Healing from trauma, with the help of a book

October 19, 2021

English Department chair Allison Bass-Riccio recently had the opportunity to speak as part of a month-long conversation on Toni Morrison’s book “Beloved.”

Held at the Ferguson Library in Stamford, Connecticut, the NEA Big Read provides programs and book discussions to the local community, by broadening one’s understanding of the world, community, and themselves through the joy of sharing a good book, according to the Ferguson Library website.

For Bass-Riccio, speaking about “Beloved” was an honor. She wrote her master’s thesis on the 1987 novel 10 years ago, and is still inspired by the book’s messaging to this day. Her presentation, titled “Healing from Trauma – Exploring the Personal Grief Process Through the Lens of Toni Morrison’s Beloved,” focused on three losses that Bass-Riccio sustained in her life, and how messaging in “Beloved” helped her through the process.

“I realized that there were some similarities in the grieving process in the novel and in my own life,” reflected Bass-Riccio. She continued by explaining that grief is a necessary part of one’s life, and to avoid it only makes it worse. “Grief hurts, it’s uncomfortable, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad or negative. It’s part of our life cycle, it’s part of being a human.”

Two mantras that Bass-Riccio follows to this day from “Beloved” are to “love thickly,” and that “you are your own best thing.” Toward the end of the novel, the main character, Sethe, receives support from her community, something Bass-Riccio found to be critical for her own healing. “In my early 20s, I really founded my life and tried to wrap my life around loving thickly, and now I try to wrap my life around the idea of being my own best thing. I deserve community, healthy emotions, and support, and I apply that in my job … and try to help other adults and students recognize that they are their own best thing and that they deserve that as well.”