The Power of The Narrative
The Narrative Can Change Your Life
Posted February 4, 2018
"We read to know we are less alone." C.S. Lewis
In 2007 I was 33 when my husband died less than eight weeks after being diagnosed with bronchitis. He actually had advanced asymptomatic adrenal cancer. After the funeral, I read everything I could about grief and loss.
I was curious about how one coped. The material didn't necessarily have to pertain to a widow's grief. I was curious in general how one coped with loss, and so I read about broken heart syndrome in medical journals, and I read pieces in People magazine about how a woman handled her sister's death to breast cancer. In the years of reading that followed my husband's funeral, I noticed that there was a scarcity in the number of stories within the pages of grief/ loss books.
Upon this observation, I decided that I wanted to write a book for widows and those that know and work with the bereaved using stories at the foundation. This meant that I would need to gather stories from as many widows as possible, and their narratives in the hopes that the reader would be able to connect with at least one of the stories and feel less alone. After all, grief is an extremely isolating experience.
C.S. Lewis writes, "We read to know that we are less alone", and I agree with this statement 150 percent.
Holocaust survivor Dr. Stephen Ross taught me about the power of the narrative. After seeing the 1993 film Schnidler's List, I was very curious about the stories of Holocaust survivors. I set about trying to find a handful of Holocaust survivors to interview. Although, I didn't have the advantage of social media, a smart phone, press credentials or any personal connections with Holocaust survivors, I was able to come into contact with a handful of survivors that were willing to share their stories with me.
One Holocaust individual, in particular, Dr. Stephen Ross from Newton, Massachusetts spent hours talking with me. I'll never forget his words or his voice. He said to me "Never forget we're more than a number."
Meaning not only were there six million Jewish people murdered during the Holocaust, but that each person had a story that died with them.
Although, I had yet to graduate from college and had no personal press connections, my essay, "The Lessons Learned From The Holocaust" was published by The Grand Rapids press in a Sunday edition of the paper.
And years later when I set about the daunting process of writing my book, I remembered the conversations I had with Dr. Ross. And it was his influence that made me settle on the narrative approach as opposed to sending out a survey to widows to gather information.
Certainly, the narrative approach was far more costly in time and money. This meant I was traveling the globe to gather these stories from widows and rushing home after work to hop on a phone call to do an interview with a widow. It took years since I work full- time as a social worker, and I used vacation time to complete my book research. However, the rewarding experience of listening to widows share their stories far outweighs any other type of data survey collection. And when I do book talks, afterwards or sometimes during the discussion at least one person tells me it is the power of someone's narrative that drew them to healing.
I believe very strongly that a person's story hemmed together in fragments, sentences, or even a book can change the trajectory of one's life. We connect with others because of our stories. Within the story, we find are alike we are in our pain, suffering, growth and decisions. Within the story, we discover how similar we are in our fears, angst, sorrow and heartache. Within the story, we touch regret, loss, grace, and lament at what is no longer ours to hold. Within the story, we reach others we may never meet, but if we have confidence in the power of our words we know the reader's anxiety may just be transmuted into something called healing.
Kristin A. Meekhof is a licensed master's level social worker, writer, speaker, and co- author of the book "A Widow's Guide to Healing" with cover blurbs from Dr. Deepak Chopra and Maria Shriver. Kristin spoke at Harvard Medical School, and shared her thoughts about the positive impact of micro- financing for widows at the 2017 CSW United Nations Conference in New York, New York. She also speaks about manifesting change after any setback (personal / professional) and can be reached via email at Kristin@kristinmeekhof.com. In the fall of 2017, Kristin led the 31 Day Gratitude Jiyo series for Dr. Deepak Chopra.