“The life which is not examined is not worth living.” - Plato
Questions to Consider…
- Are there things you wanted to tell your parents or grandparents before they passed away, but you never had the chance?
- Do you wish there was a way to heal a family rift where the family members are no longer in communication with each other?
- Have you ever wondered how a sibling felt about a major event in your shared life, but never felt that you could ask them their perspective?
The Power of the Process
I will often get calls from people who are ready to embark on the process of telling their family stories as the first step in the creation of their own illustrated family heirloom book. Usually people are motivated by the desire to record their family history before the older generations pass away and are no longer able to share their stories. They are driven to find a way to unearth their family photographs and documents from old shoeboxes, in the effort to preserve and share these collections. Fueled with enthusiasm, we sit down for our first oral history interview. At the end of our first few sessions, when asked to reflect about what it felt like to share their stories, one of the things that often surprises people the most is the way in which they feel transformed by the process.
“I had not thought of these stories about my mother in so long. I was surprised to see myself get teary-eyed in the process of remembering. I really empathized with the way that she struggled as a young girl. I realize her struggles had a lot of similarities to my own, and I had never really thought of it in that way until now. I recognize how hard I have been on myself all of these years, and how one of the best ways to honor her life is to find forgiveness in myself.”
“When I read the material from the interviews that you did with my grown children about what they had learned from me as a mother, their responses meant the world to me. My children had never shared those reflections with me, and even though we see each other often, we don’t necessarily share how we are feeling in that way. I re-read those pages every day, they have given me a much deeper sense of the way my children value our relationship. I will treasure them.”
“I wasn’t sure that my brother would be open to talking about our family. We have never been very close and we have struggled to communicate with each other since our parents died. He said the interview process gave him a chance to make sense of his life and what is really important to him. Following the interview he really opened up to me, and we have been much closer ever since. Our shared history has become a foundation for the next chapter of our relationship, instead of a barrier to connecting.”