The Healing Power of Storytelling

The Healing Power of Storytelling

After losing a loved one, people often long for a feeling of connection to them – through photographs of their smiling face, the smell of their cologne, a song they loved to sing, or wrapping yourself in their favorite sweater. Another powerful, but sometimes forgotten, technique is storytelling.

Stories connect us, allow us to share our view of the world, teach us about ourselves, capture memories, and create emotional bonds with one another. Just as there are many benefits of creating and sharing stories, there are many methods of storytelling. Stories can be written, spoken, journaled, or written and performed as a play. They can be poetry, songs, works of art, or digital storytelling.

In addition, storytelling can be done as a solo activity, or it can also be done in a group. Many incorporate storytelling as a family activity, in a support group, or at a large community, such as our Donor Celebrations. The benefits of storytelling during grief are plentiful, and there is no one way to do it because everyone’s personal expression is unique.

Keeping Memories Alive

When a loved one dies, many find themselves reminding well-meaning family and friends that it is acceptable to reminisce about their loved one, even if it can stir emotions. In fact, many welcome it and find it helps them navigate their grief. In the same way hearing a loved one’s name helps keep their memory alive, so does telling their stories – it can bring their spirit to the present.

Taking dedicated time for story creation helps you remember anecdotes, quotes, and even personality traits you might not have immediately remembered – but certainly do not want to forget. Occasionally using writing prompts brings forgotten memories to light. You may even find yourself researching your loved one’s life with others to complete the story, learning something new about them along the way.

As you reflect on memories in this process, you may gain new perspective. This reflection often leads to a deeper appreciation of your loved one, perhaps it can help you reconcile a disagreement, or even learn something new about them or yourself.

Emotional Flow

Grief can lead to an array of emotions. In any given day, we can experience sadness, happiness, regret, anger, fear, and everything in between. We feel them, but sometimes struggle to find the right words that describe the emotion.

When we reflect on specific experiences and memories with our loved ones, the emotions connected to the that point-in-time can follow. We encourage you to recount many stories during their life, such as stories you heard them talk about, the first time you met, and even the story of their passing. Similarly, you can tell the story of the support and love you are receiving from your community or the growth and change you have made as an individual since losing your loved one.

The bottom line: Storytelling can help you work through the full spectrum of emotions in a positive, healing way – giving you one more tool in your toolbelt to navigate the lows that come with grief.

Note: If you find yourself retelling difficult stories or encounter a deep painful memory, consider seeking the guidance of a grief counselor or support group. If you need assistance in finding such care, contact the SightLife Family Services team at donorfamilyservices@sightlife.org or 206-838-4638.

A Lasting Legacy

By sharing your loved one’s story, you are ensuring their legacy lives on. Even sharing an old family photo album with someone can be healing because it provides you the space to describe these moments, share the names of others whose lives were touched by your loved one, and retell their lived experiences.

There are many other ways to capture your loved one’s story. For example, you can create a tribute video, design a special photo album, build a shadow box, or simply write their stories in a journal.

Permanently capturing your loved one’s story is a beautiful way to honor and celebrate their life – and it can be passed on for generations to come.

Storytelling Resources

In you are interested in the healing power of storytelling, we encourage you to check out the following resources. As always, you can also email the SightLife Family Services team with any questions.