Bursts of laughter, tears of joy, sobs of sadness, love, grief, anger, it is all part of our story we call ‘Life’. It is a journey, a quest to pursue happiness. There are ups and downs, highs and lows, for some more extreme than others, but either way there are so many stories out there.

Stories that are worth telling!

With that in mind, Stronger by Sharing, a young and vibrant organization looking to change the world one story at a time, was founded. There is so much power in sharing our stories, but it can raise many questions: Is it sometimes difficult to tell our stories… to speak the words out loud? And does the world really need to hear about my experience?

The answer is “YES!” Here are five reasons why.

Find your Voice
Sometimes you may feel like screaming your experience off every mountain top, but you do not know where to start climbing. It can be overwhelming to share personal stories with others, but if you are looking to communicate a message, you will find your voice, something you stand for. Especially when you start writing about experiences you have encountered, you will notice that the more you write about it, the more comfortable and impactful you can bring the topic to others.

By sharing your experience more and more, you will not only create more impact, it could help you feel empowered too. When you find your voice by sharing, you can be an ambassador of your life circumstances instead of a victim. You can show the world life is worth fighting for even though it is hard, because we are not alone.

Empower Others
If you can empower yourself by finding your voice, imagine what you can do for others. The International Journal of Therapy and Rehabilitation reported a research they did on a psychosocial in-person support group for stroke survivors in the acute phase of rehabilitation. Participants could discuss the impact of their stroke, rehabilitation progress, and their views on the future. Research could not specifically prove mood improvements, but participants did rate the group to be helpful for recovery (2009).

Think about it, would it not be great to find others in similar predicaments and help them? Even though previously mentioned research could not prove significant mood improvement, let me tell you a story what helped me share.

I was scared. Afraid people would judge me for what I had to say about losing a parent to brain cancer, so I decided to throw small chapters of my story on an online blog. I thought a more anonymous environment would help me feel more secure and it did. Soon after posting a few blogs, I received a message from a mother in Australia. She had brain cancer and an eleven-year-old son. Never had she had the courage to talk to him about her illness, because she thought he might not understand, but after reading about my experience she told me she was confident he should be more involved. Where I felt I had missed out on valuable time with my mother, in a way I had given this young child an opportunity not to ever have to feel that way.

Create Hope
Hope. Something most people seem to crave without even realizing, light at the end of the tunnel, something to fight for.

In 1989 the Oncology Nursing Forum researched the relationship between level of hope and level of coping response in cancer patients. That study significantly proved that the more hope a patient had, the higher the level of coping was.

Hope is what keeps us going and that mother in Australia not only made me believe I had empowered her, she made me believe I had created hope. And she had created hope, hope inside of me that by sharing my story I could help others understand. I did not have to be afraid to share anymore, because no negative response could take away the fact that I had already helped one person. Or two, a mother and a son. That was all it took.

It is the small differences in the world that can be of enormous impact.

Remember it Forever
When I started writing about losing my mother to brain cancer, my number one reason was to never forget. What ultimately would become my book was not ready to be read by anyone else but me.  But it indeed accomplished what I wanted to accomplish: for me it was a tool to remember my mother forever and everything we had been through.

It helped me remember the way she made me feel, how she looked at me, the sound of her laugh, the sparkel in her eyes… By writing down my experience I knew it would always be there for me to read.

When my story it turned into a book*, it became even more real. It was like my mother’s memory came back to life. People who had never had the pleasure of being in the same room with her, were now talking about her (again).

Not all our stories have to be sad or depressing. Sometimes we need to share all the good that life has to offer. The great stories, the ones that make people smile or inspire to take action and follow our wildest dreams.

When I traveled around the globe searching for peace of mind, it was the greatest adventure I could have ever wished for. I kept a journal of all my thoughts, places I had visited, and people I had met! Never would any of it be forgotten.

Emotional Healing
In the Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology, I found an article that stated: “The precise mechanisms through which a narrative heals are still unrealized (2009).” And then I read a much older article written over a decade earlier in the Journal of Poetry Therapy, which said: “Anyone who has experienced the ‘intensely solacing and curative powers of reflective writing’ would agree that indeed, writing heals (1996).”

Even though the mechanisms of emotional healing through narrative are mysterious ones, whether you write your story or you speak about it, I believe it can be of significant influence on our emotional healing. I felt so much strength when I realized I was not alone in the things I had seen and experienced and even more emotional strength when I saw I had impacted others.

And this is why I invite each and every one of you out there, to share your stories too.

By establishing Stronger by Sharing my beliefs became my mission to provide hope in difficult times by initiating openness, sharing stories and creating an inspiring environment for all in need of one. Let it be a platform without fear or judgment, where everyone can come together and share what is in their hearts.

Submit Your Story!

[1] Gurr, B. (2009). Emotional support for stroke survivors: Share Your Story Group. International Journal of Therapy and Rehabilitation, 16:10, 564-572. doi/10.12968/ijtr.2009.16.10.44566
[2] Herth, K. A. (1989). The relationship between level of hope and level of coping response and other variables in patients with cancer. Oncology Nursing Forum, 16:1, 67-72.
[3] Niederhoffer, K. G., & Pennebaker, J. W. (2009). Sharing one’s story: On the benefits of writing or talking about emotional experience. In S. J. Lopez & C. R. Snyder (Eds.), Oxford library of psychology. Oxford handbook of positive psychology (pp. 621-632). New York, NY, US: Oxford University Press.
[4] Adams, K. J. (1996) Journal Writing as a Powerful Adjunct to Theraphy. Journal of poetry Therapy, 10:31, 31-37. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03391495

Manon Rinsma-Leonard, MSc, is a contributing editor to Onco’Zine.

* Published in February 2018 Rinsma’s book, “13 Diamonds – Life Before Death from a Child’s Perspective,” is available via Amazon and Barnesandnoble.com

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