In caring for countless seriously ill patients, we have learned that it is extremely important that every adult completes the seven tasks of life review. On completing the process of doing a life review, most people are able to achieve a measure of peace that comes from deep reflection about key life experiences, and the important relationships they have cultivated. Sadly, almost everyone forgets to do this or postpones it until it is too late. Thus, they never have an opportunity to express the deep love, gratitude, and commitment they feel towards their friends and family.
The Who Matters Most Letter template will help you complete the following tasks of life review in minutes:
Task 1:Acknowledge the important people in your life: It is very important to start the process of life review by identifying key people in your life. Take the time to express your pride in their achievements.
Task 2:Remember treasured moments from your life: The second life review task is to recall the most special, meaningful instances in your life, including those involving your loved ones. These moments or events can range from important life milestones or simple family moments that you treasure.
Task 3: Apologize to those you love if you hurt them: In our experience, many patients worry about specific past instances when they have hurt the people they love. In doing a life review, it is important to take a moment to ask forgiveness from those you have hurt . Also, take this time to forgive yourself for any mistakes you feel you have made in the past.
Task 4: Forgive those who love you if they have hurt you: Now is the time to give solace to those who may have hurt you. Let them know that you acknowledge what they have done, but that you ultimately have forgiven them. This will give you and them a sense of release and peace. It will also give you peace when you successfully let go of old resentments.
Task 5: Express your gratitude for all the love and care you have received: Thank your loved ones for their concern through the trying times in your life and for everything else that they have done for you. You might mention specific instances that you hold close to your heart.
Task 6: Tell your friends and family how much you love them: Sometimes it is hard to express your love for someone in speech, so take advantage of this opportunity to write to those you love and express how much you care about them.
Task 7: Take a moment to say “goodbye”: The final life review task is to bid adieu to your loved ones. If you feel comfortable, take this time to ensure that you and your loved ones have a proper parting without any regret or guilt. In working with diverse Americans, some have expressed reluctance to complete the task of saying “goodbye” due to cultural taboos. If you are uncomfortable completing the “goodbye” task, it is perfectly fine to defer this for later.
During my workshops I suggest that participants write final letters to loved ones. This is not about getting the last word but rather it’s a gift of words to important people you leave behind: children; special friends; spouses and so on. You get to tell them those things you want to pass on while you have the chance: stories; people and qualities you admire; what you are grateful for; mending any fences; what they mean to you and so forth. Although there is initial resistance, the feedback from those who write the letters is 100% positive and gratitude for the suggestion.
Stanford University has developed templates and research around the value of these final letters and I encourage you to read this article in the New York Times and perhaps give it a try. You may want to do your own letter or if you want ideas, check out the templates that Stanford has designed. They have a website on this project with samples and videos.
Here is the link to the article in the Times.
Here is a link to the templates (four different types; look around the project)for those in good health and those with a chronic illness. After clicking on the link choose the template and the language of your choice.