Monday, November 7, 2011

Heal Trauma and Grief with Storytelling

Sometimes people are so disturbed by the way someone died that they focus more on the deceased person's "dying story" than they do on the person's living stories. Yet reflecting on our living experiences with the deceased is an integral part of healing.

When I interviewed grievers for my book, they consistently stated one of the most healing experiences is hearing stories about their deceased loved one. Yet, people are often afraid to mention the name of the deceased to the bereaved. Please know that the majority of grievers enjoy reminiscing about their deceased loved one and want to remember their life, not their death. A reader recently wrote me about this stating:

"I read your book and thought it was fantastic! I have tons of memories [of my deceased mother], unfortunately all of the ones I remembered or chose to remember were painful. After reading your book, I started looking through my photos and videos and I found myself laughing and remembering how that laughter came about. My memories of my mom now have some laughter in them, and so do some of my dreams...You helped me to see a section that I have been missing, thank you."

Constructing stories is valuable for another reason. Frequently after a traumatic event, feelings, sensory information, and implicit memories of the event are typically left hanging in fragments that researchers believe are mostly processed and stored on the right side of the brain. Yet, the logical, linear-oriented left side of the brain has a drive to make sense of these fragments and put them into some kind of logical order. Building a coherent story based on your memories incorporates these fragments, bringing context and structure to them, which can help you heal.

Courtney Armstrong is a Licensed Professional Counselor who specializes in trauma therapy and has a practice in Chattanooga, TN. She leads workshops for mental health professions in Rapid Resolution Therapy and other creative therapeutic approaches. To contact Courtney, visit her website at Visit Courtney's blog at

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