5 Steps for Writing a Loved One’s Life Story

3 August 2020

When we write about loved ones who have passed away, there are many ways to present their life stories.

We can describe their life events, detailing when they got married, where they went to school, how many children they had, and what they did for work. We can write about where they travelled, what sports they played, and how they were involved in the community. These are all important events to share when writing a loved one’s story.

However, a life story goes much deeper than a series of events that occured throughout their existence. A great life story is a narrative that best reflects your loved one’s unique personal identity and the values they lived by.

So, how can you best construct a narrative for your loved one? Here are 5 helpful steps to tell your loved one’s story in a way that best describes their true character and personality.

1. Identify their life roles

Each and every one of us possess a number of different roles in life. For example, we might be a son or daughter, a brother or sister, a friend, a colleague, a team mate, a father or mother, a grandfather or grandmother, a lover, a boss, a student, and so on.

Start by writing down all the roles your loved one played in their life.

Once we understand this as a starting point, we can then plan how to write about their lives in each of their roles.

Write about what role they played for you.

If the person was your father or mother, how did they raise you, what values did they teach you, and how were they a role model in your life? What were some of their unique characteristics? After all, everyone is different in their own way. We want to identify those, positive unique traits that made them the person we remember.

Father son relationship

2. Describe the role they played in your life

Next, think about the role they played for you in your life, and values you think defined them. Then, relate that to a situation or experience.

For example, I’ve talked below about some of the values my Dad demonstrated and taught me in his role as a father.

“My father was more than a Dad. He was my role model, friend and life coach. What I loved about him most was his caring way of connecting to help me make better life decisions.

“I remember when I was 14, Dad found out that I was smoking cigarettes on the school grounds. Most of my friends' fathers would have scolded them if they heard this news about their child.

“Not my Dad. He took me aside and told me privately, in a calm and collected manner, what he thought about smoking cigarettes and his own life experiences and regrets relating to smoking.

“He ended the conversation by saying that he trusted me to make the right decisions in life.

“I tended to be slightly rebellious as a juvenile, so had he demanded me not to smoke and taken my cigarettes off me, I’m sure I would have reacted differently. However the caring way that he explained his perspective in many situations led me to make better decisions not only around smoking cigarettes, but about life in general.”

Calm, compassionate and considerate are just a few of the values that I relate to my father, and this experience shows an example of how he lived those values. This is what makes Dad, Dad. It also illuminates some of the many reasons why I love him so much.

What values and personality traits defined your loved one? What experiences do you recall that highlighted the values they lived?

3. Ask friends and family to share their perspectives

People can display a number of characteristics across their various life roles. To help us truly understand who your loved one was, it helps to get a more rounded view from other people who spent time with them in different contexts.

To do this, reach out to others to contribute their views on your loved one. You may even learn something new about them.

People you can reach out to include your loved one's:

  • immediate and extended family

  • best friends

  • close work colleagues

  • others they spent a lot of time with.

If you have created an online memorial for them, you can usually share the memorial page with others, so they can contribute to the page.

Alternatively, you can ask people to write or email you directly with a description of your loved one from their perspectives.

4. Use photos, videos, quotes and other memorabilia that helps remember them

Describing people in words can often be difficult, so why not share pictures, videos, or quotes and common sayings that relate to your loved one? You could include other memorabilia that reflects a memory or experience you have of them, such as tickets to an event, or something they made, like a knitted scarf.

Some people may choose to keep a photo album of their memories, or a scrapbook with physical memorabilia.

Others may decide that online is the best place to store memories. If so, Online Memorials are a great way to upload and store photos, videos or stories about your loved one.

You can also take photos of relevant memorabilia and upload these to conserve and maintain them forever.

What photos, memories and memorabilia do you have of your loved one?Photo Memories

5. Take your time to write their story

Creating a loved one’s life story doesn’t happen in a day. It’s an ever-evolving creation that can develop and grow over time. There may be times where you recall a specific memory that you had previously forgotten. These thoughts may come and go, but why not write them down as they occur, and share them with others, to keep your memories of your loved one alive forever?Whether you add a memory each week, month, or on occasions like the anniversary of their death or birthday, is completely up to you. It will never be a completed project, just one that will forever grow.