Testaments and memories: Negotiating after-death identities

Catherine Exley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article considers the role of the dying in negotiating their own after-death identities. Living with a terminal illness has many profound physical and emotional effects on both individuals themselves and family and friend; it presents the dying with the constant challenge of reassessing and reordering their self-identities as their bodily capabilities decrease. Specifically, this discussion focuses upon respondents' experiences of anticipating and planning for their own deaths. Individuals often spoke of wanting to make life as easy as possible for their loved ones after their deaths. Although primarily intended to help others, it is suggested that such effort also had personal benefits because it meant that respondents actively participated in the process of negotiating the memories they would leave behind. Such work undertaken by the dying could later be developed further by the bereaved in the process of negotiating their loved ones' after-death identities. This article considers the extent to which the dying themselves can be seen as 'co-authors' in their own 'last chapters'.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)249-267
Number of pages19
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1999


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