A life review involves examining the high and low points of our past by searching our memories and retrieving school records and other personal documents.
This paper postulates the universal occurrence in older people of an inner experience or mental process of reviewing one's life. I proposed that this process helps account for the increased reminiscence in the aged, that it contributes to the occurrence of certain late-life disorders, particularly depression, and that it participates in the evolution of such characteristics as candor, serenity, and wisdom among certain of the aged.
As a child, I had sensed that the way my mother answered questions about my father signaled feelings other than simple grief at his loss. When I actually heard from her that he had abandoned us, I deduced that he was an irresponsible cad. As a college student still figuring out who I was, my instinct was to avoid identification with someone who could be a negative role model.
Discovering what he had accomplished unburdened me from my longstanding anxiety that he was a no-account scoundrel. It didn’t diminish his irresponsibility in abandoning my mother and me at birth, but it did provide me a path for respecting him and eventually forgiving him.