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How Stories Heal Tears

Posted On 8/3/2016 By Admin

Words fail us when we’re grieving.
            No matter where we are on our journey, grieving the death of a loved one or offering comfort to someone in mourning, our ability to communicate feels inadequate in the face of deep pain and tremendous loss. While platitudes such as “I’m grateful he’s no longer suffering” or “She’s in a better place” are common, the words ring hollow as they’re shared and as they’re received.  No one is comforted when empty words fill the air, whether at the chapel or around the water cooler.
            Yet we are naturally drawn to stories, especially storytelling that revolves around the people we are desperate to remember, honour and celebrate. 
            “Let me tell you a story….” is the oldest invitation in human experience.  When we share a story we invite listeners to learn something and be changed. Using details, imagery and emotion, we show how our story is part of their story too. We connect through the sharing of personal stories because we tap into the universal story of what it means to be human, to love, to forgive, to say goodbye. 
            For mourners, stories are especially sacred.  “I remember when Bob and I used to…” or “Long before you were born, your mom and I would…” are stories that bridge the past to the present. 
            Our culture tells us that when someone we love dies, we “lose” them. But when someone dies there is no potential for a physical finding, some great discovery, that will recreate our lives to what they once were: a life with the person we love in it. This mourning gap, a place devoid of light, is where storytelling shines.
            Stories help mourners find their loved ones again. By telling stories about the dead we invite the living to reflect on Life and Death, and how the deceased has added depth to who we are and who we might become. 
            Gathering the community together guides us toward a healing journey because we are not alone. Our private pain is mended through the public recognition of that pain.         
           When we gather to mourn, whether at a traditional funeral, memorial service or celebration of life, we are all part of the same story.  Anyone who has ever reached out to the bereaved by sharing a story has witnessed how a sad, stricken face transforms into a reflective (sometimes joyful) person.    
            If you want to comfort, tell a story.  If you want comfort, ask for a story or tell one of your own. 
            When words fail us, tell a story instead.