How does love live on? Storytellers will tackle the question

FEBRUARY 18, 2024 7:00 AM

State of the Story (SoTS) kicks off with its first event of the spring season at 7 p.m. Monday at 3 Dots Downtown. Eight storytellers will share their stories of love and loss as part of the special partnership between State of the Story and Learning to Live: What’s Your Story?, an annual collaboration since 2016.

Audience members will be witnesses to a night of heartfelt and authentic stories that have been crafted to effectively tell a story within a seven minute time frame, based on The Moth style of storytelling. People will tell a personal narrative without notes or props about a time in their lives in which a love that they’ve had and lost still lives on, which is the theme of the night.

But how does love live on?

That is the question that these eight storytellers have been asking themselves over the past few weeks. Does it live on in memories? Does it live on in special mementos? Does it live on in gifts? Does it live on in forgiveness? Does it live on in connection over decades and across continents? Does it live on in dimes found at a concert? Does it live on in new beginnings? Does it live on in a dog named Bob?

In fact, these are the deeper questions the storytellers have been reflecting upon and exploring their own experiences to uncover. The story that they will tell from the stage is essentially one possible way to answer their own question. As with any complex question, there is often more than one answer.

At the heart of all of these questions is the concept behind the theme of love lives on. The idea for this theme came out of more recent grief research regarding the concepts of making meaning and continuing bonds as important parts of grieving.

Telling stories is just one way to find meaning and maintain relationships with loved ones who have died. I should know, because in February 2017 I told a story about Dave, my husband, and his sudden death a year before. At the time, I didn’t know what I was doing. I just knew that when I sat down with the other storytellers to practice my story, I felt a sense of companionship and support that I desperately needed during those early days of my grief.

I ended up telling a story about how I had managed to survive the first year after his death by bicycling. Most days, all I seemed able to do was pedal. The others in the group listened closely and helped me craft my story. They asked me questions. They helped me see connections and forge a different way to perceive my own experience. They listened when I could barely speak and rejoiced when I found the story I wanted to tell about Dave’s red bike and my new orange one.

I will be forever grateful for that experience because telling my story helped me recover my own voice when I had been feeling completely inarticulate for so many months. Telling my story helped me find some meaning in my own experience and it enabled me to hang onto the bonds with my husband that I feared were slipping out of my grasp. That story and the stories I’ve told since have been central to my own grief and healing process. I learned that stories keep people alive.

That’s what makes the State of the Story process a special one. People come together to tell a story that’s important to them. But it’s not really about the telling, it’s about the listening. It’s safe to say that a storyteller during practices will spend much more time listening — to each other and to the feedback they receive from others. And when I say listen, I mean really listen. Storytellers are listening to as much of what is not being said as what is. I sometimes call this the “white space” — the sentiments and details and patterns that lie below the surface of someone’s experiences — that often is hidden until a storyteller begins developing and crafting their story.

The State of the Story community continues to expand here in State College. More people are trying their hand at storytelling and our audience is growing. Storytelling connects us all.

We hope you’ll come out Monday night and listen to these storytellers who have opened their hearts and plumbed their own experiences — some painful and some joyful — to develop this one story that answers the question: How does love live on?

Beth McLaughlin is a writer and narrative coach. She thrives on helping others uncover and tell their stories. This column is coordinated by, whose mission is to create educational and conversational opportunities for meaningful intergenerational exchanges on loss, grief, growth and transformation.

Read more at: