The Role of Life Review or Reminiscence
In hospice care and in many nursing homes, grief counselors can aid the process of thinking back on one's life and communicating about one's life to another person which is called a life review.
Life review is an important part of bringing one's life to a close.
According to Erik Ericson, at this stage of life, we need to decide for ourselves whether our life had value.
As life ends, we want to know that we have truly been seen by someone in this world, and that our life has had value and meaning.
The term reminiscence therapy can include a wide variety of techniques used by both professionals and non-professionals in many settings.
It can be found in hospitals, senior centers, community groups, and other programs. The effectiveness of reminiscence therapy when used with persons experiencing cognitive deficits such as Alzheimer's Disease, clinical depression, or other mental problems is a subject of some debate, but adherents feel strongly that it can be an effective method to reach the unresponsive elderly.
Reminiscence is common at the end of life and many people find it helpful to reflect on their lives.
This can be done in structured ways to recall and sometimes document a life which is coming to an end.
Many formal techniques for life review are used in hospice settings, often with participation by loved ones who also benefit from the communication process and by the creation of a permanent historical record.
In terminal care the goal of the life review is to help bring closure rather than as a treatment method for confusion or withdrawl, but these benefits may ensue as secondary benefits.
Life review can be considered a form of oral history.
Many families find it meaningful to write down stories in notebooks or more formal recording workbooks.
Making audiotapes and videotapes can be an important adjunct to the oral history taking.
Use of music in reminiscence and life review
Music can be a very helpful aid in stimulating recall of musical memories. This can be an enjoyable and emotionally-engaging part of life review.
Hearing specific music can help people remember meaningful times from the past.
For me, that will include lots of Rock and Roll, which was becoming a part of the culture when I was a youth, and has tremendous power to evoke strong emotions.
(For example, I was amazed when I returned to my one and only high school reunion, the 30th, at how strongly I felt about that time in my life).
Sharing music with others and talking about "old times" with a supportive listener can reduce feelings of isolation. Family members and other loved ones may find it hard to express their feelings, fears, and final wishes when death is imminent, but music can help with that.
I know these days, as I am 64, listening to renditions of swing and Big Band brings back memories of my youth and strong thoughts about WWII which played such a huge part in my parents lives, and as a result, in my early years. Music would then be a great tool for evoking memories.
I am hoping that my sister and I can create a life history of ourselves this Christmas, which would be available to my children when and if they are curious.
And there are of course, some commercially available tools to guide us in the memoir writing process.
Would You Share Something That You Are Grateful For?
When I was beginning my personal growth journey, a wise person told me that when I was feeling resentful or afraid or sad, that I should remember the phrase "gratitude is the attitude" when I was ready to feel better. That phrase has helped me feel better tens of thousands of times.