Monday 30 May 2016

The Power of Storytelling: Naomi's Experience

As part of Student Minds' Power of Storytelling Campaign, Naomi writes about her experiences in coping with bereavement 

-Naomi Barrow 

Hi, I'm Naomi. I grew up in Leeds with my parents and two brothers and now frequently go back to visit my Dad and brothers and bake enough to feed a small army for a week! I live in York and am passionate about volunteering and getting young people involved in their communities. My mum had terminal cancer and died in October 2015. I feel that as a society, we don't talk enough about the effects of cancer on others in the family, or what cancer is really like, particularly for young people. This is why I have decided to blog about it on my personal blog I also write for the Huffington Post, you can see my profile and the work I do here.  

What inspired you to share your story?

I first started writing about Mum’s illness (and then her death) because it was cathartic for me. It helped me to get everything in my head out onto a piece of paper (or a screen). I posted them because it felt easier to update my friends that way then by telling them all individually. Soon after I started writing, though, other people began to show interest in my posts, and I realised that my blog was encouraging conversations, real conversations, about terminal illness and death. I began to realise how important it was to keep writing, keep sharing, and keep encouraging others to do the same.

Has telling your story helped you?

Yes it has! I’ve found great comfort in the response I’ve received – others responding to my posts and sharing bits of their stories with me has helped me to feel less alone and less ‘abnormal’. It’s also been helpful when my brain has felt like a foggy fuzz – writing can help me to tease things out and make sense of it all.

Has telling your story helped anyone else?

I hope so. I really hope that others in a similar situation read it and feel less alone. I hope it helps them to find the words to speak to their family and friends. But I also hope it helps those with no experience of death or terminal illness to try and understand what it might be like to be in that situation. I hope it helps them to then help others they know who might be experiencing a terminal illness or death in the family.

What did you find hardest about sharing your story?

It can be really hard to find the words sometimes. There are times when my head feels so foggy and full and I can struggle to find any words. Even if I can find some words, sometimes no words seem to match my feelings and that can be incredibly frustrating! There are occasions when I fear being judged, sometimes I want to slightly sugar-coat the reality and not share the ‘bad’ bits, but life isn’t like that and I think it’s important to share the good and the bad, there is no point in sharing a highly-edited, rose-tinted reality, because that’s not real.

Do you have any advice for anyone coping with bereavement?

I’m not sure I have any great advice other than remembering that everyone copes differently! For me, it was really helpful to have people around me to talk things through and to do fun things with. But my brothers and Dad coped in different ways. I think it’s just important to be kind to yourself and cut yourself some slack!

Are you interested in getting involved in the Power of Storytelling Blog series? Please don't hesitate to get in touch at

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