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The Power of Telling Family Stories

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How to keep family history intact

While not a formally recognized therapy, telling family history is a powerful medicine. Research shows that family history writing or reminiscing improves self-esteem, enhances feelings of control and mastery over life, and often results in a new or expanded vision of one’s life.

For very advanced-age clients, the chance to tell their stories improves cognition, lessens depression and dementia, and improves behavioral functioning. “Writing shakes people out of their same old stories and makes them think differently about their lives,” says Hope Levy of There’s Always Hope, a San Francisco-based Geriatric Consultancy.

Levy cites the example of one of her clients, a woman in her late 70′s who felt depressed and anxious over her own perceived lack of accomplishments in life. Levy assigned her the exercise of writing a letter to herself as a young child. Then she wrote a letter from her younger self to her present self. “When she finished with the assignment, she walked out on Cloud Nine,” Levy recalls. “She did it without anybody else, just the writing and her own feedback.”

“It’s never too early or too late to begin,” says Levy, who, in her 40s has worked in lifelong learning throughout her career. “Writing out your thoughts has so many more benefits than simply sitting down and thinking them.”

Life writing activities may be done individually or in structured groups. In group activities, members are encouraged to prepare in advance information about family relationships, life accomplishments, school, careers, experiences that impacted them emotionally, world events, etc.

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The Power of Telling Family Stories originally appeared on AgingCare.com

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33 comments

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7:38AM PST on Mar 2, 2013

Thank you AgingCare, for Sharing this!

4:26PM PDT on Aug 24, 2012

my great aunt spent a large amount of time driving around the roads near my great grandmothers house and writing down the things the older people said. Jokes, stories, remembrances, and recipes. These people were mostly well into their 70s, 80s, and 90s. My great grandmother told her last when she was 90. Her older sister still tells all. She (my aunt) made it a quarterly paper and would give the paper out to the locals she knew and loved. When my grandmother passed she wrote a short book of all of grandma's stories and such. It is a family keepsake and something we all treasure. When I read it, I can still hear my grandmothers voice. RIP Fleta Mae

10:18PM PDT on Jun 26, 2012

it is sad when people don't value the stories of their elders. Their stories are part of our legacy. They tell us where we came from, how we got here, why we are the way we are. When our elders are gone, they and their stories and our life histories are gone forever.

10:32PM PDT on Jun 22, 2012

Great encouragement to write down the stories - I treasure the memoirs people wrote a hundred years ago.

8:44PM PDT on Jun 22, 2012

ty for the excellent info

5:38PM PDT on Jun 22, 2012

Great, as long as the stories are the truth

8:30AM PDT on Jun 22, 2012

It is sad when families don't share their stories.

12:58PM PDT on Jun 21, 2012

This is such a important thing to do. Sadly i did not do this with my grandmother who lived in France durring the German occupation. She is gone now and so have her stories.

10:40AM PDT on Jun 21, 2012

I have very fond memories of the stories my mother told me and later on,my daughter. My 2 little granddaughters are only 3 and 2 but I hope I am around long enough to tell them some of my stories.

9:00AM PDT on Jun 21, 2012

happy memories of my grandma's family stories

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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