Thursday, March 13, 2014

Everyone Has A Story To Tell...

Humans are storytellers.

We seem hardwired to both create stories and to tune in to those of others.

Everyone has a story to tell, a story about the people and events that shaped their lives, about what they have observed and experienced in their lifetimes.

Through our stories, we demonstrate that we have had a lifetime that mattered and become immortal as the events and lessons of our lives are handed down through the generations.

Unfortunately, we too often only realize the importance of such stories when our elders are no longer with us. To prevent such regrets:

  • Listen for stories. They are often all around us, told on porches and in kitchens as we prepare food and share meals.
  • Don't be shy about inviting elders to share stories, particularly those who tend to be quiet and introverted. They may decline, but it is better to have asked than to later regret not having tried.
  • Whenever possible, record family stories on ever-present smart phones and tablets. The opportunity may not come again. Later, they can be transferred to computers and edited by tech-proficient family members. Even low-quality video and audio recordings are better than nothing.
Family stories are important.

Stories preserved in the voices of those who come before us are a priceless gift to future generations, a gift that we can offer by paying attention and preparing for the many opportunities that will inevitably present themselves.

This blog post was written by Dennis Sparks, Arbor Hospice volunteer. You may contact Dennis by commenting below or emailing him at


  1. Great post! This entry makes me think of several things, including learning about Narrative Therapy in graduate school as well as the need to "tell one's story" when grieving. So often while working with grieving people I see that folks naturally want and need to recount the events of their loved one's last months of life, including what happened at time of death. Some clients can be critical of themselves when they feel like they're retelling the same story again and again. I encourage them to tell the story as many times as needed in order to process what has happened and to facilitate healing. It's interesting to see how the narrative changes over time, usually going from a story with very specific details to one with more generalized events. So I think another take-home from this idea of people telling their stories is to allow the grievers in one's life to tell the stories related to the death of their loved one as needed because storytelling is also a natural part of the grief process.

  2. I really appreciate you sharing your experience and insight, Becca.... I was aware that storytelling near the end of life helps hospice patients sum up their lives, see patterns or accomplishments that
    had been invisible to them, and/or create a feeling of closure and peacefulness. I had not thought a great deal about how sharing stories related to the loss of loved ones might shape the grief itself in ways that promote healing.

  3. Very wise encouragement! In my own busier days and with less sensitivity and real interest , my responses to stories and explanations of family relationships back then was usually one of two "oh, this is way I'll ever forget this" or "this is nice to hear but..." With the accumulation of a bit more of wisdom, sensitivity, and true interest, and now being an "elder" myself, I have recently found myself saying to myself.." Oh, I'll call dad and mom and ask " or "I'll call Aunt Julie..she'll tell me again".but they are not here to call. The preservation of stories and family ancestry is such a one's self and all of one's loved ones! Thank you for this important reminder..that it's never too early to capture these unique moments...for the following generations!