Legacy Writing

Legacy Writing is an opportunity for us to tell our story, or however much of our story we wish to share!  Our stories matter. We ARE our stories.  Our stories shape us and act as the lens through which we see the world.

As we live with cancer, we enter a part of our life that was previously unknown to us. This can be an experience that may seem overwhelming and confusing. At the cancer center, we have found that legacy writing is a beneficial way to help make sense of the impact of cancer on one’s life. Living with cancer has a way of often sharpening one’s focus on what is really important in life. Legacy writing gives expression to what we are learning, and to what we would like to share with others. Legacy writing can also offer a way to leave parts of our lives to give to others to remember us by. Legacy writing is about memories we wish to share.

So legacy writing can serve several purposes:

  • It’s a process of transforming thoughts into action. It’s the act of sitting down and taking time to purposefully create something for ourselves and for others.
  • It’s about making connections and sharing moments that are precious to us with special people in our lives.
  • It’s a powerful coping tool  and learning tool, for ourselves as well as those who may receive our legacy work.
  • It means contributing to the future of those who are important to us.
  • It’s about sharing our story. Our unique story.

In this site, we will share a variety of ideas you may wish to use to focus on legacy writing. Look through them. Take whatever pieces are helpful for you. BE CREATIVE. There are NO rules, no restrictions, no right or wrong way to do this.

Just remember, the wonderful thing about legacy work is that it can be done anywhere and can use any amount of time you can give to it. It doesn’t even have to be you doing the work. If writing is a challenge for you in creating things with your hands, try doing a video or dictate it to someone who can do the writing. And if fatigue is a concern, ask a loved one for help. Your Legacy Writing is yours. It can take on whatever form you give it, and will carry whatever meaning you instill in it. It is for you, and if you wish, for your loved ones.

* Special Note: Legacy Writing is one kind of Legacy making. There are many kinds of legacy projects. Actually, legacy writing/legacy projects can take any form you want it to take. Elaborate or simple!  All are meaningful. If you are interested in looking at Legacy Projects, please go to the Legacy Projects page: [coming soon]

WHERE DO I BEGIN?

It’s helpful to decide on what kind of writing you wish to do. Here are several of the Legacy Writing Tools that many have used for direction.

Legacy Writing Tools:

  • Legacy Letters – Letters for Loved Ones: Letter writing is a terrific way to let others know some of your thoughts during your treatment process. These letters, which can be held and given to loved ones much later, can be very powerful. For those who have younger children or teens, the whole cancer treatment process can be confusing. Being able to read a letter from mom or dad about the process, knowing they were thinking about them as a child/teen, can be very helpful when they read the letters years later (now as an adult). Certainly for those who have advanced disease, having a way to communicate our love and care to our children, spouses, family in the event of our death, can be comforting, for the writer and the recipients.

For example, a young mother whose cancer became terminal found it helpful to write letters to her children to be opened later on during important milestones in their lives, when she realized she might not be present. And so she wrote letters and cards, for graduations, marriages, births. Writing these letters became helpful ways for her to share important values and messages of love and support. In this example, when the oldest son later married, he and his bride were given a letter from his mom, who had died when he was 16. It became a powerful moment of support and blessing.

Reading these personal letters, as well as writing them, is a treasured experience. These letters need to be given to someone for safe keeping, with instructions as to when they would be shared.

If you are interested in writing Legacy Letters, open this link for models you might find helpful for your writing: Legacy Writing Prompts, How to Write Letters for Loved Ones, Template for Letter to Child, and Template for Letter to Spouse/Partner .

  • Life Review : This is a structured expression of one’s life, which helps to integrate positive and negative memories into one’s life story. Life reviews can be guided experiences with a reviewer, or can be self directed, using expressive writing tools. You can reflect on as many parts of your life as you wish. For example, some life reviews reflect memories and stories by developmental stages (i.e. childhood, teen years, young adulthood, middle adulthood, older adulthood). Other life reviews focus on crossroad choices in one’s life (i.e. decisions about faith, career, family). Still other life reviews offer a collection of ‘favorite life stories’. These can include funny and colorful memories as well as sweet and precious memories.

If you are interested in writing a Life Review, open these links for suggestions for focusing and writing your Life Review: Writing My Life Story, Writing My Values Story.

There are online services to use if you want to pay for a service that enables a year of writing culminating in a published book. One such service is, StoryWorth.

We hope you have found this site helpful. If you are struggling with where to begin, or need a little help along the way, talk with your social worker or the chaplain. They are here to help!

This symbol is called “Man in the Maze”, it is from the Tohono O’odham Nation of southern Arizona.

The figure represents an individual’s path through life, with its many twists and turns in which he gains wisdom and knowledge. Before approaching death, he reflects on the wisdom he has gained and then, in harmony with the world, he is ready to move forward.