Scholarship informs The Living Memorial. I created this site as an outcome of my thesis, where I explored fear of death via poems and photographs I produced on my blog during my grandma's end of [this] life. Learn about the following theories that nest our approach to Digital Storytelling, Intergenerational Communication, Community and Loss, and Ethics:
|Storytelling in loss can create community (above)|
Storytelling opens doors to share that innermost core that influences our behaviors (Altman & Taylor, 1973, as cited in Caputo, Hazel, McMahon, & Dannels, 2004, pp. 110-111). Digital storytelling provides an innovative and community-based way to participate with others. Digital stories range from three to five minute visual narratives that synthesize images, video, and audio recordings of narrative, music, and text. This method follows the train-the-trainer model (CDS, 2010), and so can feel empowering when life spins out of control, such as in loss.
|Angel statue at Gonzaga University (above)|
The performance aspect of storytelling empowers participants to gain a sense of ownership in their experiences and mentor each other. Storytelling allows participants to produce something positive and tangible out of even difficult experiences, and, as writing (DeSalvo, 1999), provides a therapeutic process. This process restores confidence in poiesis, or Aristotle’s creating and shaping something with a goal in mind (Rulun, 2010; The European Graduate School, 2010). Digital storytelling engages poiesis as a way to learn and grow through creativity. In loss, a goal in the digital story can be to heal, to memorialize someone, to find solace in other's stories. Digital stories in these ways can provide healing interventions for those struggling with grief.
Digital storytelling allows a vast array of topic choices largely because participants choose their topic, rather than having a topic assigned to them. This agentic, or choice-engaging, approach naturally leads to ownership and can lessen the communication apprehension that occurs when people worry about meeting some cultural expectation. In stories, people discover that they are free to share based on life events and stories that mean something to them and need not comply with someone else's expectations.
|Sun shines at the cemetery (above)|
Digital storytelling relies on Symbolic-Interpretive (Frey & Sunwolf, 2005), Performance Narrative (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000; Mattingly, 1998; Phelan, 1993; Polkinghorne, 1988), and Coordinated Management of Meaning (Cronen, 2001; Pearce, 2004; 2008) theories. Stories symbolize the ways that people express themselves and bond with others (Frey & Sunwolf, 2005). Symbols, such as stories, communicate group experiences and values, and predispose people to interact in certain ways (Frey & Sunwolf). Time, culture, space, context, and relationships mediate group behaviors, all of which affect each other (Frey & Sunwolf). This dynamic drives group interactions (Frey & Sunwolf), meaning that sharing stories about loss symbolizes the ways that people interact and work through their experiences.
|My grandparents, sketch I drew in 8th grade (above)|
People create stories together in a myriad of ways. People tell stories to make sense of their experiences and tell stories to narrate their experiences with others (Cronen, 2001; Pearce, 2004; 2008). Moreover, digital storytelling empowers persons and organizations to perform their story in a culturally relevant and hopeful way (Denzin, 2003; McKee, 2003, June). Most of all, sharing stories about loss breaks the culture of silence shrouding death (Bosticco & Thompson, 2005). This silence can deepen people's pain as they feel they can't talk with others.
|Parsed laptop (above)|
|Photo books on shelf (above)|
Storytelling benefits when it invites people to learn. Stories signify community in transitioning from an "I" to a "We" mindset, and give the narrator a sense of identity and agency, or self-control (Peterson & Langellier, 2004). In short, digital storytelling helps people to wrestle with loss.
|Grandma and Me, Easter 2008 (above)|
Intergenerational research must evaluate the ways people communicate grief by exploring the multitude of ways that culture depicts, experiences, and normalizes grief and aging. Intergenerational communication, or interacting through symbols across age groups, can improve grief work. The generations can mentor each other where the young learn from the wisdom of the aged (V. Manusov, personal communication, April 29, 2008). For instance, families often organize tasks and negotiate identities between generations by performing narrative (Langellier & Peterson, 2004). This performance influence roles in families, which can impact caregiving and loss experiences.
Community and Loss
|St. Aloysius Gonzaga statue (above)|
Culturally, people censor themselves from sharing loss when they perceive a lack of support with their families to discuss grief. Family and friends "sidestep" references to the bereaved's loss, creating a "'conspiracy of silence'" (Helmrath & Steinitz, 1978, as cited in Bosticco & Thompson, 2005, pp. 258-259). Families who stifle communication altogether may avoid talking about death, believing that they are protecting each other (Beach, 1995, cited in Bosticco & Thompson, 2005, p. 259). Yet, people counter their culture when they communicate their loss, rather than avoid it.
|Tahoma National Cemetery (above)|
Jones, Pomeroy, and Sampson (2009) said a healthcare community made decisions based on five themes of importance in grief work: resources, research, training, collaboration, and projects. Caregivers, whether clinicians or family, should share information to help each other (Sandler, 2005, as cited in Jones, et al., 2009, p. 102). This sharing can empower families and professionals to offset medical professionals' "expert" status and allow for a more equal and supportive interchange of ideas and care.
|Holding Grandma's hand, Easter (above)|
Capossela and Warnock (2004) advocated creating a community caregiving group to help care for persons who are seriously ill, or a Share the Care approach. This approach emphasizes bonding with family, neighbors, friends, coworkers, and anyone else willing to work together to help care for a loved one in end-of-life. This approach elevates each person as a contributor and removes the demarcation between professional and volunteer. This approach provides a promising move forward in a culture that often relegates its dying to isolated contexts where most die in hospitals instead of at home (A. Carei, personal communication, January 29, 2010).
Sloan (1992) valued narrative as the key to allow a person to communicate her perspective and so influence her community to respond. Persons who "share the care" can respond to other's loss by caregiving in ways that interest them and that work for their schedule. For instance, persons can give a haircut, or visit the ill in the hospital, plan a birthday party, call doctors, or listen to primary caregivers vent their feelings (Capossela & Warnock, 2004). Such flexibility appeals to each person's unique experience with loss.
|Red rose at Gonzaga University garden (above)|
|Grandpa's hat (above)|
Denzin (2003a) suggested that performance texts (such as digital narratives about loss) move people through a process of interpreting their experience, to healing emotionally, and then to motivating them to generate social change with their newfound awareness. Practically speaking, storysharing's emphasis on vulnerability (Behar, 1996; Ellis, 1999) and collaboration (Bochner & Ellis, 2006) can help medical practitioners who want to improve their relationships and outcomes with their constituents, such as in end of life situations.
|Mary statue (above)|
Given stories can change experiences for people and society, Denzin (2003a; 2003b) proposed that narrative research transcends personal experience to symbolize hope and freedom, where hope can be especially powerful in helping persons to cope with pain (Snyder, 1998). In other words, digital storytelling in loss releases a guiding ethic to publicize and share our vulnerability in order to make the world a more safe and healthy place to appreciate and to care for each other and for ourselves in loss.
To summarize, digital storytelling provides a pathway, a process, and an outcome for people to share and to understand their loss experiences and to create a sense of community, if not community itself. Even so, loss and death are not romantic. It hurts to lose someone you love. It helps to know that others care and that there is a way to talk about your experience. Be free to share your story here. Find links for help with your grief here.
"Even the young grow weary... but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength" (Isa. 40:31)