Stories are so important and to grieving people, stories can feel like everything.
After a death, stories immediately begin coming out as memories are recalled to preserve, cherish and underscore the values and quirks of the deceased. We also begin telling the story of their death and our experience of it.
But stories are about more than remembering. Whether we realize it or not, the past connects us infinitely to our present and our future.
We tell stories about our loved one to maintain a connection to them, to the reality of their life, and to all that they continue to mean to us. In these stories our loved one continues to be with us. It is through stories that a legacy begins to take shape.
Telling the death story can be very important for grievers, particularly in the immediacy following the death. We verbally process what we don’t understand and we have to keep doing that until the story is known, familiar, accepted to whatever degree. Over time, the griever’s own story begins to unfold. The ups and downs, the painful holidays, surprise grief-attacks, and the first time they laughed again, felt ok, or forgot for a second about their loved one.
When we share about the hard things we’ve survived and endured, we can impart huge hope to people sitting in the early, miserable shocks of pain and grief. Silence is the killer, silence isolates, silence turns us inward. Stories open us to ourselves, help us put words to our feelings and movements, and help us to create something meaningful from our pain.
Why do we tell stories? To connect, to assure others they are not alone. We tell stories to mark that we have experienced extreme pain and are still here.
In closing …
The stories we tell matter deeply. In remembering a loved one, we revive their love and spirit and bring it back into the world. In sharing our suffering we bond with others in deeply personal ways that hold an understanding as unique as the suffering. These same stories, all of them, help to propel us forward as we walk with the memories close (just a few words away), and in stride with the suffering, knowing we are not alone.