How to Talk about Your Trauma/Loss/Grief Story
Why We Need You To Share Your Story
We need to share our testimonies of how God has (and is) walking us through trials. It’s truly how we overcome and how we help others overcome. “We will overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimonies,” (Revelation 12:11). This is how we win our battles! The power of Jesus’ blood and the power of our stories!
So we need to share, but we need to share with “wisdom’s gentleness,” (James 3:13).
Why You Need To Know HOW Share Your Story
A dear friend of mine is a nationwide speaker, a prayer warrior, and a best-selling author. But she is mostly love and wisdom. Ms. Becky Harling had the foresight to say, “Hey, want to talk through the interview questions?” She knew that we sometimes need to know how to steer a conversation away from traumatic details. And with practice and prayer, she’s learned how to do so in a way that is honoring to both her story and honoring to the host and listeners.
This isn’t just for speakers on a stage today. If you talk to anyone besides your cat, then you are a speaker and you have a listener. You have the power to share hope and good news with the person who is buying frozen pizza next to you in the freezer section and with the person who is crying on the side of the road, sitting on the curbside. True stories. So we need to operate with wisdom, for both our sakes and for the sake of those who are asking the questions and listening (as we discussed here yesterday: Who to Talk With About Your Grief/Trauma Story.
Tips on How to Share Your Story
Things to remember when faced with a question that kind of feels like a sucker-punch:
- Listen to your body’s response to the question.
If the question alone feels like a sucker-punch, that’s probably a signal to you that you should not answer this question, not directly at least. Listen to your body. If just the QUESTION makes your skin crawl, feels triggering, makes you go deer-in-the-headlights and your eyes gloss over, or makes you want to hide under a table… then LISTEN to your body. It’s saying, “NO! Don’t go there in this conversation!”
- Set your boundaries.
Some people are naturally close hold with their stories, but others of us are trusting and open and need to learn to set a boundary. Just because someone asked you, doesn’t mean you have to answer. And you can do this directly. Practice saying this kindly but firmly, “You know. That’s not a question I feel like I need to answer. But what I can tell you is this…” Saying it directly not only protects you, it also helps the asker of the question to learn what is appropriate and not to ask of grieving or traumatized person. The asker of the question may just innocently not know and let their curiosity lead their mouth, instead of thinking if the question is beneficial to anyone. So directly saying, “That’s not a topic I need to go into right now. But I can tell you this…” teaches them how to protect other people they may come into conversation with in the future.
Side-stepping is a way to re-steer a conversation into the healthy, life-giving territory. And out of the trauma/grief details that your body has already told you is not for this conversation with an acquaintance or simply curious friend. I actually already snuck an example of side-stepping into the above tip on setting your boundaries because the side-step needs to immediately follow. After saying, “I don’t feel the freedom to discuss those details. BUT what I can say is…” The “but what I can say” is the Segway, the side-step, the way out. You can finish that sentence by sharing a teaching moment or truth you learned about God. Then you’re still sharing your story, but instead of the gory details of “How did he die?” or “How did it happen?”, you can share the GLORY details of how God got you and your family through.
- Put on your Teacher Cap.
That’s how Ms. Becky Harling put it. When you step into the role of teacher, it can protect your heart. You can share wisdom, insight, revelation you have learned through the trial you are (or were) in. But you don’t have to share anything that is too close to home or triggering.
I know. I hate to give you that one as a tip. But it’s true. We have to practice. Even trying to be so very cautious, I have let my guard down and shared too many details too soon before the listener(s) proved a safe and long-term companion. I gave too much benefit of the doubt and dove in too soon. And let me tell you. The consequences were steep and grievous. If I had read an article like this one, and been taught before those moments, I still may have made the mistake. In grief, and in triggering situations where we gloss over, sometimes, we’re just going to say the wrong thing. And THERE IS GRACE FOR IT and GOD CAN REDEEM IT. Which brings us full circle back to Three Ways to Cope When Regret Comes Knocking. Turn to prayer when you messed up and turn to wise counsel to help you wade through those turbulent aftermath waters.
Got any questions? Drop them in the comments below.
If you’re a speaker and would like some help navigating this murky water of what to say and not to say, and how to share your story in a redemptive way, Ms. Becky Harling also offers coaching! (And she’s brilliantly gifted in that department! Check out more about what she offers here: www.beckyharling.com!)
Til next time, peace be with you.
If this helped you find words to process your grief better, then I have much more for you, my friend. Grab my newest release When Mountains Crumble for you and a loved one today.
What Others Are Saying:
“Danita Jenae has written one of the most profound books I’ve ever read on grief! Authentic, passionate, and provocative, Danita gently leads the reader towards hope. I highly recommend!”— Becky Harling, Conference speaker and best-selling author of How to Listen so People Will Talk and Psalms for the Anxious Heart