Georgina Guedes

I stand in solidarity with the Blöchligers

2016-03-11 12:30

Georgina Guedes

To a parent, losing a child is one of the most terrifying things you can imagine. For me, becoming a mother opened up a whole new world of love – and a whole new level of terror. And it’s not just for yourself and your own children – it’s a new depth of empathy for every parent who has ever lost a child and for every child who has ever known pain.

The books I didn’t read. The movies I never saw. Just because I knew I couldn’t put myself through the horror of empathising so deeply with someone else’s pain. I will never see Rabbit Hole. 

As a side note, I am not one of those people who thinks that becoming a mother was the defining moment in my life and the rest of y’all wouldn’t understand. I am just talking about my own experience of emotional and hormonal turmoil in the wake of having a baby.

Living their worst nightmare

So, this week, there is a family in Cape Town experiencing the worst horror I can ever imagine. I haven’t been able to watch the videos of them appealing for information, and even the stills of that father’s grief-stricken face set me wobbling. I feel for them so deeply. I cannot imagine a world in which a daughter – once vibrant and happy – is gone.

The Blöchligers have lost a daughter, and South Africa has mourned her loss with them. By now we have all seen her photo – the curly hair topped by a wreath of daisies. We have all thought about her story, considered the moments that led up to her death, wished we could undo them. Surely if we can work out what went so wrong, we can right it?

As a mother, it’s hard to imagine allowing a girl child out into the world alone one day. My daughter is six, and I still have a pretty good handle on where she is every minute of her day. I know that one day, it won’t be so, and I’ll have to navigate the complexities and terrors of letting her go. It is my most fervent wish that a decision I one day make won’t ever feel like the wrong one.

Shireen Blöchliger did nothing to deserve this. She and her husband Florian are by all accounts good people who loved their children enormously. But life isn’t fair and they have had one of their most precious things taken from them.

The appropriate girls to mourn

And yet, inevitably, as South Africa mourns their loss, there are those who would complain that we are highlighting one story when murder is rife. That we have lost perspective. That our empathy is misplaced because... because what exactly?

A girl was beaten and murdered in the most horrific of circumstances, and instead of the outpouring of love and support we have shown her family, we are supposed to say, “Meh, she was just one of many. No point in getting all het up about it.”

Or crash her virtual memorial with photos of other murdered girls, perhaps from less affluent circumstances, and yell, “Excuse me. EXCUSE ME! You’re mourning the wrong one! How heartless of you to be sad about Franziska when these other people have also died. Remember everyone!”

No, right now, I won’t be doing that. I am aware of the horrors that exist all around us in South Africa. This is a hard country and a hard world to live in. But people’s minds are vast and made of multitudes, and mourning one girl today doesn’t make it impossible to mourn another tomorrow. People are good like that.

So if you have another story – or another hundred stories – that you believe we should be highlighting and researching and weeping over, please tell it. But don’t tell it with the judgement and the arrogance that says that those who moved to express their empathy for the Blöchligers are doing something wrong. How dare you?

- Georgina Guedes is a freelance writer. You can follow @georginaguedes on Twitter.

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Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

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