Reminisce and Life Review

Reminiscence and Life Review

Many seniors have a need to reminisce. In life reviews, participants hold the prism of their lives into the light of reflection. The process is often a spiritual one. They look at their past with fresh eyes from a different angle. Reviewers savor their experiences, forgive themselves and others, and review what life has taught them. Reviewers revisit opportunities, both lost and embraced. Because life review is often visual, part of the review can occur during sleep, when powerful events replay on an internal screen. Participants watch a play of their lives, in which they are the lead characters in the drama.

Life reviews can be formal or informal, overt or silent. Some reviewers hire professionals who record videotapes or support journal writing. Others do their reviews privately. Sometimes, family members interview reviewers, so that they legacy and the stories of the seniors can be recorded and passed on to future generations. Reviewers can also initiate and participate in an internal life review that is completely private - that is, no one else knows about it.

Reminiscence is about what really happened in a seniors life, not what could have happened. Reviewers face reality, sometimes for the first time. A review of choices made at critical junctures can call forth regret, disappointment, or guilt.

When powerful negative emotions are brought to the surface, it is helpful for reviewers to process with others and remind themselves that no one makes it through life without making mistakes. Reviewers focus on lessons and how mistakes often lead to new understanding about self and others. Reviewers bring unresolved conflicts to the surface and explore alternative meanings for mistakes that have previously been conveniently neglected or shoved into the recesses of the mind because they elicited remorse or guilt.

Life reviews touch the mysteries of life: how clients came to be with the people who bore and reared them; the magic of those they met in life, especially their best friends, their spouses, and their children; and how their enemies or people they disliked affected their journey. Reviewers explore the places they lived, how they reared their children, their vacations, physical moves to new locales, and the health concerns they and other loved ones experienced.

Seniors may review their birthdays and holidays and the best gifts they ever received. They revisit the music that touched their souls and made them laugh, as well as those songs that made them cry. Some life reviewers list their top 10 movies and why they loved them and the best television shows they ever saw, which season they remember with the most fondness and which season brought with it the most sadness. They visualize their first pets and the times they shared as they grew up together.

Seniors who successfully complete life reviews may feel that their whole life makes sense. Such seniors may feel surrounded by a peaceful aura or self-satisfaction, fused with completion. They've honored their minutes, their hours, their days, weeks, months, year, and decades. They've connected to their heritage, where they came from, with whom they've come, and who they became.

The information above is reprinted from Working with Seniors: Health, Financial and Social Issues with permission from Society of Certified Senior Advisors® . Copyright © 2009. All rights reserved.