As a personal historian and ghostwriter of memoirs and autobiographies for 18 years, I have consistently noticed the joy and appreciation of family members who read and hear the life stories of their parent or grandparent. Now, an Emory University study confirms that there are indeed emotional and psychological benefits for children and adolescents who are able to learn about how their older relatives have lived.
The study concluded that teens who knew more stories about their extended family exhibited a greater degree of emotional well-being and had a stronger sense of self-identity. I believe these same kinds of benefits extend to the adult children of men and women who take the time and effort to sit down and chronicle their life stories with the help of a personal historian or autobiography ghostwriter. Often these family members are simply surprised to uncover so much of what they never knew.
I recall a 93-year-old client whose five adult children, most in their 60s, told me how much they had learned about their mom from the autobiography that I wrote for her. Oh, they knew about the parts of her life that included them in the picture, but there were details about her childhood that were surprising, revealing, and affirming of just how far their mother had come in her life.
The 50-something son of a current client similarly mentioned to me that when he read his father’s life story that I have been working on with him since last summer, he found out things about his father that had never been shared before. And he was enjoying the discovery.
Sharing stories about their past for children and grandchildren is often the primary motivation for clients who come to me to interview them and write their life story in a memoir or autobiography. It’s also what frequently drives the students who attend my classes on “Writing Your Life Story.” They tell me that their family has been after them for years to sit down and write their stories, both those that are already well know within the family ranks and those that have not made it to the dinner table. Knowing that their younger family members are waiting to hear something meaningful, and personal, pushes many seniors in a positive way to dig deeper into their memory banks and bring forward the engaging stories that others are waiting to hear and read.
An article in the December 9 issue of the Washington Post explored the growing trend of seniors hearing the call to document their stories, and how they often call upon personal historians and autobiography ghostwriters like us. These seniors understand the benefits they can extend to their family, and the gift that endures much longer than a typical physical possession. Those of us who offer our services through the Association of Personal Historians, know the joys and rewards that come from this sacred act as well. That’s a major reason why we do what we do.
– Kevin Quirk has been helping women and men of all ages and backgrounds tell their most meaningful stories in his role as personal historian and ghostwriter of memoirs and autobiographies. He is the author of Your Life Is a Book – And It’s Time to Write It! An A-to-Z Guide to Help Anyone Write Their Life Story.