I recently met with a group of residents at a local retirement community. We discussed the importance of “community” in helping them adjust to changes, including new living arrangements, health problems, deaths of friends and family, aspects of aging, etc.
To create community within this group, two of the questions I asked them were: What song best reflects you and your life, and, what would your personal theme song be? One gentleman answered with an upbeat march and a second with, “The sun will come out tomorrow,” from the Annie song, “Tomorrow.” A third gentleman started humming and then singing, “And I think to myself, what a wonderful world” from Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World.” It was a beautiful moment and it immediately created a sense of community. These three gentlemen had and continue to have challenges in their lives, but after decades of living, their theme songs sent a positive and inspiring message to the group.
The gift of this community-building experience was available because we intentionally created a safe place to share stories. In our busy world, time for meaningful conversations sometimes gets forgotten. This month, you can change that. As part of the Funeral and Memorial Information Council’s Have the Talk of a Lifetime, November has been designated as “Time for Family, Time for Talk.”
When you gather with loved ones this month, you’re encouraged to make time to share stories, reminisce about earlier days and talk about what matters most. By doing so not only will you have the opportunity for beautiful and enjoyable experiences like the one I just described, but you’ll also help grow your community with your loved ones.
Research has found that telling life stories can affect both our mental and physical health. As a grief companion I’ve witnessed many people enter a space with a heavy heart, then tell their story of loss and leave feeling lighter.
An Allianz Life Insurance Company survey found that baby boomers and their parents feel that family stories are the most important part of their legacy, even more important than financial inheritance and possessions. And research from Emory University found that children who hear family stories have higher levels of self-esteem, lower levels of anxiety, fewer behavioral problems, better family interactions, and an internal locus of control.
So let’s share our stories with one another and grow our communities. The Helping Grieving Hearts Heal program offers several ways to help you do that. Please visit the Koch Funeral Home website, www.kochfuneralhome.com, and click on the Time for Family, Time for Talk tab for resources and events.
This article has been adapted and originally appeared in the Centre Daily Times.