Storytelling : A Healing Tool for Grieving Children
by Christi Neville, LPC
Amidst the heaviness of loss, the idea of telling stories may seem a lighthearted pursuit. However, storytelling has been around since ancient civilization, and for good reason....it is more than just entertainment or folk art....it offers a healing component, and is an integral part of how we're wired....stories help us to organize, remember, and understand the complexities of our life experiences. It's hard to believe, but through science, research, and practice, we have come to understand that stories shape new realities, and help us make sense of the world. Here are some therapeutic benefits that storytelling offers for grieving children:
Helps children connect with the universality of loss: When a child empathizes with a story character or their situation, it can help them feel connected, and bring comfort and hope in realizing they are not alone.
Evokes Imagination and Possibilities: Stories function to open the mind to creative possibilities. The use of stories can help establish a safe environment where children can feel more relaxed in expressing questions, concerns, and needs. By witnessing a character's traits, they can explore various qualities that they might admire, respect, or want to emulate.
Inspires Choice and Change: Kids may not have any control over a loss in their life; however, how they live with it invites some choice. We can all recall countless stories of superheroes, or children who face adversity, who find ways to move forward with courage, or who find hope and healing. Being able to witness a character's process of problem-solving can help a child tap into their own strengths, resources, and problem-solving abilities.
Helps bring continuity to a life change: When an ongoing narrative of our life is suddenly disrupted by loss or tragedy, it feels like the end of the story. Being able to step back and witness another character's journey from an externalized point of view can help us to see a bigger picture, perhaps the simple yet powerful realization that perhaps it is not necessarily the end of the story, but rather, an important chapter in the story.
Provides safety in exploring feelings: Sometimes, separating "the problem" from "the person" can relieve some pressure. When a child can look at a character's problem from an external space that does not confront them with the intensity of their own emotion, this playfulness can free a child to process emotions in a safer way, and take a lighter, more effective, approach to a serious problem.
Storylistening may have some health benefits as well: When listeners are relaxed, they're less defensive, and more receptive to what is being said, and the internal body processes reflect a healing mode....blood pressure lowers, stress hormones decrease, and the breath becomes slower and more rhythmic....anything that helps us relax helps us to heal.
What parents can do: Storytelling is something that you can do at home with your child anytime! It's recommended that you as the adult read to your child, so that you can be available to offer or answer questions. So snuggle up with a book of hope, be willing to ask open-ended questions about their thoughts, and enjoy the rich responses that you might receive.
For a list of recommended kids’ books to help with loss or transition, please contact me….it’s an honor to support your child in their unfolding narrative of healing,
Christi Neville, LPC