In the immediate days following a traumatic event, FEI’s staff and trained professional Family Assistance Representatives (FAR) provide victim relatives and friends with psychological first aid (PFA). Among other benefits, PFA offers concrete support to individuals who may be otherwise overwhelmed by a sudden loss.

PFA is also part of helping individuals along the way in an arduous healing process. Our staff and FAR know that an important part of their role in this process is to listen attentively to the stories shared by family and friends.

Stories communicate who we are. Whether through hieroglyphics or on YouTube, humans like to tell stories. Storytelling can also be a very effective means for recovery from an injury. A common treatment intervention for brain disease and dementia is through storytelling. Telling stories with words, drawing, dance and other expressions of self are an important part of treatment for PTSD.

Likewise, in the days after recovery and the repatriation of remains following traumatic events, most people abide by certain traditions and rituals before and after burial. In American culture, attention is often paid to the delivery of a prepared eulogy, a tribute extolling the virtues of the deceased. Having attended many “Irish” funerals, it is not uncommon for raucous storytelling about the departed to replace the initial solemnity of paying respects. A common thread in these post-death traditions and rituals is storytelling.

Where loss is felt, storytelling is central to the healing process. Providing a space for storytelling in the wake of traumatic events allows victim family members and friends to share about their special relationship with the deceased. It also provides the listener, FAR or otherwise, an opportunity to hear how special the deceased was in the lives of others. Listening with compassion helps others to heal.

So, if you ever find yourself wondering what to say when meeting someone who has experienced a loss, don’t hesitate to say, “Tell me about him/her/them.” You will be part of a helpful, healing process.