Responsibilities of the Family Storyteller
Every family has a story and when a loved one passes away it is the next generation’s responsibility to keep that story alive. Many stories are told through photos, letters and recipes. When an adult child of an older adult parent passes away they inherit this knowledge. For some adult children this task can be painful or even a burden, but it must be done. There are boxes to be sorted through, items given to other family members and not to mention all the cleaning that goes along with the task. Yet there is a way to embrace this task and keep your family’s heritage and traditions alive.
First things first. Be mentally prepared to go down memory lane. Going through a box of photos, keepsakes and letters can be rough for someone who just lost a loved one. Take time to grieve and heal from the loss of a parent and remember, this is a process not an event. The process can take days, months or even years.
Once you are ready to begin, start envisioning what you want to take away from this experience. It may be that you want to stockpile and archive family recipes or it might be that you’d like to catalog all the photos. When working through your memories make categories of what is important to you (i.e photos, recipes and letters). This will help from items overlapping one another. It is also important to keep items categorized because each category is vital to the story you are telling about your family. A helpful tool may be plastic shoe boxes that can be found in most stores.
If you are looking for more of an emotional experience just be cognizant of what you are feeling during this process. Feel free to journal your feelings during the process as this can now become part of your family’s story. It may not be immediately shared but can be shared in the future. After you have written down your experience with the sorting and unpacking, feel free to continue to journal your experience with telling your family’s story. While journaling your feelings about your family’s story may extend the process, it can also be great for future generations when it is their turn to tell the story.
Do not get discouraged about the amount of items that may seem dated or damaged. There are now services that will repair photos that are damaged due to the storage conditions. Feel free to shop around for some prices if you have a lot of pieces that need to be repaired as it may become pricey. The same goes for video, especially with the decreased manufacturing of VHS tapes or movie reels. There are businesses that will go ahead and take old VHS tapes or movie reels and convert them into digital copies that are easy to store and share.
Once you have gotten the ball rolling with the organization process, feel free to include as many family members as possible. Just remember, this is their family story too. Plus the extra help sorting through boxes of items doesn’t hurt either. When incorporating more people there may be request for photos. If family members request photos, note which ones they want and you can make copies of photos at most drugstores. This will allow other members to share your family’s stories.
Well congratulations! You are now the family storyteller which means you are the keeper of traditions, recipes and maybe even a couple of secrets! If you want to, go ahead and share the story feel free to make a Shutterfly book of letters, recipes and of course the favorite family photos. Bust out the tales and memories at holidays or maybe when you just have a small get together!
Enjoy and let the story live on!