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Life Review  

The Life Review Process Dates Back to the 1960s

Written By Lastly.com

Wow! Here we are at Lastly.com thinking that we’ve invented the process of creating a Life Review. In fact, our wishful thinking couldn’t be further from the truth.  We needed a term to define the process of walking down memory lane and uncovering all the wonderful events, memories and stories that defined the journey in one's life.  We call it our LifeReview™.  As the name would suggest, our LifeReview is an easy, methodical way to walk through your life chapter-by-chapter, in order to help you recall those special stories that made your life well-lived. Prior to our innovative approach, writing one's life story could be a very manual, length process. 

In 1963, Robert N. Butler M.D. published a series of articles and studies, including The life review: An interpretation of reminiscence in the aged; Recall and retrospection; and The façade of chronological age: An interpretative summary of the multidisciplinary studies of the aged conducted at the National Institute of Mental Health. And he went on to publish numerous other studies and articles regarding aging and the life review.

Butler introduced the “life review” as a healing intervention and coined the term “ageism.” Previous to his research, a life review was more commonly known as a phenomenon occurring during near death experiences.  Butler was the only researcher on aging to win a Pulitzer Prize. He served as first director of the National Institute on Aging, created the first department of geriatric medicine in the United States, and organized support in the United States and overseas for global aging.

From Columbia University's Aging Center website, "The establishment of the Robert N. Butler Columbia Aging Center in 2013 further builds upon Dr. Butler’s legacy within the fields of gerontology and aging by solidifying a bold and innovative future for interdisciplinary life-course, lifespan, and aging work that will train a new generation of thought leaders in these issues, while also developing knowledge to inform aging-related health and social policy in NYC, the U.S., and around the world."

Butler defined the Life Review process as follows:

“A naturally occurring, universal mental process characterized by the progressive return to consciousness of past experience and, particularly, the resurgence of unresolved conflicts; simultaneously, and normally, these revived experiences and conflicts can be surveyed and reintegrated… prompted by the realization of approaching dissolution and death, and the inability to maintain one's sense of personal invulnerability.”

Butler discovered that many geriatric patients who seemed not to function in modern, post-World War II society were, in fact, reliving their respective pasts. While they seemed not to remember what happened just moments before, they were frequently recalling memories from decades ago. In recalling and reliving those past memories, they were conducting their own built-in life review.

One could carry that a step further and say that humans have been recalling their lives as they age or approach death for dozens of centuries. Many people, faced with their own mortality, have sought to pull their wisdom together and impart their thoughts and experiences on those left behind. Reassessing one’s life and leaving behind these beliefs, knowledge, and understanding became a soul-freeing feeling unlike anything else they’d experienced in their lifetime.

To be clear, Butler hypothesized the life review process and reminiscence to be two separate acts. The act of reminiscing simply involves recalling memories. However, the life review process involved a deeper reminiscing, which offers the opportunity to correct any wrongs and resolve any remaining conflicts in one’s life. In addition, one may also take the opportunity to express their love and wishes to their friends, family members, and loved ones. This ability to cure any unresolved issues can bring the reviewer a greater sense of peace.

And because death can come at any age—old or young—the life review process itself is not exclusive to just those people in their senior years. So, when it comes to leaving a legacy, it’s important to take the time to dig deep into your memories, including the things you have done and the things you wish you had done. Leave no memory buried, no conflict unresolved, and you’ll be on your way to a better harmony and tranquility with those around you.

A lot of things have happened since the 60s. The digital age has offered many conveniences today that were unthinkable a short time ago. It used to be that the first step in reviewing your life, or capturing your life story, was to take out a 3-ring binder, and start jotting down all of the important aspects of your life.  As we all know, this hand-written barrier stood in the way of people actually getting it done.

At Lastly.com we set out to make the process simple, enjoyable, and permanent.  We wanted to enable anyone to easily capture and preserve the stories and special moments throughout their life (or that of a loved one) so they will be remembered and cherished by future generations. All of this is made possible by our innovative LifeReview, which as it turns out, builds on some of the pioneering thoughts of Dr. Butler.

We hope you'll stop by to learn more and see our LifeReview first-hand.


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Our 'Why' at Lastly.com is pretty simple:

We want to enable people to appreciate where they've been, so that they can find contentment where they are.



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