Everyone has a story to tell. Those who have lived longer often need—and might have a responsibility—to tell and share their stories.
We have stories and ideas we want to impart to our families. We may have been asked to write our stories by family members and/or friends. Some of us have kept journals and may want to organize and put the stories in a form to give to the family.
I was fortunate that I started a journal after my husband died. The information was vital for me years later when I decided to write our story for our children and grandchildren. Memories only last so long. Eventually you begin to forget the details that give life and accuracy to those memories.
I teach a Life Story writing class in which older adults write stories about their experiences. Often, my students prefer quick and direct answers on what and how to write; however, to write an interesting and entertaining story, they need to learn how to develop a plan and set a goal.
You want to be proud of the document you give to your family or yourself. This takes time, thought, and insight. You may want to write the facts, but to assure a more interesting document, you need to include details—not just a chronological listing of factual experiences (what happened, when, and what resulted) but the feelings and emotions involved before, during, and after the facts.
Writing about our lives can convey to others—as well as ourselves—what we went through to get where we are. Including emotions related to rejection, abuse, and disappointments as well as joys, financial or social success, honors, personal achievement, and spiritual awakening allows others to realize that we may have shared the same experiences and that our knowledge and information could be helpful.
Writing can help each of us to have a deeper understanding of who we are and how we have handled problems and stresses. Individual experiences may seem trivial or possibly unimportant, but they are all essential to define who we are, where we have been, and where we are going.
Some may feel they have nothing to say. Some may feel their experiences are too painful and they don’t want to be reminded. No matter your achievements and/or challenges in life, your story is worth writing.
It’s been said that kids who are familiar with their family’s lives seem to be more effective in life. They see the challenges and the work needed to handle experiences. They are exposed to the problems and solutions and are able to deal with what comes up in life in a more positive way.
One student from my writing class remarked, “My wife and I have experienced the death of 23 family members and friends during the past few years. Think of how much family information and stories are gone, never to be experienced again. We wish we had paid more attention and recorded the stories that have been handed down from previous generations.”
- “I’ve been around for some 70 years so I’ve got lots of stories to tell. I want to share some of experiences of the old days. They were so different from today.”
- “I have wanted to write my wartime memories for a long time. I am dedicating this collection of my memories to my daughters. May they and their children never have to experience war with all its horrors and pain in a direct way.”
- “I am writing for myself, part therapy and part discovery.”
One student remarked that our class process should be listed under the “health” category because writing about the experiences was healing as well as informative.
All ages want to feel valued and recognized for their unique gifts, talents, and contributions, and only they can tell what their experiences were. Life is an adventure all of us are experiencing one moment at a time. Your life is as unique as your fingerprints—share it with your family and friends or write it just for yourself.
Contributor Delores Davis currently teaches “Writing Your Life Stories” classes at Burien Community Center. She also conducts six-week Living Well with Chronic Conditions classes and a diabetes self-management program for Kaiser Permanente and Sound Generations.