A personal reflection on storytelling in journalism and beyond
Volume 93 Arts and Culture Editor reflects on her time at the Silhouette and the immense healing inherent storytelling
Storytelling is a skill I feel I have undervalued most of my life. It wasn’t until this year that I learned to appreciate its full potential and power. A good story can draw out our deepest emotions, forge connections and inspire us. But there is also
a side to a story that can provide healing and growth.
My curiosity, love for stories and interest in writing are what initially drew me to journalism in high school. When I later joined the Silhouette in university, my main motivation for becoming a reporter was getting to know the Hamilton community better. I mostly viewed the storytelling I practiced through journalism as a medium to understand the spaces I was part of — that was until I had a conversation with Carmen Cooper and Carl Lambert from 541 Eatery & Exchange.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Cooper and Lambert to cover a new harm reduction initiative at the eatery called Concrete Tales which focused on ex- changing stories and teaching storytelling skills to people who are unhoused or experiencing substance addiction. They shared with me the differences these workshops were making on people’s lives and how it provided healing for everyone involved.
“Because I’ve been [working at 541 Eatery & Exchange] for four years, in some ways, I have earned the privilege and hon- our of getting to know some people who have had very hard lives and because I myself found healing and growing through storytelling, I wanted to offer that opportunity to other people,” said Cooper.
Since our conversation, this is a quote from Cooper I have continuously reflected on and held close to me. It showed me that stories can enable people to understand their lives, construct meaning from trauma and cope with reality. After reflecting on it further, I realized I, too, had taken advantage of this part of storytelling to cope with my own past trauma.
The most difficult event I had to endure in the last few years was the passing of my aunt. Growing up, with my mother often busy at work, it was my aunt who acted as the primary caregiver. Unfortunately, when I was in high school, she was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer. The years following, and especially when she entered the palliative care home during the pandemic, were the most challenging years for us.
For a while, I couldn’t speak about her to anyone because all I would do was cry and so instead, I chose to suppress my feelings and tuck her story away. However, I finally revealed her story to the world through the Silhouette in 2021.
I found immense healing through the experience of retelling her story and her impact in my life. Recounting my memories with her washed away my sadness and brought warmth over the painful experience of watching her slowly deteriorate away. Since writing the article, I’ve also been more comfortable speaking about her to others and my family which provided further healing.
There is so much one can take away from stories and storytelling. I’ve continued to apply the lessons I learned by encouraging family and friends to ex- press their feelings and experiences and listening attentively to them when they are going through a difficult time. Even in conversations with strangers, I’ve had experiences where people would thank me for allowing them the space to share their story.
Storytelling can be a powerful skill to develop to help others understand their own narrative but also for you to better understand yourself. It is one of the most meaningful lessons I’ve learned through- out my time at the Silhouette and I encourage everyone to practice and hone this skills — whether it be through participating in journalism or reflection — to become a stronger advocate for others and yourself and navigate trauma and loss.