Your special memories may not only be important to you, but they could be important to family and friends as well. Many people wish they knew more about their family history. Writing your life story can help. The account of the series of events and experiences that make you the person you are today can be written, recorded or both.
Life stories include information about family and friends, the different locations and dwellings that you’ve called home, your education, work, hobbies, spirituality and how you were affected by important world events, such as the end of the Vietnam War or 9/11. Life stories should also include family medical history as this can provide useful information for both you and future generations. Knowing your family medical history can encourage preventative measures and even lead to early detection of certain health problems or disorders.
Documenting and sharing a life story has many mental and social benefits. The process contributes to overall mental healthiness, reinforces a sense of purpose and strengthens family and caregiver relationships. In addition, the legacy of a life story and family history influences future generations.
Writing a life story takes time and careful thought. The University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension publication FCS7-200, “Life Story: What Is It and How Do You Write It?” has a worksheet with sample questions that encourage you to think about significant events and memories. It is available online at http://www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/fcs7/fcs7200/fcs7200.PDF or at your local extension office. Photographs, mementos and talking to others can also be helpful tools that jar memories. If you don’t feel comfortable writing or recording your life story by yourself, ask a family member, friend or caregiver to help.
We are never too young or too old to start writing a life story, but the sooner we start, the more accurate and detailed our story will be. Make life story entries a habit. Life story can be captured many ways, including journaling, photographs, voice recordings, and formal life story programs. Recording and sharing life story is important because it helps explain who we are, where we’ve been, how we got here, and even where and what we anticipate doings in the future. Writing and sharing a life story also promotes well-being, quality relationships, mental healthfulness and legacy building.
Educational programs of the Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability or national origin.