Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Telling Life: Teach what you know

I had the pleasure of attending the Northlands Storytelling Conference this past weekend. It was a joy. A bunch of people who love storytelling, gathered to tell, listen, talk, teach and encourage one another.

I presented a workshop called Storying Our Grief about using storytelling to process grief and then to help others. This is one of many workshops I teach on a wide variety of topics, a sampling of which you can see here, but it was by far one of the most challenging I have ever taught.

I struggled for months with imposter syndrome about this workshop. What right do I have to talk about grief and loss? I'm not a therapist, is this too dangerous a can of worms to open? Will anyone want to come? For that matter, do I know enough about storytelling to teach anything about it? My inner demons were alive and well as I worked on this one. It was rough.

I persevered. I kept working on it. Each time the negative thoughts got too loud I would counter them as best as I could.

  • What right do I have to talk about grief and loss? Well, I've experienced a significant loss. While each grief is different there are similarities too, and I can at least help remind people that we are not alone in our loss. 
  • I'm not a therapist, is this too dangerous a can of worms to open? True, I'm not a therapist. But I've attended and led risky workshops before and as long as I am clear about purpose and intention (remind everyone that this is not therapy but storytelling) I should be okay. Have some tissues on hand. Have a good strategy planned for help in case someone gets really upset.
  • Will anyone want to come? I can't control that. All I can do is offer something I believe to be worthwhile. 
  • For that matter, do I know enough about storytelling to teach anything about it? Oh, shut up. I've been doing this for 20+ years, I probably know a thing or two.

It went really well. I had maybe 20 people in the workshop, they all seemed to get something out of it, no one fell apart in a significant way and yet they all got to feel what they needed to feel. I learned more about how to facilitate a group, how to help people process, how to tell stories.

I was thinking about it afterwards and remembered that 1) I can't teach what I don't know and 2) every time I teach I learn something new. I do know something about storytelling. I do know something about grief. I would never have wanted this knowledge, this understanding of deep grief, but now that I have it, I may as well do something with it to try to make the world a more whole place. The rewards are huge.

Every time I teach I am sharing myself and my experience. I love it. I love seeing my students have their a-ha moments. I love everything I learn every time I teach. I love knowing that my offering will help them be more fully themselves and better storytellers to boot; it helps me in the same way. I hope that we all can come to a place where we recognize that we have something to offer, that our experiences give us something worth sharing, that we all get to be both teachers and students.

P.S. As always, I'd love to know what you think. And if you're interested in bringing me in to teach, let's talk!

(c)2016 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License


  1. I love this. There is a joy to this work and teaching this work and seeing people flourish and grow is the best. I am thrilled it went well and won't think it would be anything other than great.

  2. I am so proud of your work. Isn't it crazy how we can feel the most fraudulent about the thing that resonates with readers and listeners the most? That imposter syndrome is a pain in the ass isn't it? That God you powered through!

  3. I lost my beloved husband of almost 39 years on 3-27-14.I found the 2nd year to be harder than the first! I had things organized
    and had more time to think about what I lost.
    In the 2nd year we wake up to "secondary losses". We also have to rebuild our "assumptive world".

    All you write about crying and grief I can totally relate to. Crying always helps me.
    I read that feelings of grief will diminish, but not disappear. Grief is 'infinitas' - which means ‘being without finish’.
    I think that is true.


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