On Story-telling

I remember when I was making arrangements for my mother’s funeral. Most everyone in my family had funerals through O’Donnel’s so I was quite familiar with this place although I hadn’t been there in many years. As I walked through the back, we went through a small room that I instantly remembered. It was the room where the men went and drank. The women would be gathered in the viewing room. While my mother and aunts would talk and grieve, my Dad and uncles would be back here drinking. And telling stories.

I grew up around story-tellers. My Mom would tell stories about growing up in a family without a mother. My Dad would tell stories about growing up in a multi-ethnic neighborhood. Other relatives would tell stories about war, coal-mining, adventures, lessons learned. Whenever a relative died, a good old Irish wake would involve much-story-telling about that person.

I came to see that this story-telling served many purposes. For one, it is a comfort to hear others tell stories about a loved one. I remember after my mother died having a meal with my cousin Linda who shared stories of my mother. It was a good to hear someone share loving memories.

Sadly, when a loved one dies, there can be a tendency for people to withhold talking about that person, thinking this would be upsetting to the bereaved. Often the opposite is the case. The bereaved may long to hear the stories, finding great peace in the knowledge that others too remember the beloved.

When I share stories, I also affirm my own history. These are people to whom I am connected. Their stories are my story. This gets affirmed when families visit together and share stories from their collective past. My story becomes our story.

Stories, too, convey learnings. I learned from my Uncle Joe in his stories of serving in the South Pacific during World War 2. I learned from Great-aunt Margaret when she would weep over knowing so many men who’d died in war. I’d learn from my Uncle Gaddy when he talked about his days as a coal miner then as a fireman. When I share stories of these and other loved ones with my children and grand-children, these voices from the past become part of my children’s and grandchildren’s stories.

I’ll close by sharing an excerpt from the film “Big Fish”, a wonderful film about the beauty of story-telling in families. As the narrator says, it is through stories shared that we all live on.

Reflections1. How much has story-telling been a part of your facing grief?

2. Share a story as a comment if you like.

About richp45198

I am a clinical psychologist and have an abiding interest in matters spiritual.
This entry was posted in psychology, spirituality and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to On Story-telling

  1. Rose Mathews says:

    My mother used to tell me stories all the time. I now share those stories with my children and, one day, grandchildren. My son tells me to write them down and I think I will. They are great stories of her & her family. Once again, thanks, Rich!

  2. Susan Bass says:

    Yes, the stories make the person immortal. If my father were still alive he would be approaching 100 years old (born in 1918). He often told me stories of his great-grandfather, Levi, who came to the US as a slave at the age of 9 years old. He always said that whatever he or I had to endure, it would never be as difficult as what Levi endured. That part I believe is true. And then there is the mythical part of Levi. My father said he was 7 feet tall (and in my father’s eyes I think he seemed to be that tall). On the other hand, knowing that there are basketball players today that are 7 feet, it could be true. He also said Levi could do just about anything. I don’t know if that was the case, but that is what I have told my son too.

Leave a Reply