We are story-tellers by nature. We make meaning retrospectively, by looking back at our experiences and finding the narrative threads that bind them together and give them continuity. We call this “re-membering,” making our lives whole again by turning them into stories. In order to know who we are, where we are, and what we have to do, we must know where we have been and what we have done. The work of remembering—so vital to our sense of self—is particularly urgent for those whose sense of continuity and meaning is shaken by illness and anticipation of death. The aim of “Life Review” is to help hospice patients find dignity and healing in the work of remembering and telling their stories, and all good stories begin with a question.
In this workshop, we will explore what kinds of questions help bring stories to life. It can be intimidating, for example, to be asked, “What's the best thing you remember about your childhood?” We will learn to avoid superlatives and find more low-key, natural ways of prompting a story. Helping others tell their stories is like being a midwife: the story-tellers have to do the work, but there are ways to help them bring their stories to light gently, naturally, and with a sense that a caring listener is there to help them through the hard parts.
Life Review & the Art of Questioning
An in-service workshop for hospice volunteers
and all those interested in Life Review, story-telling,
and the art of asking fruitful, open-ended questions
One of the ways in which we will explore the art of questioning is by prompting, telling, and listening to fragments of each other's stories. To help us do this, please bring with you to the workshop some simple object that “has a story behind it” and therefore holds particular meaning or power for you. I might, for example, bring a feather that stands in a ball of putty on my desk. Don't be intimidated. You've done this before. Remember? Show and Tell?