The 7 Stages of Grieving

The 7 Stages of Grieving

by

Wesley Enoch and Deborah Mailman

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The 7 Stages of Grieving can help.

The Woman Character Analysis

The Woman (who is of Aboriginal heritage and belongs to the Murri people) is the central character of the play and the only character on stage throughout the entirety of the one-woman show. Over the course of the play, as the Woman shares with the audience stories of trouble, grief, loss, and—in spite of everything—pride and resilience, she paints a uniquely personal picture of the emotional and structural challenges of contemporary Aboriginal life. The Woman is the creation of Wesley Enoch and Deborah Mailman, who co-wrote The 7 Stages of Grieving together and used their own experiences to flesh out the Woman’s story. As the Woman battles personal grief—the mourning of her grandmother’s death, fear for her father’s health and her brother’s well-being, and a complicated relationship with a distant aunt called Aunty Grace—she also struggles deeply with the social, economic, and political challenges of living in a country which harbors racist, colonialist prejudices against its indigenous people. The woman’s small personal acts of pride and resilience, such as declaring her love for her black skin, meet with larger, communal acts of resistance, such as attending a march in protest of the unfair death of Daniel Yocke, a young Aboriginal man who died in police custody in Brisbane. These many stories weave together to create a portrait of grief’s unstable, unpredictable nature. Though the process of grieving is said to encompass seven distinct stages, the Woman shows how the world of grief is messier than that. For Australia’s First Nations people especially, the Woman suggests, it is impossible to ever finish grieving all that has been lost due to the ravages of colonialism and racism—lands, traditions, and languages have all been decimated and dashed, never to be restored or regained. The Woman’s desire for change brushes up against her contempt for the concept of Reconciliation, or a repairing of relationships between white Australians and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. By the end of the play, the Woman’s complicated journey through grief has hardened her heart—and she must make a choice whether to pursue her desire to “feel nothing” or whether to bear the heavy, unhappy burden of her people’s collective suffering.

The Woman Quotes in The 7 Stages of Grieving

The The 7 Stages of Grieving quotes below are all either spoken by The Woman or refer to The Woman. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Colonialism and Oppression Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Bloomsbury edition of The 7 Stages of Grieving published in 2015.
Scene 2: Sobbing Quotes

Grief

Grieving

Sorrow

Loss

Death

Pain

Distress

Lament

Mourn

Emptiness

Despair

Lonely

Regret

Misfortune

Guilt

Passion

Love

Absence

Desolate

Nothing

Nothing

I feel... Nothing

Related Characters: The Woman
Page Number: 278
Explanation and Analysis:
Scene 3: Purification Quotes

The Woman lights up a wad of eucalypt leaves and watches them burn. She blows out the flame and as the embers smoke she sings a song for the spirits of those that have gone before her and asks permission to tell the story of her grief.

Related Characters: The Woman
Page Number: 278
Explanation and Analysis:
Scene 4: Nana’s Story Quotes

I miss my grandmother. She took so many stories with her to the grave. Stories of her life, our traditions, our heritage from her now gone. I resent that.

Related Characters: The Woman (speaker), The Woman’s Grandmother/Nana
Page Number: 280
Explanation and Analysis:
Scene 5: Photograph Story Quotes

But this suitcase, which resides under the old stereo tightly fastened, lies flat on the floor comfortably out of reach. Safe from inquisitive hands or an accidental glance. In the suitcase lies the photos of those who are dead, the nameless ones. With an unspoken gesture we remove the photo of my nana from her commanding position on the wall and quietly slip her beneath the walnut finish. And without a sound push her into the shadow.

Related Characters: The Woman (speaker), The Woman’s Grandmother/Nana
Related Symbols: The Suitcase
Page Number: 281
Explanation and Analysis:
Scene 6: Story of a Father Quotes

The Woman walks over to the grave and embraces the block of ice. Springing away, she turns to the audience and clutches her breast.

THE WOMAN: Oh my sousou.

The Woman sits on the edge of the grave.

I’m trying to deal with Dad’s death. He hasn’t died yet, but the time is coming soon when he’ll be taken away.

Related Characters: The Woman (speaker), The Woman’s Father
Related Symbols: The Ice Block
Page Number: 281
Explanation and Analysis:
Scene 9: Invasion Poem Quotes

They come in the front door
Smiling
Offering gifts.
I invited them in, they demanded respect.
They sat in my father's seat
And talked to me of things that made no sense.
I nodded. Listened. Gave them my ear
As I was always taught to.

Related Characters: The Woman (speaker)
Page Number: 283
Explanation and Analysis:
Scene 10: 1788 Quotes

The date 1788 appears.

Hey, you! Yeah, you with that hat! You can’t park there! You’re taking up the whole harbour! Go on, get!

Related Characters: The Woman (speaker)
Page Number: 284
Explanation and Analysis:
Scene 11: Murri Gets a Dress Quotes

Thinking that tomorrow will be a better day, I go to bed. Kicking that sniffer dog out. Still with the sound of sirens in my head. Snuggling up to my doona and pillow. Morning comes, I wake up, looking in the mirror. Nice hair, beautiful black skin, white shiny teeth. I'M STILL BLACK! NUNNA!

Related Characters: The Woman (speaker)
Page Number: 285
Explanation and Analysis:
Scene 12: Aunty Grace Quotes

I never saw her cry the whole time she was with us.

Dad said she was stuck-up and wasn’t really family. She married this Englishman after World War II. There was a photo of her on a ship waving with this white fella, his arm around her. For some reason she didn’t stay, which in my family is strange.

Page Number: 286
Explanation and Analysis:

I drive Aunty Grace out to the cemetery on our way to the airport. She doesn't have much luggage, there is plenty of room but no one from the family comes to see her off. I wait in the car while she goes out to the freshly turned soil of Nana’s grave. She is there for such a long time, I think we are going to be late. Finally she returns to the car, opens the back door and removes a suitcase. She opens it and proceeds to throw the contents all over the ground, everything. […] Crying, at last, crying.

Related Characters: The Woman (speaker), Aunty Grace, The Woman’s Grandmother/Nana
Related Symbols: The Suitcase
Page Number: 286-287
Explanation and Analysis:
Scene 13: Mugshot Quotes

The ambulance got there and they had to pump needles into him, they were pounding his chest, giving mouth-to-mouth, whilst the others stood back and watched. They took him to the Royal Brisbane Hospital, pounding and pushing his limp body.

The Woman returns to the written word.

The resuscitation attempts were unsuccessful and at 7.13 p.m. he was pronounced dead.

Related Characters: The Woman (speaker), Daniel Yocke
Page Number: 289
Explanation and Analysis:
Scene 14: March Quotes

‘Defiant Aboriginal March’
‘Aboriginal March, Traffic Stopper’

No one said that about the fucken Santa Parade the week before!

Related Characters: The Woman (speaker)
Page Number: 290
Explanation and Analysis:
Scene 15: Bargaining Quotes

The sound of hammering. The Woman slams a nail through two pieces of wood. She stands and carries the wooden cross over to the grave. As she drives it into the red earth, the words ‘FOR SALE’ are revealed.

What is it worth?

Related Characters: The Woman (speaker)
Page Number: 291
Explanation and Analysis:
Scene 16: Home Story Quotes

The Woman gathers up the smaller piles and relocates them on the white fringing that defines the black performing area.

Now imagine when the children are taken away from this. Are you with me?

The Woman flays her arm through the remaining large pile and circle, destroying it.

Related Characters: The Woman (speaker)
Page Number: 292
Explanation and Analysis:
Scene 17: Story of a Brother Quotes

This is how it starts. This is how it starts, the cycle. The cycle. […]

You see. . .
No matter how clean our clothes are,
No matter how tidy we keep our house,
Or how well we speak the language,
How promptly we pay our bills,
How hard we work,
How often we pray,
No matter how much we smile and nod,
We are black, and we are here, and that will never change.

Related Characters: The Woman (speaker), The Woman’s Brother
Page Number: 294
Explanation and Analysis:
Scene 19: Suitcase Opening Quotes

The Woman paints herself as if preparing for war. Though her movements are restricted her voice assails the audience with a sense of all-encompassing sorrow. She takes the suitcase, opens it, throwing the red earth and family photos it contains all over the floor. The Woman grieves over the photographs.

Related Characters: The Woman (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Suitcase
Page Number: 295
Explanation and Analysis:
Scene 21: Everything Has Its Time Quotes

Wreck, Con, Silly, Nation.

Some of the people I talk to would write it like this.
What does it mean when some people can’t even read or write the word?

Related Characters: The Woman (speaker)
Page Number: 295
Explanation and Analysis:
Scene 22: Plea Quotes

You know there has always been this grieving,
Grieving for our land, our families.
Our cultures that have been denied us.
But we have been taught to cry quietly
Where only our eyes betray us with tears.
But now, we can no longer wait,
I am scared my heart is hardening.
I fear I can no longer grieve
I am so full and know my capacity for grief

Related Characters: The Woman (speaker)
Page Number: 296
Explanation and Analysis:

The Woman places the suitcase down at the feet of the audience.

Related Characters: The Woman (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Suitcase
Page Number: 296
Explanation and Analysis:
Scene 23: Relief Quotes

The Woman walks into a pool of light. She stands, face uplifted, as if in gentle rain.

THE WOMAN: Nothing

Nothing

Nothing

I feel Nothing

The Woman finally leaves.

Related Characters: The Woman (speaker)
Page Number: 297
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The 7 Stages of Grieving LitChart as a printable PDF.
The 7 Stages of Grieving PDF

The Woman Character Timeline in The 7 Stages of Grieving

The timeline below shows where the character The Woman appears in The 7 Stages of Grieving. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Scene 2: Sobbing
Memory and Family Trauma Theme Icon
Feeling vs. Numbness  Theme Icon
...a person crying. As the sobs grow louder, the lights come up to reveal an Aboriginal Woman grieving alone. Words having to deal with grief, sorrow, death, mourning, and hopelessness are projected... (full context)
Scene 3: Purification
Colonialism and Oppression Theme Icon
Memory and Family Trauma Theme Icon
Feeling vs. Numbness  Theme Icon
Aboriginal Identity, Pride, and Resilience Theme Icon
The Woman lights eucalypt leaves on fire and watches them burn, then blows out the flame. As... (full context)
Scene 4: Nana’s Story
Memory and Family Trauma Theme Icon
Feeling vs. Numbness  Theme Icon
Aboriginal Identity, Pride, and Resilience Theme Icon
The performance space is suddenly flooded with color, light, and sound. As the Woman tells her story, the sounds of family, birds, and American country music can be heard.... (full context)
Colonialism and Oppression Theme Icon
Memory and Family Trauma Theme Icon
Feeling vs. Numbness  Theme Icon
Aboriginal Identity, Pride, and Resilience Theme Icon
The mourning rites and rituals, the Woman recalls, lasted a month. Her whole extended family, which is nearly fifty people, lived close... (full context)
Memory and Family Trauma Theme Icon
Feeling vs. Numbness  Theme Icon
Aboriginal Identity, Pride, and Resilience Theme Icon
Though the Woman ’s family’s time of mourning was a sorrowful one, it also allowed for moments of... (full context)
Colonialism and Oppression Theme Icon
Memory and Family Trauma Theme Icon
Feeling vs. Numbness  Theme Icon
Aboriginal Identity, Pride, and Resilience Theme Icon
The Woman says she misses her grandmother intensely, and she resents that stories of her grandmother’s life,... (full context)
Scene 5: Photograph Story
Memory and Family Trauma Theme Icon
Feeling vs. Numbness  Theme Icon
Aboriginal Identity, Pride, and Resilience Theme Icon
...open suitcase full of family photographs, slowly zooming in on the details in the pictures. The Woman describes the suitcase, which remains stowed under the old stereo in the front room of... (full context)
Scene 6: Story of a Father
Memory and Family Trauma Theme Icon
Feeling vs. Numbness  Theme Icon
The Woman approaches the grave, embraces the block of ice, then turns to the audience and clutches... (full context)
Scene 8: Black Skin Girl
Colonialism and Oppression Theme Icon
Aboriginal Identity, Pride, and Resilience Theme Icon
The Woman dances around and sings with a childlike, carefree attitude. The letters of the alphabet begin... (full context)
Scene 9: Invasion Poem
Colonialism and Oppression Theme Icon
Memory and Family Trauma Theme Icon
Aboriginal Identity, Pride, and Resilience Theme Icon
The sounds of a chair scraping and a clock ticking can be heard once again. The Woman delivers an abstract spoken poem describing strangers who come in the front door of her... (full context)
Scene 10: 1788
Colonialism and Oppression Theme Icon
Aboriginal Identity, Pride, and Resilience Theme Icon
The date 1788 is projected onto the stage. The Woman comes out on stage and calls out to “you with that hat,” telling the unseen... (full context)
Scene 11: Murri Gets a Dress
Colonialism and Oppression Theme Icon
Feeling vs. Numbness  Theme Icon
Aboriginal Identity, Pride, and Resilience Theme Icon
The Woman delivers a monologue in the style of a stand-up comedy routine. She describes waking up... (full context)
Colonialism and Oppression Theme Icon
Feeling vs. Numbness  Theme Icon
Aboriginal Identity, Pride, and Resilience Theme Icon
The Woman describes arriving home at long last after receiving an escort home from “policem[e]n, firem[e]n, army,... (full context)
Scene 12: Aunty Grace
Memory and Family Trauma Theme Icon
Feeling vs. Numbness  Theme Icon
The Woman digs up the grave, pulling the suitcase out of it. She opens it up and... (full context)
Colonialism and Oppression Theme Icon
Memory and Family Trauma Theme Icon
Aboriginal Identity, Pride, and Resilience Theme Icon
Aunty Grace has lived in London for almost fifty years. No one in the Woman ’s family ever talked to her about Aunty Grace growing up, and the Woman is... (full context)
Colonialism and Oppression Theme Icon
Memory and Family Trauma Theme Icon
Feeling vs. Numbness  Theme Icon
On the day of Aunty Grace’s departure, the Woman drives her to the airport. On the way, the Woman stops at the cemetery so... (full context)
Scene 13: Mugshot
Colonialism and Oppression Theme Icon
Feeling vs. Numbness  Theme Icon
The Woman delivers a long, emotionless monologue in the style of a court report. She describes an... (full context)
Colonialism and Oppression Theme Icon
Feeling vs. Numbness  Theme Icon
...Aboriginal men enter the park, the officers follow them. At this point in the story, the Woman stops abruptly and looks out at the audience for a moment before continuing with her... (full context)
Scene 14: March
Colonialism and Oppression Theme Icon
Memory and Family Trauma Theme Icon
Feeling vs. Numbness  Theme Icon
Aboriginal Identity, Pride, and Resilience Theme Icon
The Woman stands tall, rocking her body along with the pace of a march. A call goes... (full context)
Colonialism and Oppression Theme Icon
Memory and Family Trauma Theme Icon
Feeling vs. Numbness  Theme Icon
Aboriginal Identity, Pride, and Resilience Theme Icon
The Woman describes the news reports about the march. The news called the gathering a “Defiant Aboriginal... (full context)
Colonialism and Oppression Theme Icon
Memory and Family Trauma Theme Icon
Feeling vs. Numbness  Theme Icon
Aboriginal Identity, Pride, and Resilience Theme Icon
...smoke. Six thousand people pound the road together in rhythm, but they are not fighting, the Woman says—they are grieving. As police whistles ring out, the Woman raises her arms defiantly. Contradicting... (full context)
Scene 15: Bargaining
Colonialism and Oppression Theme Icon
The Woman hammers two pieces of wood together into a cross, drags it over to the grave,... (full context)
Scene 16: Home Story
Colonialism and Oppression Theme Icon
Memory and Family Trauma Theme Icon
Aboriginal Identity, Pride, and Resilience Theme Icon
The Woman makes a pile on the ground using red earth from the grave. She tells a... (full context)
Colonialism and Oppression Theme Icon
Memory and Family Trauma Theme Icon
Aboriginal Identity, Pride, and Resilience Theme Icon
The Woman makes eight smaller piles around the central pile. Because her people have been told they... (full context)
Colonialism and Oppression Theme Icon
Memory and Family Trauma Theme Icon
Feeling vs. Numbness  Theme Icon
Aboriginal Identity, Pride, and Resilience Theme Icon
At last, the Woman gathers up the smaller piles and puts them on the white border of the black... (full context)
Scene 17: Story of a Brother
Colonialism and Oppression Theme Icon
Memory and Family Trauma Theme Icon
Aboriginal Identity, Pride, and Resilience Theme Icon
The Woman comes forward to tell a story about her twenty-one-year-old brother. One night, she says, he... (full context)
Colonialism and Oppression Theme Icon
Memory and Family Trauma Theme Icon
Aboriginal Identity, Pride, and Resilience Theme Icon
For most people, the Woman explains, such a charge wouldn’t be a serious thing—nor would the $250 fine accompanying it... (full context)
Colonialism and Oppression Theme Icon
Memory and Family Trauma Theme Icon
The Woman declares that, for her people, no matter how clean, tidy, or compliant they are, no... (full context)
Scene 19: Suitcase Opening
Memory and Family Trauma Theme Icon
Feeling vs. Numbness  Theme Icon
Aboriginal Identity, Pride, and Resilience Theme Icon
The Woman paints herself in traditional paint as if she is preparing for war. She makes an... (full context)
Scene 20: Wreck / con / silly / nation Poem
Colonialism and Oppression Theme Icon
Memory and Family Trauma Theme Icon
Aboriginal Identity, Pride, and Resilience Theme Icon
The Woman , fresh and clean and stripped of paint, returns to the stage. The words wreck,... (full context)
Scene 21: Everything Has Its Time
Colonialism and Oppression Theme Icon
Aboriginal Identity, Pride, and Resilience Theme Icon
The Woman addresses the audience. She speaks the words wreck, con, silly, and nation aloud, stating that... (full context)
Colonialism and Oppression Theme Icon
Memory and Family Trauma Theme Icon
Feeling vs. Numbness  Theme Icon
Aboriginal Identity, Pride, and Resilience Theme Icon
The Woman looks around the performing area, declaring it a mess. She picks up the suitcase. She... (full context)
Scene 22: Plea
Colonialism and Oppression Theme Icon
Memory and Family Trauma Theme Icon
Feeling vs. Numbness  Theme Icon
Aboriginal Identity, Pride, and Resilience Theme Icon
The Woman approaches the audience, carrying her suitcase with her. She tells them that there has always... (full context)
Scene 23: Relief
Memory and Family Trauma Theme Icon
Feeling vs. Numbness  Theme Icon
The Woman walks into a pool of light, leaving her suitcase behind. She stands with her face... (full context)