Written by Graham Matthews 

“Each and every one of us has a story that is waiting and needs to be told.  For some the past is like a thorn in the side of one’s flesh, which over time the wound becomes septic.  If not treated then the poison spreads maliciously throughout the body until the pain screams out from the head.  The facts of the incident or incidents may not be easily demonstrated or have a proven existence, and for fear of being misunderstood or reprisal the storyteller remains silent.  Nothing is more difficult than speaking of things that are neither demonstrable nor verifiable. The Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Foundation for Peace offers a safe environment where it is possible to speak-out. 

The ‘Sharing Experiences’ residential I attended helped me to take a step closer to making real the incidents and the memories that are the cause of my self-inflicted guilt.  Throughout the weekend all participants have space to tell their story without fear and shame.  There was no judgment by the other participants and by listening and sharing each other’s story, however humbling one’s own story is, the effect was one of individual and group strength.  The desire to belong is possibly the common thread that had brought us together as a group; the need to share without recrimination.

I needed little persuasion to join the ‘Sharing Experiences’ residential.  However as I was and to a large extent still am unable to tell my story to my wife, as with partners or close family it took a little time before my wife would agree to accompany me.  This is not abnormal, as the fear of telling one’s story may impact a sense of guilt, grief or misunderstanding on those who care for us. 

My argument to persuade her was that maybe by sharing my story at the residential I might begin to open the closed doors of my memory to her, I cannot say they are open but the doors are ajar.  I believe that her presence at the residential was of great benefit to others as well as me; in some ways     perhaps her presence enabled others who were to speak in public for the first time to address themselves to her as a substitute carer.  I hope this course of action can be repeated by others because the carer’s story is significant in the healing process and they themselves take-on a role as a victim despite being removed from the event.

For myself I gained self-respect and a tremendous rush of energy after attending, for my wife she was exhausted but welcomed the experience and understood a greater sense of the difficulties of speaking-out to those in her role.  Together we both felt great compassion and humility for everyone else and a rewarding sense of privilege to be a listener to others who are troubled as a result of conflict.

For every one who fears to speak their story, there is at least one person who on hearing this will be strengthened and begin taking steps to tell their own story.  If anyone should read this then I urge those who are similarly troubled by conflict to put their trust in the Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Foundation for Peace

No-one’s story is less significant than anyone else’s and the effects of guilt, the feeling of uselessness or the debilitating illness that afflicts us who directly or indirectly experience conflict need to be listened to.  Storytelling by itself cannot mend an individual but the process and the respect gained by the individuals’ account helps make concrete and balance what the memory might recall as unarguable.”