Diagramming Grief by Ishita Dharap

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Short-haired woman with dark hair and eyes and brown skin smiles as she stands in front of an abstract painting.
Ishita Dharap, 2022. Photo by Robin Scholz.
Curatorial Research

On March 31.2023, Education Coordinator Ishita Dharap presented arts-based research the Fifth Annual Graduate Symposium in Memory Studies co-hosted by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and UCLA.


Three years ago, I lost my aunt and my paternal grandmother within the span of two months. My close-knit family gathered in Pune, India, to grieve together, while I stayed in Chicago, unable to go back home, trying to find ways of saying goodbye.

I started diagramming my grief; I made one ‘map’ asking questions that were arising for me and kept making more maps until they filled my walls. Through their multiple entry points and tributaries of possible outcomes, these ‘grief maps’ behaved and misbehaved, asking me uncomfortable questions, but also asking on my behalf the questions I couldn’t. They held intact the bewilderment grief causes, and the multiplicity of what might help or hurt in the moment. I looked at them one day and thought, I am probably building a shrine. 

I lost my maternal grandmother earlier this year. It happened on the same day as my paternal grandmother. Again, I was alone in my grief, trying to hold my breaking heart, and again, I turned to diagramming. Through this work emerge structures of grieving that allow encounters with its very nature, which is simultaneous and specific.


About the Symposium

The Initiative in Holocaust, Genocide, Memory Studies (HGMS) hosts a one-day symposium annually, drawing students with diverse interests and from different fields across the University of Illinois. 2023 marks the fifth year of showcasing interdisciplinary graduate student work in memory studies. More information can be found at the Initiative's website.