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How Storytelling Can Bring Families Together During the Holidays

By Diana Raab December 09, 2020 Family

Like many others this year, my husband and I will not be traveling across the country to celebrate the holidays with our family. Instead, our plan is to have a small gathering of family members who live nearby, whom we’ve been in contact with during the pandemic.

As I’ve been thinking about my loved ones who live farther way, I’ve been wondering lately how we can creatively connect during the holidays in a way that might be different from the way we did so over the past 10 months. I believe that the answer lies in storytelling, particularly among the generations.

The Power of Storytelling

During these unprecedented and challenging times, stories and storytelling offer a sense of perspective and hope. Through my own personal experience over the past six decades, I’ve earned my chance to share my own thoughts and stories passed down from my ancestors.

I was blessed to have grandparents who were survivors of two world wars, who were able to relate their stories to me, in both journals and through verbal storytelling. Now that I’m a grandparent of five beautiful grandchildren myself, I feel that it’s my turn to carry the torch of hope by sharing my stories.

Parents and grandparents play many roles in their children’s and grandchildren’s lives, but one of the most important is instilling them with a sense of perspective.

One way to do so is through storytelling, which is all about honoring the present, appreciating the past, and planning for the future. It’s also a way to be grateful for our blessings, both personally and spiritually.

The Effect of the Pandemic

The pandemic has resulted in many of us feeling a deep sense of loneliness and isolation. Thankfully, technologies such as FaceTime and Zoom have helped bring loved ones closer together. Many of us have become quite proficient at Zoom calls.

For some this has become a way of staying connected, but others are still uncomfortable with this form of communication. Whatever the case, it’s here to stay for at least six to eight months, if not more.

Unless the Zoom calls are business related and facilitated by a leader, they’re often awkward and disorganized. Unlike being in the same room with a group of people, it’s challenging to prevent the participants from speaking over one another.

When we’re at an in-person gathering with others, we might be conversing with just one other person at a time, which is difficult to do as part of a group video chat.

Storytelling as a Focus

Many of us, especially in the United States, are somewhat burned out when it comes to talking about the pandemic and/or politics. We crave newness and variety.

While some people have taken up hobbies or new ways of doing things, others have had a tendency to feel trapped in the rudimentary activities of daily living. The pandemic has encouraged us to become more creative – for example, by sharing stories over the phone, FaceTime, or Zoom.

As a writer, I’ve always believed in the power of storytelling. However, one day early in 2020, I realized its true power across the generations.

I was having a discussion with a college student who had recently visited her grandmother. She told me that she’d asked her grandma to tell her some stories. The elderly woman turned to her granddaughter and said, “Dear, I have so many stories. Which ones do you want me to tell?” The young woman was tongue-tied because she didn’t know which questions to ask.

How to Stimulate Storytelling

This little scenario inspired me to come up with a list of questions that could be used for stimulating storytelling among the generations. At the same time, they could also be used as writing prompts for those interested in writing their own stories.

This new creative endeavor of mine is called Conversation Cards for Meaningful Storytelling. Once I created and packaged the cards and gave a pack to the young college student, she returned to her grandmother’s house, shuffled the cards, and pulled out one question at a time.

Each one inspired a wealth of information about her grandmother’s childhood. The young woman said that the cards really brought her a lot closer to her grandma. Some of her favorite questions were: What was your earliest memory? What was your favorite family tradition? Can you describe the first time you fell in love?

Stories Bring Us Closer

Stories connect us as human beings. At so many levels, they nurture relationships, like the one mentioned above. We need to continue to share stories and discuss them with one another as a way to maintain a sense of harmony understanding.

My grandfather once confessed to me, “You watch, my dear, history will repeat itself. Mark my words.” Although he mentioned this in the context of fashion, I can certainly see how it applies to just about every aspect of our lives.

I continue to instill hope in my children and grandchildren by sharing stories that give them a much-needed sense of history and perspective. During these times, storytelling can also be a reminder that everything passes and that this pandemic is not forever. We will get through it together.

How are you planning to spend the holidays? Will storytelling be part of your celebration this year? Have you told your life stories to your children and grandchildren? Which stories do you select to tell? Have you written your stories for the generations after you? Please share how you went about it!

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The Author

Diana Raab, PhD, is memoirist, blogger, speaker, and award-winning author of 10 books, and numerous articles. She often writes and speaks on writing for healing and transformation. Her latest books are Writing for Bliss: A Seven-Step Program for Telling Your Story and Transforming Your Life and Writing for Bliss: A Companion Journal. Explore her books and Conversation Cards for Meaningful Storytelling.

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