I’ve had the opportunity over the past 15 years to be involved with people at the end of their lives, first as a documentary filmmaker and more recently as a personal historian and hospice volunteer. What I have learned from first hand experience and the growing body of academic research is that telling life stories can have a therapeutic effect on the dying. The process of recording and preserving life stories provides the terminally ill with:
- Affirmation: I’m more than my disease. Those caring for me have acknowledged all of me.
- Legacy: Something lasting will transcend my death. There’s hope that I will be remembered and that my story will provide some comfort to my family in their bereavement.
- Purpose: By doing this work there is still meaning to my life. I am contributing to others.
- Pattern: I see more clearly a purpose and meaning to experiences that often seem random and discontinuous.
- Support: Having a care provider, friend, family member or personal historian listen to my life story bears witness to who I am and the significance of my journey.
For any of you working with palliative care patients or caring for a dying family member, I strongly encourage you to consider introducing some life story activity into your care.
Photo by jaded one