Narrative and Silence: How Former Refugees Talk about Loss and Past Trauma

Using narrative methodology this paper analyses the life stories of 25 former refugees from two African countries, resettled in Australia. Study findings demonstrated a salient divergence between the stories of the two communities; within which there were also individual differences in structure and content of participants’ narratives. Five narrative types were identified along a continuum from detailed disclosure to near-complete silence about traumatic events and experiences. They were: (1) avoiding narratives; (2) struggling narratives; (3) prompted narratives; (4) narratives exceeding demarcated boundaries of disclosure; and (5) returning narratives. We discuss these differences in narrative structure, narrated experience, identity reconstruction, and meaning-making within the context of the personal, interpersonal, sociocultural and historical influences that have shaped the lives of participants. Findings were supported by interviews with 25 resettlement agency staff. Broader implications of the study’s findings for therapists and researchers working with refugees are also discussed.

Teresa Puvimanasinghe, Linley A. Denson, Martha Augoustinos, Daya Somasundaram | 2015
In: Journal of Refugee Studies = ISSN 0951-6328 | 28 | 1 | 69-92