The story of your life: don’t wait another day to tell it

Whether you’re sharing your story or trying to learn your loved one’s history, it's important to document it sooner than later

Everyone comes to terms with life’s fleeting uncertainty at different times. Sure, it’s true you cannot predict what tomorrow will bring, and you often hear the advice to enjoy each day. But until there’s a reason to contemplate your mortality, those words just seem like words. When you do come to that realization, it’s easy to let the mind go to what ifs and contemplate all the things you didn’t do, like share the story of your life — or learn the stories of your loved ones’ lives.

How to write an obituary, step by step

Few people write full memoirs recounting every detail of their lives. It’s also true few people open up, even to close family members, about some of the most significant moments of their lives. Rebecca Weingarten MSc(Ed), MFA, is a coach, counselor, and cofounder of RWR, a non-profit organization that aims to empower senior citizens and Holocaust survivors. She says people procrastinate sharing because “telling your life story changes you in profound ways.” Delving deep into the past may help you see yourself in a new light and may even redefine you. “It can also help you understand yourself better,” Weingarten says.

Opening up to loved ones about the past “can be very difficult, intimidating, and sometimes scary. Some experiences might feel too tough to speak about, might trigger painful memories, or may have caused shame at the time,” Weingarten says.

If you want to learn more about a loved one’s life, you can help them share their stories by asking questions, rather than waiting for them to open up. Coach and mentor Aureen M. Monteiro suggests starting with simple prompts, such as, “As a kid, what did you enjoy doing?” Or point to a scar and ask, “What happened?”

Download a free "How do you want to be remembered?" storybook

If you want to casually share your story, bedtime is a natural occasion. Every parent or grandparent “will experience the opportunity of having to put a child to sleep by way of a bedtime story. Use your life's experiences as the story,” Monteiro says.

If you want to document your story, perhaps you would like writing your life story in a journal or through a service, like Story Terrace, which helps everyday people write their biographies. Or maybe you would enjoy using an increasingly popular platform like StoryCorps, where over half-a-million people and counting have already shared their stories.

No matter how you tell your story, don’t be afraid of how it will be received by family members. “They will respect you and love you more for what you have been through and overcome,” Monteiro assures.

Regardless of how others react to your story, the last thing you want to do is take your experiences with you to the grave. Now is the time to take control of how you want to be remembered, instead of leaving the task to someone else. Make writing your story part of planning your estate and writing your will. And if you really want your final wishes honored down to the last detail, include preplanning your funeral. Advance planning carries with it the added benefit of relieving your loved ones from having to make difficult decisions during a very stressful time. Instead, they can laugh and share stories about you that you told in your own words.

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If you need help telling your story or aren’t sure where to start, download our free "How do you want to be remembered?" storybook to create an autobiography by answering key questions about your life. Type within the PDF and create copies for loved ones or print it and give them your handwritten story.

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Photo credit: iStock

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