Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Importance of Telling the NICU Story

One of the most valuable things
we can do to heal one another
—is listen to each other's stories.

Rebecca Falls

When faced with a major life changing event, such as the hospitalization of a child in the NICU, parents are often stunned by the news and left trying to make sense. Their initial dreams of a normal birth with a healthy child have been changed. In it's place is the reality of a NICU hospitalization.

Survivors of traumatic loss, such as NICU Parents, may benefit from telling the story. For those who have experienced a major loss it is critical that the loss become real.

Grieving parents should be encouraged to tell their NICU story as often as needed as part of the healing and recovery process.

Each time the story is repeated, the reality of the NICU hospitalization becomes more undeniable and more real.

Many of the Benefits found in Telling the Story also apply to NICU Parents telling the story of their NICU Experience:
  1. Stories help us explain the world, making sense of the insensible.
  2. Storytelling is considered one of the oldest healing arts; it has been used for centuries as a beneficial way for grieving people to cope with loss.
  3. Stories provide a way in which physicians and patients communicate, look for the meaning of their illness, and discover ways of coping with it.
  4. For many patients telling their story is what helps them to cope with or heal from their disease.
  5. Dealing with loss involves creating a private personal story and then telling the story to others to assimilate the loss.
  6. Telling (or writing) the story about one’s life experiences has been shown to have beneficial effects on illness symptoms and is associated with improved physical and mental health.
  7. Life stories are rewritten to make sense of, find meaning in the loss and reassemble shattered lives.
  8. Losses and significant life changes become incorporated into a person’s new life story as the loss is assimilated.
  9. Grieving parents should be encouraged to tell their story of grief as often as needed so the reality of the loss becomes real.
  10. Listening to a person’s story of loss or illness is central to grief support; it can be beneficial for a grieving person in integrating, healing and recovering from the loss.
Thus, having a good friend or a partner that will be there with you and allow you to tell the NICU story again and again if needed is how many NICU parents come to terms with their new reality.

Telling the NICU Story may help in the parents in finding meaning and incorporate this major challenge into their new life story and become empowered NICU parents.

Dyer K. 2001.
The Importance of Telling (and Listening To) the Story. Journey of Hearts.

Image: Mikas Vitkauskas.
Chill in the Evening. Royalty Free Use.