I learned of the power of storytelling at a young age. My grandmother, a grant writer and school board member for the ROCORI school district in Central Minnesota, was my writing mentor. I would go over to her house, where  the smell of coffee filled the air, public radio played softly in the background and newspapers were strewn about the kitchen table. She always greeted me warmly, ready to pore over my poetry and stories that I wrote so I could get her feedback.

But then one panic-stricken doctor visit led to another. It soon became clear there was no way out of the hell that is pancreatic cancer. At age 59, she died of that horrible disease. It devastated our entire family.

After her death, I immersed myself in storytelling as a way to heal and cope. I turned to poetry and filled piles of notebooks with emotional journal entries. I also created zines for my loved ones, who appreciated the distraction from our family’s pain.

Ever since then, I’ve come to know storytelling as a powerful tool for healing and for connection with others. Long after the days of being at my grandmother’s house, I’ve discovered stories have many forms — articles, videos, social media posts, photos, blogs and well-crafted newsletters. We can connect to each other in so many ways. We can offer empathy in so many ways. We can heal and make the world a better place in so many ways.