I’m not sure where our need to tell our stories came from. Obviously, cultures have been passing down oral histories for generations, starting with the days of the Cave Men who would swap stories while sitting around that new-fangled invention known as fire. But now, it seems like telling our stories and really sharing a piece of who we are has transcended any sort of practical purposes. I mean, we don’t necessarily need to tell our stories aloud for them to be transmitted, to be understood and, ultimately, to be felt — we’ve got books, magazines, even diaries for that.
And yet, we still feel that ever-gripping pull to share, share, share. We want to give voice to our life’s unspoken stories, especially the bad ones. It’s as if the very act of doing so will somehow give meaning to everything that was terrible about that event. Maybe we just want our hearts to metaphorically bleed as much as our tears are literally falling. Maybe we just want it all to mean something. Anything.
After my dad died, my mom felt this intense need to tell the story of his suicide. Part of her wanted to make people understand, sure, but I think she kept telling the story more for her benefit. She needed that cleanse and that release to try and make sense of everything. This was her way of doing it on her own terms and in a way that felt completely natural for her.
I, on the other hand, sometimes struggle with telling the story of my father’s suicide. When it comes to my immediate family, I have no trouble talking about it. But beyond that? I feel like I get a giant lump in my throat; sometimes, I don’t even know what to say. Where do you start? How do you start? Do you tell everything? How do you know what — if anything — to leave out? I mean, are some details just too much to reveal? And, if so, how do you find that line and make sure you don’t cross it?
About four years after my father’s death, my mom and I went to a survivors of suicide convention. Toward the end of the day, we were divided into groups according to who we lost (husband, sibling, parent, etc.) and encouraged to share our stories. As people began talking, I quickly began to feel uncomfortable and out of place. I looked around and thought, “Look at this. Here are people who are so open, so free and so unafraid to be vulnerable with complete strangers.” It was a pretty awe-inspiring site, indeed. I couldn’t understand just how they found that sort of courage deep down inside themselves — it all seemed rather foreign to me at the time.
I may not have shared much that day, but I did take one giant lesson with me: There is more than one way to “tell your story.” What you have to do is find the way that works for you and just, well, LET IT ALL OUT!! Maybe talking works or painting or playing the piano or writing. The key is finding your comfort zone and giving voice to your words, in whatever form feels right.
Now that I think about it, it probably wasn’t a coincidence that I started blogging one year after going to that conference.
How do you tell your story, friends? Are you a talker or a writer — or something completely different? Do you have trouble talking about your feelings to people you don’t know very well? What’s been your biggest “life story” to date? Let’s share with each other, shall we? xoxo