Review: Listen, Even When Your Heart is Crying, a documentary about parents of Deaf children

Posted on January 16, 2015

Grief is a taboo subject in family groups. It is not a popular topic of conversation; but here grief gets explored and, in the context of this documentary, grief is not caused by the death of a loved one. Everyone is still alive.

This is about the grief parents of deaf children may experience upon discovering their child’s deafness. That the child they thought they were having (the one that could hear perfectly) has gone forever.

Melissa Mostyn explores this subject in Listen, Even When Your Heart is Crying and the emotional and psychological impact that grief experienced by parents of deaf children, especially if unresolved, can have on their kids.

Is grief from a parent of a deaf or disabled child appropriate? Should parents of deaf children feel guilty for their natural feelings of grief? Mostyn was motivated to investigate further after experiencing this emotional conflict for herself when her own daughter was diagnosed with a disability.

Grief, explains counselor Pauline Latchem, is the feeling of loss, not only through death but of the loss of a relationship; loss of a job or of a way of life. Parents grieve over what their child could have been if their ears had worked normally. Understandably, that’s not something families talk about.

Talk about it or not, there is an impact on families and we’re guided through the theory of the five stages of grief, spliced with a real-life example of the theory in action.

Jill Hipson, who went deaf as a child, explained how she was on the receiving end of her father’s denial; the anger and blame from her uncle; compromise as the family moved to a new home; but eventually acceptance as her parents acknowledged the importance of family communication.

They bought sign language into the home which put a stop to scribbling on pieces of paper. Jill had stopped using her voice.

jill hipson

Jill Hipson

Maybe Jill was one of the lucky ones. So often, Pauline Latchem explains, acceptance is never achieved by parents. The deaf-child-turned-adult is left in a perpetual spiral of anger and depression caused by development of their own sense of grief.

This time, grief over the loss of the relationship they felt they should have had with their parents. Grief at the loss of the feeling of acceptance.

The scenery, coffee shops and chocolate cakes are inviting, bright and fresh in this documentary, but the subject matter is deep and dark. And no wonder. This aspect of life is taboo. Hidden. Unspoken. Melissa Mostyn is trying to bring it to light but the barriers, even between her and her mother, remain.

This is a tough nut to crack but Melissa’s idea is that bringing parental grief into the open could help parents to end their own cycle of grieving and thus prevent its future emergence in their deaf children.

Later on, sat opposite her mother, Melissa asked her if she would have done anything differently if she had the chance to raise her again.

“No, I don’t think I would” Mum said.

“Really?” exclaimed Melissa, anticipating a different response. After all, hindsight is a wonderful thing.

But no. Nothing would be done differently. I pondered why and it occurred to me that if Mum did do things differently then everything could well be very different now. Maybe she wouldn’t have been sitting opposite her daughter there and then. Maybe this documentary would never have been made.

Maybe ‘no’ was another way of saying: I love you just the way you are.

Listen, even when your heart is crying is available to watch on BSL Zone here

Andy Palmer is the hearing father of a Deaf son, and is also a child of Deaf parents. He is Chairman of the Peterborough and District Deaf Children’s Society and teaches sign language in primary schools. Contact him on twitter @LC_AndyP

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