We all leave a legacy. Supporting the dying and their loved ones to craft their legacy in a tangible way can help them find meaning, ease physical, psychological, and spiritual suffering, and gain a sense of integrity and completion. A legacy project can serve as a source of comfort to loved ones throughout the processes of grief, bereavement, and beyond.
Legacy projects take many forms and are as individual as the people for whom they are created. These projects can be as simple as a photo album, journal entries, stories, songs, or shared recipes, or as complex as a multimedia project. The person who is at the end of life may initiate and complete a legacy project independently or invite others into the process. Projects can happen organically or may be facilitated by loved ones and/or an end of life doula. Or, the project can be initiated and completed once the person has passed. It’s all based on the needs and comfort level of the people involved.
Why a Legacy Project?
People often talk about how a loved one's legacy “lives on.” A legacy is, in a sense, a gift. It’s something that is transmitted from one generation to the next. A legacy project can have deep meaning for the dying person and lasting meaning for those who remain.
Benefits of a Legacy Project
A legacy project can serve an important role in helping the individual explore and express the meaning of their life
The creative process that is involved can bring relief and comfort
Creating a legacy project can bring people together in a calming and loving way during a time that can be challenging and full of intense emotions.
Planning and creating a project together can give the individual and their loved ones something to focus on and perhaps gain a sense of control during a time when people may feel out of control.
Once the person has transitioned, the legacy project that remains becomes a touchstone, a tangible artifact of the person and who they are to their loved ones. This artifact can help loved ones as they move through the processes of grief and bereavement.
Process, Not Just the Product
The process by which the legacy project is created can be just as -- if not more -- profound and impactful than the product that is created. If the individual is creating the project independently, the time spent creating and reflecting can be healing. When a group of people come together to work on a project, the connections made and reinforced can increase bonding and ease stress. Loved ones can gain solace and comfort not only from the product created, but from the memories and love shared throughout the process.