Four Ways to Record Life’s Most Important Memories
Everyone has a unique story — one worthy to be shared and cherished by future generations — but it’s often challenging to begin the process. Good news: you don’t have to be a professional writer to create your memoir on Lifetime Wishes.
“Your words matter, especially to the people who love you,” says Judith Henry, author of The Dutiful Daughter’s Guide to Caregiving, founder of a writer’s group for caregivers, and a speaker who covers topics like the benefits of expressive writing and creating a legacy letter for family and friends.
1. The first step? Thinking about what to say.
“When composing a life letter, think about your reasons,” says Henry, who shares these examples for inspiring your first words:
- I’ll learn more about who I really am and what I believe in.
- I want to be remembered and leave something that will be here after I’m gone.
- It’s a way to forgive and be forgiven for regrets in my past.
- I can’t always find the words to tell people how much I love and admire them. Writing it down will ensure I tell them what’s in my heart.
2. Next, consider your audience and what you want them to know.
A message to your spouse will likely read differently than one to your grandchildren—especially if you don’t have any grandchildren yet. Think about to whom you’re writing, then determine what you want to share. Henry suggests the following:
- Your life experiences and family history
- What you’ve learned from these experiences (wisdom gained)
- The beliefs and values you live by—your mantra in tough times
- What/who is most important to you?
- What are your hopes for their future?
3. If you struggle with expressing abstract, emotional concepts, spark your life writing by considering specific, concrete milestones.
“Think about some of the significant branching points in your life,” recommends Henry. “Those events—small or large—often put you on a different path. It could be a move to a new town, the birth of a sibling, a parent’s divorce, or going to a new school,” she says. Other ideas to consider writing about:
- What have you learned from your parents, grandparents, friends, partner, children, siblings, pets, illness, your job or career, your faith, divorce, loss, old age?
- What have you learned about love and relationships?
- What is the one thing you want your loved one to know?
4. Finally, be honest, real, and raw.
As you translate these thoughts into recorded words, you may face difficult memories…some you may not wish to share with loved ones. Write about them anyway. “Don’t gloss over the challenges in your life. Loved ones will want to know how you’ve overcome adversity,” Henry says.
Being an open book is meaningful for future generations—they get to know the real you—but it can also transform you in the present. Says Henry, “Sharing the events that affect us in profound ways can encourage powerful dialogue that can often lead to acceptance, understanding and even healing.”