Before you sit down for story time

Interviewing our loved ones about their life journeys can be of the most rewarding experiences of our lives. Is It gives us a unique and often fascinating glimpse into their past, helping us understand and appreciate the joys and challenges of their lives.

couple elderly man old
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It can also be a challenging experience. Sometimes painful memories are often difficult to resurrect, let alone bring to light. War, past marriages, missed meetings, torn families. The interviewer must tread carefully when asking questions, and respect their loved ones’ needs to sometimes let bygones be bygones. In particular, those people who have served in the military or have experienced war often are understandably reluctant to share their experiences. In interviewing them, one must let them be the Sherpa, guiding us down those roads which they want us to travel and how far. These journeys can prove to be some of the most meaningful ones in our lives, and ones that will last long after our loved ones are no longer with us.

Before you ask someone for their life story, ere are some questions you can consider:

  • Where did you go play as a child? What kinds of fun did you do?
  • What were your dreams as a young person? Which of those dreams did you fulfill?
  • Who gave you the best advice ever, and what was that advice?
  • Was there an important turning point in your life that was significant?
  • What have you learned that you want to pass along to me?

For seniors who are reluctant or keep a part of their lives closed in a box, understand that it’s nothing personal. There may be a deep-rooted story that they are not ready to share with you. Or, if your Sherpa is leading you down a path, listen to the landscape. Is there a red herring, or potential twist in their story, that’s telling you what really happened? Many times, being an interviewer as a family member may create a bias or lead you to hear a different perspective of the same situation.


Either way, the interviewer should create a space of ease, comfort and objectivity for the person to recount the years passed.

For more information on how Pages to the Past can help bring your loved ones’ stories to life, please contact us at (619) 206-4000.

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