By Catherine McKellar
Storytelling has existed throughout time. It can be shared in various ways—spoken, written, painted, danced. Storytelling helps pass on memories, history, or lessons to future generations and is a fundamental part of being human.
In times of grief, storytelling is a way for someone to remember or perhaps honour the person that is no longer here. It is a way to recall moments that may have influenced who we became. For those listening to the stories, it is a way to offer support allowing the storyteller to feel their emotions and, maybe, lessen the pain of grief.
This tradition of storytelling is what the Nova Scotia Hospice Palliative Care Association (NSHPCA) hopes to see on its new Wall of Memory. This past December, the NSHPCA launched the Wall of Memory—a virtual site where wonderful stories and memories about loved ones who have passed away are shared.
“The Association’s goal with the Wall is two-fold,” says Ann Cosgrove, the Nova Scotia Hospice Palliative Care Society president. “We want to celebrate Nova Scotians and create a place where stories are held indefinitely. A place where memories don’t fade. Second, revenue from the Wall of Memory will support the Association’s programs that are designed to assist Nova Scotians across the province.”
“We are all touched by the loss of someone we love. We often want to celebrate who they were and how they made a difference in our lives. Sometimes we want to find a way to commemorate the anniversary of their death. We want the Wall of Memory to be this place. It will also show the vibrancy of Nova Scotians through their stories,” says Diana Whalen, Former Deputy Premier and Chair of the Wall of Memory Committee.
The Wall of Memory was established to recognize Leo Glavine, former Minister of Health, who advocated for palliative care in Nova Scotia. “Leo believes strongly in the importance of hospice and palliative care. In politics, he advocated tirelessly for better services, and he supported the Valley Hospice for many years even before he was involved in politics,” adds Whalen. “He is also a good storyteller.”
The NSHPCA’s mission is to help support palliative and hospice care and help people manage grief. The Wall of Memory is another tool the association hopes can help people with grief. Studies have shown the healing effect of verbal and written narratives. Research has found that sharing stories helps alleviate psychological distress and build resiliency and positive emotional connections in people experiencing grief.
“We are already hearing how some people feel better after posting and reading some of the stories on our Wall of Memory,” says Cosgrove. “Recently, a woman shared she initially thought she would be reading obituaries on the Wall and feel sad. However, she experienced the exact opposite. She enjoyed reading the stories. She felt her heart feeling fuller as she read each post, absorbing the happy memories and positive impressions people left on others.” Anyone can post on the Wall of Memory, and more than one post can be made about the same person. This will make the Way of Memory an important collection of Nova Scotian memories.
Sharing stories about loved ones or people that have played a meaningful role in our lives helps build connections, binds us together as a community and triggers lost memories. Storytelling brings a person’s spirit back to the present, easing the sense of grief and loss. This is what the Wall of Memory is about on an emotional level—easing loss and celebrating lives. By permanently capturing moments in someone’s life, we honour loved ones and celebrate them, which can then be passed on for years to come. To post a story on the NSHPCA Wall of Memory and support hospice and palliative services and education in Nova Scotia, visit http://nshpca.ca/ wall-of-memory/
The Nova Scotia Hospice Palliative Care Association is a non-profit, province-wide association that supports the education of hospice and palliative care for individuals living and dying with a life-threatening illness. The NSHPCA believes everyone deserves compassion, care, and dignity at the end of life and will support Nova Scotians each step of the way.