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Creating a Memory Book with a Terminally Ill Loved One

A memory book from a terminally ill loved one can be a wonderful keepsake for your child. Here we’ll show you how to create this cherished and meaningful legacy.

Anxiety workbook for kids

There is nothing harder than walking through the grief of an impending loss of a loved one. It is a painful process for all involved. Children are often forgotten bystanders in these situations because they tend to have difficulty grasping the seriousness and permanence of the situation. Many parents wonder if they should shelter their children from the pain. If you have a child who has a close relationship with a loved one who is terminally ill, consider helping your loved one create a memory book with and for your child. The act with bless both the giver and the receiver.

What you will need:

  • A scrapbook with blank pages
  • Embellishments
  • Photos of your child with the loved one from birth until the present

Step 1: Talk with your loved one about your idea. Make sure it is something he or she is emotionally ready to do. If not, you can proceed with making the scrapbook on their behalf as a gift to your child.

Step 2: Collect your materials. Make copies of pictures and collect pieces of memorabilia (ticket stubs, tokens, etc.).

Step 3: Take it slow. You may not have a lot of time, but don’t rush this process. If your child is older (8 and up, depending on development), he can participate in the creation of the scrapbook. It will be a treasured trip down memory lane for all involved.

Step 4: Put it together. Starting with your child’s birth, document your loved one’s thoughts and feelings under each picture. For example, if you have a picture of Grandma holding your child as a newborn, the caption could read, “I was so excited to meet you! Tears came to my eyes when I saw you the first time. You looked just like your mother. It made me remember back to the day she was born.”

Step 5: Leave space for the future. At the end of the book, leave pages for events that have not yet occurred, like high school graduation, college, first job, wedding day, etc. Have your loved one write or dictate a caption for each. For example, under the future wedding day picture, it may say, “Your kindness and compassion for others will make you a remarkable husband. I am praying for your future bride now. May you know a love like your grandfather and I enjoyed for many years.” For believers, you can add a page at the end that says, “Until we meet again . . .” as a reminder that a joyous reunion awaits in heaven.

This memory book will provide a lasting keepsake for your child to read and cherish for years to come. You will also be affording your loved one with the opportunity to marinate in the wonderful memories of her life. She will be able to have a greater sense of peace as she leaves behind meaning and hope for her family. As believers, “we do not grieve as those without hope” (1 Thess 4:13) because we know a reunion with the Savior awaits those who trust in Him.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for treatment from a qualified mental health professional. Cornerstones for Parents is not liable for any advice, tips, techniques, and recommendations the reader chooses to implement.

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About Laura

Laura Kuehn, LCSW

Laura is a licensed clinical social worker who offers individual therapy to women and moms in Connecticut. She is the author of More Than a Conqueror, A Christian Kid's Guide to Winning the War on Worry. Cornerstones for Parents is the place she combines some of the things she is most passionate about: God's word, parenting and mental health.


  • I have a 19 year old terminally ill son that would like to make memory books for myself and his dad. Do you know of any pre written books that would work for this?

    • Donna,

      I am so very sorry to hear of your situation. I think a memory book would be a wonderful activity. Unfortunately, I don’t know of any pre-made books for this purpose. However, I think a photobook might be along the lines of what you are looking for. You can check out shutterfly as an option. You could sit with your son and create the book together (selecting digital pictures or scanning in paper photos). You can make one book for you and one for your husband, highlighting unique memories and allowing your son to insert personalized captions (if he is able). I hope this helps give you some ideas.

      I have said a prayer for you and your family. May God bless your time together.

      ~ Laura

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