel grateful they didn't suffer during their final moments.
This story prompted me to analyze how people deal with trauma and how I specifically deal with trauma especially the loss of a loved one. I believe that at some point people deserve eternal rest especially if they were old or suffering and despite those two factors others around me might still consider it a painful loss. I tend not to understand how deep some people's loss is based on my own perspective of death being a "savior".
This story prompted me to think more about the importance of coping with death and trauma. I think that Alma constantly surrounding herself with loss shows that she is significantly being affected by the constant deaths of black males. I think this shows the extreme manner in which trauma can affect someone and the way they live their lives. Alma holding on to her brother’s femur shows that she can’t let him go and that that loss is still controlling her decisions. I think that in the black community, where death due to gun violence has kind of become a daily occurrence, we have become somewhat desensitized to the news that another black person has lost their life. We grieve and we feel for the victim’s family but we aren’t surprised by the news anymore. And this suggests that we as a community similar to Alma don’t cope with these losses rather we just accept them.
When I read this story it made me think differently about how different types of trauma may affect people. Some people, like myself, tend to just bottle up and hide any pain or emotions, but for others it can greatly affect the way they do/think about things in life. I have always been the one to say that people should have thick skin and tough out whatever they are going through, but I've started to realize that this is not how everyone should/does deal with traumatic experiences.
This story has led me to think deep when it comes to judging people by the action they take. Its not until you walk in another person's shoes that you will understand the reasons why they did what they did. We should let people grieve in their own way without judgment no matter how weird it may be for us.
This story led me to reconsider how traumatic experiences affect people is so many different ways. Alma has been through many different situations that have caused trauma in her life which is why some might see her actions as crazy. However, these experiences are what cause her to react the way she does. This is essentially why I think it is necessary to understand what someone might be going through before judging their actions.
This story made me think about how trauma can have a strong hold on someone no matter how long ago it was and how it can affect someone's futures action. Seeing how many POC gets murdered by gun violence makes me afraid to have kids because they might be next. It also makes me rethink about the traumas that I have but don't even realize because it became normal to me now.
I can say that this story has led me to consider how someone's past and traumatic experiences can ultimately take over and affect their future. With Alma for example she suffers from night terrors and overwhelming thoughts that take a toll on her. Knowing this, I can say that I try not to like the past consume me because life does go on and I don't want to mess up my future steady being stuck in a dark past.
After reading the story, this had me realize how traumatic this can affect a person's thoughts, action, and their well-being. I for one can relate to this because this has happened to me multiple times throughout my life and how I will proceed with my life afterward.
This story made me reconsider how traumatic certain events can be for someone and what that could result in. From the beginning of the book when Fatima had a predetermined attitude for plus size women because of bullying she endured to Alma trying to drown her son. Sometimes event can effect you more in the long run than you may think. They can rewire your mind completely and change how you react to certain things.
This story made me think about the feelings of those not directly connected to a tragedy. Alma was a funeral singer and the deceased weighed on her mind. I feel like this could be the same in other professions, such as a surgeon or soldier. When death is around you, it sticks with you. You take those thoughts and emotions home with you. I guess I just never considered how far an action can reach.
This story did not really lead me to reconsider anything. I have experienced similar things in my life, so the story more so just added to my understanding of trauma and how people cope differently.
This story led me to think about trauma and it really shows how trauma can permanently affect someone's life forever. Alma may seem to act "crazy", but she only acts this way because of all of the things she has been through. it really just shows you how life's experiences shape and mold your life.
The story led me to reconsider how traumatic experiences shape a person outlook. I have always knew that these experiences change a person but I never fully realized how it changes their mental stability but also how they do things in their everyday life.
This story made me think about the different effects that trauma can have on different people. Especially gun violence, when most people hear or see a story about gun violence they are obviously upset. However, you never truly know how you will react and feel in that type of situation until you are put in that situation yourself. I feel like in this story we are shown how people may deal with grief and how long it can last in certain cases.
This story helped me to look more into the idea of unbiased and double Conscience within black people throughout our daily jobs and our entire life. I feel throughout this story a lot of different views on things could have been taken but these were the two I focused on me because I don’t really pay attention to things like bias or double conscience . -Alleson H.
This story led me to think more about how trauma affects a persons life. The story showed that people may cope with the trauma they have faced in many different ways and how such traumatic experiences can effect a persons thoughts and actions.
This story seems particularly relevant with the perspective of recent events in mind. I don't have to state the obvious, but it's clear that the persistence of young lives lost can be sure to leave lasting emotional effects. Alma's trauma is quite literally carried with her, and it just speaks to all the baggage that we all carry in some way, albeit in numerous different circumstances. It's quite harrowing of a idea to think that a beautiful moment such as the birth of a child can also come encompassed with tons of fears, grief, and trauma.
This story caused me to reconsider that trauma affects people differently.
When people pass away some people want to keep sentimental things that remind them of that person and others cannot stand to see anything related to or connected to that person. I have not personally lost someone close to me (sorry for the losses of those that have) but right now I feel like at first, I would not want to see anything connected to them but that may change. I am not sure how the trauma of death would affect me.
This story made me reconsider what actually goes through the minds of some people who go through bad experiences often. You would think that eventually, when you've experienced it so many times that you would become numb to it, but that is not the case. There is still a feeling of "something" there that needs to be addressed but cannot because the current situation at hand has more priority than that something, which is handled at a later time. That something could vary between grieve, anger, denial or depression. You never know what that negativity can do to someones mind and there needs to be a sense of caution when dealing with someone who's had constant negative experiences.
This story made me think a lot about parenthood and the trauma that comes along with being a parent. It also made me think about how people alll process things drastically differently
This story made me think a lot about parenthood and the trauma that comes along with being a parent. It also made me think about how people alll process things drastically differently
This story makes me consider the affects that trauma really does have on people. Especially poc. Alma was so affected by trauma that she decided it would be better to attempt to take her own sons life than have him grow up in this world.
This story gave me insight into how people handle their individual experiences differently than the next person would. One person could go through all that Alma has been through, and be able to push through it and keep their head above water but Alma really struggles, and she does not handle her traumas and experiences this way.
There are others who work in hospitals or with dead people in general, and while they will have their moments of being overwhelmed, they can kind of form a detachment to get through the job. For Alma, however, the deaths of these people around her drag her down and interfere with her mental state greatly.
This story led me to reconsider the different ways people process trauma. The fact that Alma keeps her brother's femur in her closet is quite strange to me but I had to recognize that everyone has their own coping mechanisms.
This made me consider other ways that people cope with their trauma. I have one of my own but and I usually cope by joking around with a friend who has experienced the same. Alma showed my that there are extreme coping mechanisms out there that I have yet to consider. I thought it was really strange that she kept her brother's femur. From that, we can really tell that there is something going on with her mentally, and it also translates into the relationship she has with her son.
This story has prompted me to really reflect on how one's past can really affect one's thoughts and actions It also taught me to look at the bigger picture with consideration of people's feelings.
-Ashanti Young, 4/16/21
One thing that this story made me think a lot more about is mental health along with parenthood. Pain and trauma definitely takes a toll on one’s mental health and this story had me thinking about that a lot. Alma was going through physical pain, which probably ended up causing more damage on her mental health. And along with that she was a single parent who sung at funerals for mostly traumatized parents. I don’t really know what else to say about that but it is a lot to think about. It makes you wonder how many people are going through some hard times and just need someone to talk to.
-Tiffany Ellison, 4/14/21
From reading this short story what stuck out to me was how she decided to have her baby. There’s many ways to conceive a child today and many people don’t understand the choices people make. In the story it talked about her mother and sister not understanding why she chose to have a baby in this untraditional way. Then they stated after the child was born “ that precious baby boy.” It made me think about how everyone is in control of how they run there life, and it’s best for everyone with support from others.
-Vanessa Hovey, 4/17/21
This story made me realize how much trauma can affect people in the long run. Alma's trauma is not only affecting her but it is causing her to affect others as well. When it comes to a loss, I understand why she chose to keep apart of her brother, although it is something someone wouldn't normally have of someone. I myself have a sentimental memory of someone whose loss affected me greatly and it definitely helped me cope with the situation.
Over the course of this novel I have constantly been battling with myself over whether or not I’m allowed to feel for these characters and stories. Growing up mixed in primarily white communities I constantly struggled with where I belonged but I always knew that my heritage was right there with me. This final chapter made me realize the importance of coping and how differently these experiences can affect so many different kinds of people.
This story has taught me about how some people view different black women based on their actions and demeanor. It also made me aware of the gun violence that is persistent in our communities today.
This story led me to give more thought about people who sing at funerals. I never thought of it as a job I thought it was something volunteered not an actual career. Which is why I never had the chance to even consider why they chose that occupation.
This story gave me insight into how different people react to different situations rather it be harsh or not. Like gun violence, it can be serious and it can be hard for people to cope with the situation and then there are others that can move on from the situation. The trauma people go through every day can be unfamiliar to people and that is what makes people unique. Alma really had a very interesting job and because of that job, everybody can just assume that she is depressed because she is always around dead people but she is just trying to earn a living to support her and her newborn. Alma's job does not affect her mental health it is the mere fact that going through pain and trauma can mess you up indefinitely. What I took from this novel is the fact that everyone is different and everyone goes through things that most never have to live through or have lived through but have been able to overcome. To be able to move on you need to be able to accept and find ways to better yourself and others who are going through the same thing.
Her collection uses different meanings to tell her stories , that can also portray many different emotions as well. This story shows that many things can affect ones life in many different ways
I didn't really see anything that made me reconsider anything but it solidified the notion that black women are viewed differently for having emotions.
This story led me to think more about funeral singers and how that job must affect them. Although it can be filled with honor as you are there to use your talent to comfort grieving people, it obviously can be depressing and adds pressure.
This story prompted me to really examine the differences between an individual's initial reaction to trauma as opposed to their actual processing of that trauma. More so the differences between my own reactions and processing and coping methods.
- Kendall Fry, 4/23/21
This story broadened my idea of trauma and how it affects black women. Black women often bear the weight of the world and black community. Gun violence is a prominent issue that takes the lives of many black children, to have an occupation centering around releasing the lives of the many babies killed is to bear the weight of the dead. Trauma affects every single human in immeasurable ways, no one bears the right to title anyone "crazy".
This story really made me think about other people's situations in life. The trauma some people experience and have to live with everyday is something that I don't think about a lot. It is important to think about other people's situations as it allows us to be more sympathetic and care for each other.
This story made me look at my mom's relationship with my brother differently. While we had the privilege of being more sheltered than other black kids, my mom still has to send us out into the world. When Alma was worried about her son's future because she's witnessed so many young black boys funerals and she took so much time, money, and effort just for her miracle baby to be here, I imagine how my mother may feel sending her only son out into this terrible world.
The reading caused me go over past ideas that I may have glossed over by simply showing me that everything is not what it seems multiple times in the book. One thing I have glossed over is basically generalizing the black experience and assuming that we all share the same lot one way or the other. This book showed me that experiences are way more diverse than that, no matter how big the similarities are across experiences. People will always have tweaks to them and point of views change over time. I think this is pretty big for me to let go of as an idea.
-Kaelyn Cupil, 4/27/21
This story led me to reconsider my perception of pregnancy and motherhood. I knew about post-partum depression, but I did not know how severe it could be. Especially for someone who was already going through a grieving process. Towards the end of the story, I read as Alma almost drowned her baby boy. At first, it shocked me that she could try to do such a thing. But later as a I thought about it, and although it was still wrong, I could understand her overwhelming feelings of wanting to keep him "safe" from the rest of the world.
-Chaianna Curry, 4/26/21
This story made me reflect on the idea of pitying women who can't bear children. I feel like it's common to do it especially to women who were born with diseases that they can't control. There have even been instances when people I knew would talk down on women who couldn't have children. I can't imagine how Alma must have felt having to deal with the death of her brother along with her endometriosis.
-Carah F., 4/26/21
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