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A Story Comes to Light: The Journey of a First-Time Storyteller (Part 2)

After meeting and really connecting at a recent event, Tina Antrobus, and I agreed to co-create her digital story. If you missed it, watch our first interview here. In it we discussed the path we’d share in drawing out Tina’s story, and what we hoped to achieve both individually and as professionals in our own fields.

We came into the process with our own distinct goals. Tina saw an opportunity to learn more about the digital storytelling process and determine if it would be another tool to connect with her clients on a deeper level as they explored their own healing journey. For myself, I hoped it would provide a better understanding of the mental health supports I needed to be aware of – and to provide whenever possible – while working with others to produce their own stories. It was a chance for me to learn from Tina in her role as a clinical counsellor, as she took the lead role in her own story. Our shared goal was to learn how to better support storyteller, or client, wellbeing.

Your story belongs to you 

Tina and I met together several times over the course of co-creating her story, and again after production was complete.

Common Language DST Process

I am a Level 2 certified Common Language Digital Storytelling Facilitator.

Each step of the Common Language approach helps guide the storyteller through the transformative process.

#1 – Finding the Story
#2 – Telling the Story
#3 – Crafting the Story
#4 – Sharing the Story

Tina admitted that she experienced a range of emotions throughout the process. While she is feeling satisfaction and a sense of completion now, she acknowledged an initial feeling of exposure and vulnerability that her story is now outside of herself – it is no longer strictly her own.  

I reminded her each story belongs to the teller. It is always the choice of the story owner whether to share it or make it public, and that choice is fluid. I’m grateful that Tina decided to share her story, but she is free, at any time, to withdraw that consent.

Unpacking your story

Everyone’s story is unique to them, and each comes with its own uniquely unexpected elements. While Tina’s story focusses on grief and loss – sadly, a frequent theme in the work she performs with her clients – her story featured the loss of a beloved pet, her dog Benji. Tina grappled with the idea that pet loss was not the same as losing a human loved one and she considered limiting the topic to “grief around loss”, and not mentioning Benji.  

She uncovered the unexpected feelings of embarrassment and shame, due to cultural stigmas surrounding pet loss and the expectations to “get over it” quicker, and wondering if she was normal, feeling vulnerable as she acknowledged and shared her deep emotions of loss and pain. Then she experienced a recognition of her resiliency, she noticed a sense of healing from the loss, acknowledging that healing is a continual process, as grief pops its head up throughout a lifetime. And finally, she experienced a sense of validation and the knowledge that she was, by making her story public, normalizing and neutralizing some of the stigma surrounding pet loss. She came to appreciate that loss – in any form – is significant. Her final realization was that there had to be others who needed to hear her story.

Healing comes in unexpected ways 

Sharing her story was cathartic. The act of choosing photos and describing cherished, joyful, and painful memories helped her to incorporate her grief into the new framework of living with it, instead of burying or moving past it. She touched places in her grief that had not yet been acknowledged or exposed, and she felt lighter for putting words to her feelings. Put simply, she transformed her grief into a process of healing by bringing it into the light, by moving it outside of herself. This is the essence of digital storytelling.

"One day I saw it, a coyote on my path. We stared at each other for a time. I felt a connection, 
such beauty and life in its eyes. I whispered, “Where do I go from here?” Image and words by Tina Antrobus
“One day I saw it, a coyote on my path. We stared at each other for a time. I felt a connection, 
such beauty and life in its eyes. I whispered, “Where do I go from here?” Image and words by Tina Antrobus

The story doesn’t end there…

Now that Tina has experienced the process of creating her own digital story, she has the skills to create another one at any time in the future, to reflect her continued healing journey. Tina’s story is still evolving. She discovered that the narrative changed as she processed it, she could feel it doing so. When asked if she would recommend the process she said, “Absolutely! Whether shared publicly or not, the journey is the honesty with yourself – it’s vulnerable in a very transformative way, in a healing way. It’s a powerful medium.” My last question, “What two words describe how you are feeling?” was met with the response, “Relief and anticipation.” How apropos! 

If you’d like to witness the screening of Tina’s digital story in person, it will be shared at the Evening of Digital Storytelling at artsPlace in Canmore on October 25, 2022. Register to attend here.

Be sure to subscribe to my newsletter and YouTube channel so you can follow along and share in this process, and if you’d like to book a free digital storytelling info session with me, click here.  

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