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Life Review 2: This time do it with meaning!

Published by Chapster on 2002/12/20 (4902 reads)
"Your life story should communicate who you are not just a collection of facts."

Life Review 2: This time do it with meaning!
Recorded in the KEOM studios.

Q: Today, we are going to talk about the importance of writing one's life story and about the process of life review. Why is this especially important for the elderly as well as others?

A: Generally, as a year comes to a close, many people start thinking back over the past 12 months and reminisce about the experiences, people, and events that played important roles during that time. This helps us gain a sense of perspective on where we've been, what we may have learned in the past year, and help plan for the year ahead. Life review is very much like this - only on a larger scale! Specifically, it is the process of intentionally reflecting on the experiences and events from our past and drawing meaning from those experiences, especially as it affects our present lives and the future.

Life review is important for many reasons . . . it can help us deal with unfinished business - you know, issues that we have carried with us for years but have never really addressed, (like the sister that we haven't spoken with for the past 10 years for reasons that we're not too sure about anymore), life review can help to plan for retirement, for pursuing goals that we would still like to achieve and for sharing what we have learned from the past with our children, grandchildren and generations yet to come.

As well, life review creates the foundation for writing one's life story. This too can be very important, especially for the elderly and those in nursing homes. By creating a booklet of pictures and stories that shows who this person was, details their talents - such as a gifted seamstress or musician, or tells about their accomplishments - such as volunteering for years with a local hospice or raising seven children, or explains about their sorrows - a recently deceased spouse or other close loved ones who have died - a booklet like this that remains in the resident's room of a nursing home, helps staff and visitors know more about this person's history and can help personalize the care they give that resident. But even for our parents and grandparents who are active and healthy, wouldn't it be great if there was some kind of written or spoken record of their history - from their perspective? Especially as it relates to the holidays, sharing one's life story with family and friends is truly the gift that no one else can give.

Q: How does someone even begin the process of life review or what are some ways that you might suggest to begin writing one's life story?

A: First, consider why you want to write your life's story . . . is it because you want to set the record straight about your past, or because you want your children's children to know who you were and what you believed and what you learned, or is it for some other personal reason? Once these questions are answered, it creates the basis for what and how you will write about your past.

Secondly, check out some resources about writing your life story . . . there are many books, internet sites and genealogical websites that help research your ancestors and give ideas about how to jog your memories to begin the process of writing. In our website, , we have a list of good resources, as well as an online seminar that assists in writing one's life story.

Third, just jump right in and start brainstorming memories from your childhood, schooldays, early adult years, career years, marriage, etc. Eventually, this collection of bits and pieces from the past will come together to form the story of your life.

Lastly, put meaning behind the facts . . a good story deserves more than a series of dates, a record of births, marriages and deaths - a life story needs meaning to be cherished. What did it mean to the person who served in the armed forces during World War II, what was important to grandma about boarding a ship in Poland in 1946 at the age of 32 to come to the United States, and so on. By sharing the lessons that we have learned, the joys and regrets from the events of our past, we create a map that can offer a sense of hope and direction to those we love.

Q: Are there ways that we can help someone else write their life story?

A: You bet! We suggest in our seminar about life review that you can help another to compile their memories by writing a series of questions that reflect experiences from that period in their life - maybe 10 questions relating to each of the following categories, such as:

my family and school years;
my military career, business career or homemaker career;

those whom I have loved;

and so on.

You can present these questions to a person on paper, or ask the questions using a tape recorder to save the stories in their own words or consider using a video camera to get a visual and oral version of their life story.

Regardless of the format, share your stories with those you love - it truly is the gift that keeps giving!

Tags: review   life   reminiscence   myth   story  

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