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Linking the Past to the Present -
The Benefits of Reminiscing

By Kristine Dwyer, Staff Writer

(Page 5 of 5)

“We can use reminiscence as a way to remind people of past feelings of self-esteem, confidence and competence. By valuing their memories from the past, we show them that they are valued in the present.” Pam Schweitzer, UK

Reminiscence and the End of Life:

Those who face life-threatening illnesses often feel an increased need to explore the meaning of their lives and identify what has been important. Psychologist Erik Erikson suggested that as we approach the end of our days, we need to bring together the strands of our lives. Most people hope to die in a way that is consistent with how they have lived.

As Victor Frankl said, “All of us need to leave knowing the things we’ve done, the things we’ve loved, the things we will leave behind with meaning, and the things we’ve believed in.”

Hospice programs, along with family caregivers, play a vital role in this process by reminding the dying person of the specific good they have done in their lives or recalling the contributions they have made to the family and to society. In the end, the most important thing we need when we die is to have a significant life story. This can be accomplished through journaling, tape recording, celebrating a person’s life prior to death or writing an ethical will, which includes lessons learned in life and the legacy a person wishes to leave behind.

As Henry David Thoreau once said, “The mass of men live lives of quiet desperation.” Reminiscence allows ones thoughts and memories to be stimulated and gives a sense of continuity to the “remembered life.” In the end, this becomes a fulfilling experience and strengthens relationships, especially between caregivers and care receivers. Reviewing our lives and telling our stories leaves us with a sense of contentment with life and truly links our past to the present and one generation to another.


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