My wife of 31 years, Lynne, lost her life to glioblastoma in 2010. The battle lasted almost four years. Glioblastoma is a stage 4 brain tumor, known for its fast-growth and recurring properties. As her primary caregiver, I learned many things about issues families face when caring for someone facing a life-threatening illness. This article covers the topic of grief and some of the techniques that the family used to help prepare them for the loss of a loved one.
In other articles, I discuss ways to prepare for a significant loss. Despite the preparation the family and I made in our situation, there were areas where I feel we could have improved. Our family digital photo albums date back to 2002 with subsequent albums categorized by year. At Lynne’s diagnosis, and through her treatment, the family took about three times the number of photos as in previous years. While photography during an illness may be uncomfortable to some, I am thankful that Lynne was comfortable with the many photos taken of her. One person shared with me that taking photos during the illness, initially seemed strange but later recognized that the family photographs, captured during that time are now the most cherished of all. At the time, I did not foresee the need to collect photographs from others to combine with the family library, but even as I write, I remember some photographs that I can no longer locate. At the time, I underestimated the importance those photographs would have in the future, for helping the family members with remembering important events. I share this as an encouragement to you to collect those pictures and place them in a safe place. You may not realize just how cherished those photos might become.
We captured family videos of the family when the children were young but that decreased over time. I did capture some special moments on video taken while on a cruise with Lynne to Alaska in 2009. I transferred the early videos from tape format to digital format to make sure that my family could enjoy them long into the future. The family benefits in their recovery by remembering the good times captured in those videos.
Lynne did leave our family some wonderful memories through her scrapbooking. These books not only contain cherished photos but also have Lynne’s special touches, as she personally created each page. Several family members and friends have commented that the birthday, anniversary, and ‘thinking of you’ cards she made for them, still serve as a fond memory of Lynne’s caring spirit.
Other areas of preparation included collecting favorite recipes for future use. Lynne was a good cook and an exceptional baker. Her recipe collection was extensive, filling several shelves in our home pantry. We neglected to write down some favorite recipes for the family to share. This is just another area that you might consider focusing on, for storing such information for future use and facilitate the remembering of special times.
You might also collect phone messages and voice recordings. My son has a few phone messages from his mom. One in particular is very special to him. She called Josh to wish him a happy birthday. Unable to take her call at that moment, she left him a voice mail, singing to him. I am unaware of other family members who have such voice recordings but recognize that you might value such a memory in the future. Do consider collecting such items while you have the chance.
For some of these tasks, you might consider asking a family member to help. Your role as a caregiver may be time-consuming, so focusing on tasks like photo or recipe collections might not fit your schedule. When family members or friends volunteer to help, I suggest you consider these types of projects. As a caregiver, you can help other people through their grief by allowing them to participate in some meaningful way. I believe our Creator designed our human nature to serve, so providing opportunities to someone to serve not only helps you but also helps others as well.
I believe preparing for grief can start long before a significant loss. Making the most from our relationships today helps prepare us for the loss of love ones. In other articles, I explain some of the methods that my family used to help with creating and maintaining the memories of the special person that we lost.