Legacy Work is the process of reflecting on your life and creating something tangible to leave behind for your loved ones. It is about sharing special moments, stories, or thoughts, and connecting with those you love.
Taking part in Legacy Work increases an individuals sense of purpose, dignity, meaning, will to live, and can decrease suffering and depressive symptoms. When loved ones take part in this reflective and creative process, they get to enjoy the memories of creating the work as well as the lasting gift of the work itself. This co-creation process can improve communication between the individual and their loved ones and may have the potential to improve the grieving process.
Types of of Legacy Work
Legacy work can take on many different forms such as
- Writing letters
- Filling out cards for loved ones to read in the future
- Creating videos
- Sharing stories: through videos, writing, music, or drawing. These can be stories about yourself, your family, or experiences with a loved one.
- Creating handprints
- Curating a photo collection, a photo album, a collage, or a scrapbook
- Putting together a collection of family recipes and holiday traditions
- Celebrating milestones such as birthdays, anniversaries, or weddings
Legacy Work is For Everyone
Everyone can take part in Legacy Work irrespective of their age or health status. Legacy work comes up more frequently with individuals who are aging or living with a serious illness and who are seeking ways to contribute and connect with their families, and leave something tangible behind.
For example, a parent worried about leaving their children behind may create a video narrating aspects of their life or sharing advice. This enables the parent to be a part of their children’s life even after the parent’s death.
It Can Be Challenging
The process of Legacy Work inherently involves acknowledging for yourself and for others that there will come a day when you will no longer be physically present. This acknowledgement can bring up feelings of sadness, regret, anger, relief, or joy. These feelings are completely natural and can also feel overwhelming. Talk your feelings through with a trusted friend or a palliative care coach.
Given the importance and value of Legacy Work, here are a couple ideas to get you started.
- Write down or record some of your favorite stories of growing up. It could be as easy as recording a voice messages with your smart phone
- Write a letter to a loved one to mark an occasion in the future, such as a birthday, anniversary, wedding, new job, or graduation.
- Print your favorite photos and create a photo-book or scrapbook
Some people will choose to involve a loved one in this process, such as their child, grandchild, spouse, or friend. In this way, they create memories with their loved ones while simultaneously co-creating the tangible product they will leave behind.
Legacy work is an intentional way to celebrate life, connect with loved ones, and leave a comforting and tangible part of yourself behind. It is beneficial to both the individual and their loved ones and it can be a meaningful aspect of aging, living with illness, and dying.
What is something tangible that you want to leave behind for your loved ones?
Create Your Own Gift of Connection
If you are feeling too overwhelmed to start or keep going on a legacy project, and want to find a way to create something meaningful to share with your loved ones, come work with us!
Caitlin Baran M.D. is a Palliative Care physician and Coach with EpioneMD. She completed completed her fellowship in Hospice & Palliative Medicine at the Harvard Interprofessional Palliative Care program and has worked at academic centers including Massachusetts General Hospital and was an Instructor in Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Caitlin is humbled to help people align healthcare choices with their values.