questions to ask after an estranged departure (maybe we will talk in the spirit world)

by Gillian Joseph


Many of our families are forced to navigate the intergenerational alongside the interpersonal. Colonial trauma can manifest in so many ways, including fracturing relationships we haven’t even had a chance to form. When someone passes away before we can (re)connect with them, we’re inevitably left with more questions than answers. 

I’ve spent a lot of time recently thinking about the unique kind of grief that arises when we lose someone who we’ve had a difficult relationship with. Death might seem like the last door closed on any opportunity to build or repair a relationship. In this piece, I wanted to explore death without finality. What if transition is the beginning? Are we allowed to be curious and excited about the possibilities of forming relationships after death? How can the spirit world guide us to conversations and teachings that weren’t able to take place in the physical world? The collage I’ve put together is my way of capturing these questions that have surfaced in the aftermath of an estranged departure.

Gillian Joseph (they/them) is a queer 2-Spirit Ihaŋktoŋwaŋ and Mdewakaŋtoŋ Dakota storyteller who grew up as a guest on Waxhaw and Catawba lands. They’re passionate about creating art that collapses colonial boundaries by re-imagining time, carving out pathways for knowledge sharing, and building restorative worlds. Find them online at

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