Harvey, Brendon (2010) Through the Glass Darkly: Powerful Stories of Parental Loss and Fortitude. In: Narrative, Memory and Ordinary Lives. University of Huddersfield, Huddersfield, pp. 81-92. ISBN 978-1-86218-090-1

This paper will explore the use and abuse of powerful stories of loss and fortitude of parents whose children have been affected by gun and gang-related behaviour. Successive government initiatives have sought to empower communities, enhance community safety and involve families in solutions to complex social problems. However, the author‘s recent experience of working with such families within these communities suggests that the rhetoric is not matched by the reality of lived experience. These realities are often expressed as lone voices and rich stories of life-changing personal development. This paper will have at its heart the story of such a parent, generated by the author‘s recent research activity, and the ways in which her narrative illustrates the potential of such stories to encourage participation and engagement (Ely et al., 1997). Moreover, the story identifies the construction of a sense of self and how such narratives can prove to be instrumental in stimulating and nurturing personal development (Schratz and Walker, 1995). However, the paper will also counter such optimism with the reality of the abuse of such stories by agencies attempting to initiate policy at a local level. As a consequence, such powerful narratives get lost amongst a cacophony of competing ‗voices‘ which exert powerful influence over what is supported and funded. In effect, this reductive notion of ‗collating stories‘ marginalises the story-teller, nullifies the celebration of the Other, and the potential for involvement within and across communities, is lost (Bauman, 2007).
Joanne‘s narrative is at the core of this paper. This is deliberate, as the author is keen not to summarise and become another voice which appropriates her story. It has much to say about the attempts to help families such as Joanne‘s, in both a positive and negative sense, as well as highlighting her fortitude and activism.

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