23 December, 2019

The stories we tell ourselves

An old blogging-now-Facebook friend of mine posted a quote from one of his friends. I read it, and just had to share.
"Our greatest sufferings and our greatest joys come not from our experiences,
but from the stories we tell ourselves about our experiences."
- Jeanette Westlake

 I see this time and again, both with myself, and others. It is very relevant for those of us who have grieved the loss of parenthood in our future. We suffer because we have, for so long, told ourselves how happy we will be when we get pregnant/adopt/become parents. We suffer because we have told ourselves it is the only acceptable outcome. We suffer because society tells us it is the only acceptable outcome, and we've come to believe it. We suffer because we tell ourselves what we've lost. 

Part of this is, of course, the normal process of grieving a loss. The length of our suffering is often affected by how long we continue to tell ourselves that we are suffering a great loss. And the turning point in healing is when we start to observe, and accept, that we can find joy in the future. I remember feeling huge hope that I would be okay when I allowed myself to feel the joy of the little things. Telling myself that all was not gloom and doom, allowing myself to laugh, to enjoy a view, to feel the sun on my back, all helped me change the story I was telling myself. 

That's why I blog here, and why I know many others blog. Because we've got to the stage where we know we are okay, and we want to reinforce that by telling our stories to others, to help them know they will be okay too. And maybe it will help them to change the stories they are telling themselves.

Loss is not always just loss. As I've written in my Gifts of Infertility series, there are a lot of positives that come from loss. And even when we feel the loss acutely, because we've changed the stories we tell ourselves, we know that the pain won't last. We know we'll be okay. And that way moves aside suffering, and makes room for joy.
It is indeed all about the stories we tell ourselves. And importantly, the stories we tell others.


  1. I love the quote!
    Yes, one of the reasons why I keep blogging is the reason you wrote. I hope somebody someday finds comfort in the lines I write.

  2. Love the quote, and the thought that telling the stories of hope and healing can help change the stories others tell themselves in the thick of things. Your stories and others definitely opened the door for me to a possibility of resolution without children that was not tragic, as the story I told myself was that that alternative was not possible and had to be avoided at all costs. Hearing your story and the joys that could come from healing and embracing a No Kidding life were such a lifesaver.

  3. The English teacher and I were just talking about this at school before we let out for winter break! We were talking about our students and the culture of our community and why some students seem motivated and others do not. She said she always sees things through her English teacher lens. She told me, "Narratives are powerful. The stories we tell ourselves mean something." And Bam! It was such a powerful realization for me on so many different topics. I immediately went back to my classroom and wrote the following on my board: "Narratives are powerful. What story are you telling yourself?"

  4. Wonderful reminder as we head into a new year and review the year that is passing while thinking about the year to and our hopes for the future.
    Thank you.

  5. This is so true!
    "And the stories we tell others" - yes!
    It is so important that those walking the path behind us can see that eventually the "other outcome" can be acceptable as well - and even more than acceptable! These "other" stories have not been told as often yet, so I am glad you are sharing your experience. Thank you <3.
    I hope that you had peaceful holidays and wish you all the best for 2020!

  6. So true! Thanks for this! :)

  7. Thank you Mali for sharing this quote! Everybody should have this in mind while going through life, not only childless people ;-)