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How To Help A Dying Loved One Write A Memoir

It's hard to know what to do when a loved one is nearing the end.

Whether it's a parent, spouse, or best friend, you want them to have as happy an ending as possible. You want them to look back and appreciate all of their life experiences and accomplishments. But when they're in pain, it can be hard for them to think about anything other than that pain. 

Helping a dying loved one write down their life story can help give meaning and joy at the end of someone's days. If you have time before your loved one passes away, here are some tips for assisting them in writing a memoir, so they don't leave this world without leaving something behind that will continue living after they've gone.

What Is A Memoir?

A memoir is a personal account of a particular period in someone's life, and it can be written by someone who experienced it or by someone close to them.

Memoirs often focus on a specific theme or event and can be compelling writing pieces. However, when helping a dying loved one write a memoir, it can be more important to focus on the emotions and feelings they experienced during that time rather than getting bogged down in the details.

Why Write A Memoir?

There are many reasons why someone might want to write a memoir. Maybe they want to capture their experiences before so family and loved ones can remember them.

Or perhaps they want to share their story with others to help them understand something about life. Memoirs can also be a form of self-discovery, as the author revisits the past and looks at it with a fresh set of eyes.

Why Help Your Loved One Write A Memoir?

It can be very difficult for dying people to think about their life in the big picture. There's so much pain and hurt and fear that they often can't see outside of it. 

Memoirs often focus on a specific theme or event and can be compelling writing pieces. However, when helping a dying loved one write a memoir, it can be more important to focus on the emotions and feelings they experienced during that time rather than getting bogged down in the details.

Why Would Someone Want To Write A Memoir?

When someone is dying, you may ask why they would want to write a memoir during this time. There are many reasons why. And many benefits for both you and your loved one. Keeping in mind the reasons your loved one may want to write a memoir is essential throughout the process.

These reasons will help you stay connected and maintain a good relationship with your loved one. The reasons might be personal to the person dying, or they may not make sense to anyone else but them. However, it is still essential to consider these reasons as this will help you write a memoir.

TO TELL THE STORIES & SIGNIFICANT MOMENTS OF YOUR LIFE

One of the reasons someone may write a memoir is to tell about the stories and significant moments in their lives. These moments may be happy, sad, or embarrassing, but they are all a part of the author is.

When writing a memoir, it is vital to remember that these stories you are sharing happen in the order that they occurred in the author's life. Telling the stories in the order they happened will help readers understand the story and connect with it better.


TO PROVIDE CLOSURE

Another reason why someone may want to write a memoir is closure. Closure means that the author is looking for a way to end their life story in a meaningful way.

They might want to say goodbye to specific people or events in their life. They might also like to share their story with the world before they die.


TO REFLECT ON LIFE

The act of writing a memoir can also be a way for someone to reflect on their life. When you write about your life, you look at it differently.

You can analyze the events that have occurred and what they mean for you as a person. This process helps the author to grow and develop over time. And it can be compelling for them to see this shift in their life.


PRESERVE YOUR HISTORY & LEAVE A LEGACY BEHIND FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS

Another reason someone might want to write a memoir is to preserve their history. Your loved one wants future generations of their family to be able to read about their life and the experiences they had.

They may also want to leave behind a legacy for future generations. They leave a legacy by sharing your story with others or writing down your thoughts and feelings.


IT CAN HELP TO PROCESS THEIR LIFE THROUGH THEIR STORIES

It can be challenging for people to process information about their lives when they die. However, writing a memoir can help them do this because it requires them to focus on the most critical events in their life.

From there, they will understand what is genuinely significant and why these moments have happened in their lives.


HELP TO HEAL OLD WOUNDS, MAKE AMENDS & PREPARE TO MOVE TO THE NEXT STEP OF THEIR LIFE

For most people, writing a memoir is a complex process. It is not because of their illness but rather the painful experiences they may have been through. These experiences might include loss, abandonment, and lack of love from others.

It gives them a voice when they might otherwise be silent. Writing a memoir can allow people to express themselves in a way that they might not do in real life. The reason is that when you are dying, your time is precious, and you might not have the opportunity to talk to others about your life experiences.

It can help them to feel connected to others. One of the benefits of writing a memoir is that it can help people feel connected to their family members and friends. When they write about their life experiences in a memoir, they do this for others. 

How To Help A Dying Loved One Write A Memoir

So what are some of the best ways to help a dying loved one write a memoir? Here are some ideas to consider when helping someone write a memoir about their life.

ASK THEM QUESTIONS SO THEY CAN SHARE MEMORIES

Some people find it challenging to think of the best stories from their lives to include in a memoir. Asking them specific questions might help them recall memories included in their writing.

Questions like 'what was your first experience of friendship' might help them remember a particular event they had not thought about in years.

WRITING PROMPTS CAN ALSO BE HELPFUL

Writing prompts are words or short phrases that can help someone recall memories from their past. Writing prompts to make the person think about the feelings they experienced at the time.

And it inspires them to think about what they were doing at the time. They can then use these memories for their memoir.

Choose a few writing prompts and have your loved one spend time journaling on the different prompts. Not only is this a great way to get their story out but it will also help you to identify their voice when putting the memoir together.

ASK HOW OFTEN THEY WANT TO MEET TO RECORD THEIR STORIES

Some people might only want to meet a few times to record their memoirs, and this is because they may feel overwhelmed by the idea of writing a memoir. Other people might want to meet more often. It is important to remember that it is up to the person dying to decide how often they want to meet.

CHOOSING A THEME CAN BE HELPFUL WHEN WRITING YOUR MEMOIR

It is challenging for someone with an illness to sit down and write without feeling overwhelmed by emotion. When you are dying, the feelings you experienced in the past can come back to you. For example, when someone feels lonely, they may remember events from their life and feel incredibly sad and depressed about them.

You can see how it is difficult for people without an illness to process their feelings, but imagine how much harder this can be when you are dying. Because of this, it is best to choose a theme for your memoir before you start writing. A theme will help focus your thoughts and make the writing process less overwhelming.

Some helpful themes to consider include:

"The journey of life, the different phases of life and changes in our lives."

"Experiences that have shaped us as individuals including relationships with others and memories that make us laugh."

"The power of words."

OFFER TO WRITE DOWN THEIR MEMORIES OR RECORD THEM IF THEY ARE PHYSICALLY UNABLE TO

Writing down your memories might be the most challenging part of writing a memoir if someone is physically unable to write their memories down or record them. It can seem impossible for them to write a memoir when they cannot record information that they consider necessary enough to use in their book.

Offering to write down or record their memories can help them feel like they are giving something back to family members.

BE PREPARED FOR THEM TO CHANGE THEIR MIND ABOUT WHAT THEY ARE WRITING

Having patience during the process is very important therefore being prepared for your loved one to change their mind about their memoir and what they are writing is critical. What is written down initially might not be exactly how it ends up being in the final version of your memoir. You will think back on events that happen further into their illness and realize that these memories may be more important to share.

ENCOURAGE THEM TO WRITE ABOUT THEIR FEELINGS

When someone is dying, it can be challenging to express their feelings, and this is because they may feel scared, sad, or overwhelmed by what is happening. Encouraging them to write about their feelings can help them process these emotions and make peace with what is happening.

It can be helpful for you to ask how your loved ones feel about what they are writing or what feelings they are having when they write it down. This way, you will know if something is triggering emotions that they did not expect.

ASK THEM ABOUT THEIR CHILDHOOD

Many people will take a trip down memory lane and remember events from their childhood. Sometimes this is because they are young and happy memories, or because there was nothing else to focus on when you were feeling unwell.

Remembering your childhood can be necessary during the writing process as it can help you establish who you are as a person.

ASK THEM WHAT THEY WANT TO CONVEY WITH THIS MEMOIR

This question is crucial because it will help your loved ones to think about what they want the purpose of their memoir to be. Do they want it to be a way for family members to remember them after they die? Do they want to share their experiences with others?

Thinking about this question can help them focus their thoughts and make sure that the memoir they are writing serves the purpose they want.

REMIND THEM THEY CAN ALWAYS CHANGE THE MEMOIR LATER ON

Your loved one may feel overwhelmed by the idea of writing a memoir, and this is entirely normal. It is essential to remind your loved one that she can always change the memoir later if needed.

Your loved ones will have a different perspective on life as they get closer to their death, so they are likely to want to change things based on how they see their story.

DON'T FILTER THE STORIES THEY TELL YOU

Make sure that you are not censoring the stories that your loved one tells you. Life experiences can be hard to share, and hearing things that make people feel uncomfortable might be difficult for family members to digest.

Still, it might also be necessary for your memoir. Families might not fully understand what their loved one is experiencing, and hearing these stories can help them better understand their family members.

ASK WHAT LIFE LESSONS THEY LEARNED

People often look back on their lives and identify their life lessons. Life lessons can be a powerful way to end a memoir. Asking your loved ones what life lessons they learned can help them reflect on their lives and see all of the different things they have experienced.

ASK THEM ABOUT SIGNIFICANT EVENTS IN THEIR LIFE

Sometimes, when people write down their memoirs, they will start with the significant events in their lives. This can be an important way for them to convey what they want to remember about their lives. Ask your loved one if there are any specific times they want you to know.

ASK THEM ABOUT PARENTS & GRANDPARENTS

Remember that your loved one is likely to have vivid memories of their parents and grandparents. Asking them about these people can help you understand the early influences in their lives, which can be important when reading their memoirs.

REMEMBER THAT THIS DOES NOT HAVE TO BE POLISHED

It can be easy to think about what you would write in a memoir if it were yours, but refraining from doing this is essential. Your loved one does not need to be writing a memoir against a deadline or worry about whether it will include all of the elements you want. Remembering this is important because you will make your loved ones feel uncomfortable if they feel pressure to write their memoirs quickly or in a particular way.

It is also important to remember that not everything has to be perfect when writing a memoir. This is because most of your loved ones will write about will be raw and emotional. This is not something that everyone can handle, but remember that it is okay for your loved one to write about these things if they want to.

BE PREPARED TO LISTEN

This is an essential task because it will help your loved ones to feel as though they are being heard. Listening to your loved ones talk about their lives can be a powerful experience, and it can also help you understand them better.

Don't forget that you can take notes if you want to, but make sure you give your loved one your full attention.

ENCOURAGE THEM TO WRITE ABOUT THEIR FAMILY

Family is an integral part of everyone's life, and your loved one will likely want to write about theirs. This can be a powerful way for them to connect with the important people to them.

Asking your loved ones about their family can help you understand them better, and it can be a way for them to connect with their past in an emotional and meaningful way.

ASK ABOUT ACCOMPLISHMENTS IN LIFE

People often feel proud of what they have accomplished in their lives. Asking your loved ones about their accomplishments can help them reflect on their lives and see all of their different things. This can be a powerful way for them to end their memoir.

ASK THEM ABOUT FAMILY TRADITIONS

Traditional family events are often something that people remember vividly. Asking your loved ones about their family traditions can help to give you a snapshot of their life. This can be a positive way for them to remember their life, and it can also help you get to know them better.

LISTEN TO MUSIC THAT THEY LOVE - THIS WILL HELP WITH MEMORIES & STORIES

Your loved one's favorite music is likely to bring up all sorts of memories for them. You can ask your loved ones what their favorite songs are, or you can share some examples with them.

They might have specific memories associated with these songs, and they might even want to write about these things in their memoirs.

LOOK THROUGH AN OLD FAMILY ALBUM

Family albums can be an excellent way for your loved ones to reminisce about their life. Ask your loved one to look through the album with you and ask them about the people in the photos to get a good record of family generations.

This is an excellent way for you to get to know your loved one's ancestors, and it can also help them emotionally connect with their past.

TAKE NOTES WHILE LISTENING

Your loved one is likely to have a lot of stories to share with you. Listening to these stories and taking notes can be a powerful way to remember them. Not only that but listening to your loved one's history can also help you to understand them better. This can be an essential part of writing memoirs, and it can help your loved ones process their emotions and the memories they have.

READ OVER EVERYTHING THEY'VE WRITTEN BEFORE YOU FINALIZE IT

This is important because your loved one may not be able to read what they have written themselves. As a family member or friend helping them write their memoir, you need to make sure everything is accurate.

As you read through your loved one's memoirs, this is another opportunity to connect with them and to get to know them around stories and memories that you share.

ASK IF THEY WANT COPIES FOR THE ENTIRE FAMILY OR JUST SPECIFIC PEOPLE

Whatever they decide, respect their wishes. They may not want certain people in the family to have access to their memoirs. Or they may want to prioritize certain family and friends members to get copies.

Make sure to respect their wishes and let them know that the memoirs are something that they have complete control over.

DO THEY WANT IT PUBLISHED OR JUST DOCUMENTED?

This is another critical question to ask your loved one. They may not want their memoirs to be published for the general public. This is perfectly understandable, and you should respect their wishes. However, they may want to document their biographies in some way. You can work with them to figure out a way that best suits them and their needs.

Other Resources To Help With Writing A Memoir

There are a lot of great resources out there for those who want to help their loved ones write a memoir. You can start by looking at online resources that will help you and your loved one throughout the process.

ONLINE RESOURCES

Looking online can be helpful. You can find anything from templates and writing prompts to online communities that can provide you much needed support to both you and your loved one during this time. 

Templates

If your loved one is having difficulty getting started, you can try using a template. This will help them have a structure to follow, making the process a little less daunting. There are many templates available online, and you can find one that best suits your loved one's needs.


Online Communities

There are also several online communities that you can join to get more support and ideas. These communities typically have more resources available and provide your loved one with emotional support. Joining an online community can be an excellent way for your loved one to connect with others writing memoirs.

HOW-TO GUIDES

There are also many how-to guides out there that can help you and your loved one write a memoir. These guides provide step-by-step instructions on how to go about the process, and they can be beneficial. 

If you want to get started, you can find a few how-to guides below:

How to write a memoir in 30 days

How to write your memoir: 5 Easy Steps

YOUTUBE GUIDES

If you or your loved one are more visual, you can also check out youtube guides on how to write a memoir. There are many different guides available, and they can be a great way to get started.

Some helpful guides to check out:

How to Write a Memoir

How to Write an Engaging Memoir

BOOKS ON HOW TO WRITE A MEMOIR

If you are looking for a more comprehensive guide, you can also check out books on how to write a memoir. These books provide detailed instructions, and they can be very helpful. 

Some helpful books to check out:

Fast Draft Your Memoir: Write your Life Story in 45 Hours

The Book You Were Born to Write

IN-PERSON RESOURCES

There are also in-person resources available to help you and your loved one write a memoir. These resources typically offer more personalized assistance, and they can be a great way to get the guidance you need.

Old Friends & Family Members

Friends and family members are a great place to start. They can help you by providing insight into the dying person's life.

To find old friends and family members, start with online communities like Facebook, where you search for people by name, location, and even the schools they attended. This is a great way to find old friends and family members that can help your loved one remember good times and memories to include in their memoir.

No matter what resources you and your loved one decide to use, the most important thing is that you are both comfortable with the process. Take things at your loved one's pace and be patient. The goal is to create a memoir that they will be proud of and reflect their life story.

Writing A Memoir Frequently Asked Questions

What is a good example of a memoir?

One of the best examples of a memoir is "Angela's Ashes" by Frank McCourt. It tells the story of McCourt's life, from his impoverished childhood in Ireland to his success as an adult in America. Another great example is "The Glass Castle" by Jeannette Walls. It tells the story of Walls' childhood spent moving from one rundown home to another, always on the brink of poverty and hunger.

How do I help my loved one start writing a memoir?

There are a few different ways to help your loved one start writing a memoir. You can start by providing them with resources like how-to guides, youtube guides, and books on how to write a memoir. You can also join online communities or in-person resources that offer assistance in writing a memoir.

How do I know what should be included in the memoir?

When helping your loved one write a memoir, it is important to remember that the memoir should reflect their life story. You and your loved one can discuss what memories and events they would like to include in the memoir. It is important to be respectful of the dying person's wishes and only include items comfortable sharing.

What should I do if my loved one doesn't want to write a memoir?

If your loved one doesn't want to write a memoir, there are still ways for you to honor their memory and accomplishments. You can write a memoir on their behalf; this way, you get to share all of your loved one's favorite memories and stories. Another option is to record an interview with the dying person. This way, they will be able to share their life story before they pass without writing a whole book. In the end, it is important to respect their wishes and follow what they want for their life story.

How do I know if my loved one is ready to start writing a memoir?

Before starting the process of writing a memoir, you should make sure that your loved one feels comfortable with the process and confident in their ability to write. If they are not confident in their writing skills, resources are available to help them. You can also start by providing them with basic how-to guides and resources to help them get started.

What should I do if my loved one dies before the memoir is finished?

If your loved one dies before the memoir is finished, it is important to respect their wishes and complete the memoir in their honor. You can do this by finishing the memoir based on your loved one's notes and memories or including recordings of interviews you did with them before they died.

No matter how you choose to complete the memoir, make sure that it is done in a way that honors your loved one's life story.

How can I help my grandmother write her memoir before she dies?

There are a few different ways that you can help your grandmother write her memoir before she dies. You can start by providing her with resources like how-to guides, youtube guides, and books on how to write a memoir.

In the alternative, start by spending time with her. Have you made notes of the things she wants to be most remembered? Or ask her questions about her life and take notes that you can then help her put into a memoir. It will be a great way to honor your grandmother.

What are good topics for a memoir?

There is no one answer to this question as everyone's memoir is different. However, there are some general things that you can keep in mind when helping your loved one write their memoir. The memoir should reflect their life story, so it is important to discuss what memories and events they would like to include. It is also important to respect the dying person's wishes and only include items that they are comfortable sharing.

Childhood memories, important life moments like marriage, the birth of a child, or other significant accomplishments are also things to include. If your loved one was in the military, and experience in war or another significant event would also be important to include.

How do I know what memories are important enough for the memoir?

Some of these memories are relatively simple to decide if they should be included in the memoir, while others require more thought and contemplation. Some examples to consider would be: What do you think your loved one would like to talk about? Who are the major figures they feel should be included in their lives? Are there any important memories you know of that should be written down to keep their memory alive? These are some questions to keep in mind throughout the process.

How long should a memoir be?

Again, there is no definitive answer to this question as it depends on the individual's life story. However, most memoirs range from 50-200 pages. The memoir should be as long or short as is needed to capture your loved one's life and memories. So there is no need to stick to a specific number of page counts. Let your loved one and their story dictate the length.

How do I know when the memoir is finished?

This is a difficult question to answer as it can depend on the personal preferences of the writer and the person they are writing the memoir for. However, there are some general guidelines you can keep in mind when helping your loved one write their memoir. It is important to let them have the final say when finishing their memoir, so this is my biggest piece of advice.

In general, if your loved one feels that their story has been told and they are happy with the memoir, then it is finished. However, if they feel like there are more stories or memories to share, they can continue writing. The most important thing is that the memoir reflects your loved one's life story truthfully and respectfully.

How can I publish my mom's memoir?

If your loved one wishes to publish their memoir, there are a few things that you can do to help them. The first step is to find a publisher interested in publishing the memoir. There are several different ways to go about this. You can start by looking online for publishers who accept unsolicited manuscripts, or you can reach out to local publishing houses. If your loved one already has a publisher in mind, you can reach out to them and see if they are interested in publishing the memoir.

If your loved one is not interested in publishing the memoir, there are still ways for you to share their life story with others. You can create a website or blog where you share your loved one's memoir, or you can print out copies of the memoir and distribute them to friends and family. Many online resources can help you publish your loved one's memoir.

No matter what route you choose, it is important to remember that the memoir should reflect your loved one's life story truthfully. The most important thing is to ensure that your loved one gets the memorial they deserve even after passing away.

A Final Farewell

Helping a loved one write a memoir can be a very rewarding experience. It is a way for you to capture their life story and memories truthfully and respectfully. The most important thing is to let your loved one have the final say when finishing the memoir. If they are happy with it, then it is finished.

We hope you find this helpful during this time with your loved one. Writing a memoir is an experience that you will remember for a lifetime. And a great way to memorialize your loved one.

January 9, 2022 by Jeri K. Augustus