Mesothelioma Patients Can Craft an Artistic Legacy
- Cancer & Caregiving
- April 18, 2017
Certain life events serve as psychological triggers that spark a desire to leave our loved ones a legacy.
For some people, the trigger might be reaching a certain age or accomplishing a particular goal. And for many mesothelioma patients, learning they have an incurable disease may inspire them to build a legacy.
While the traditional meaning of a legacy is financial stability, you can also take a more creative approach to leaving a lasting memory through artistic self-expression.
In addition to giving your loved ones something personal, research shows crafting creates an emotional outlet for people facing grief and loss, helps them adjust to new life-changing situations and eases closure.
Crafting Can Be Therapeutic for Mesothelioma Patients
Cancer patients and caregivers might not realize that mental health professionals use crafting scrapbooks and other legacy-building activities as therapeutic interventions.
Creating keepsakes can lighten the mood and keep a patient’s mind occupied on something other than illness.
Therapeutic Recreation Journal published an article in 2016 that collected the findings from a series of research studies about grief rituals, honoring deceased loves ones through art, scrapbooking as grief recovery and legacy activities as interventions for those nearing the ends of their lives.
Some of the benefits of artistic self-expression through crafting included:
- Finding a Creative Emotional Outlet: Crafting occupies the mind, but it also allows one to transfer emotions into their art. Works of art are symbolic of the emotions the artist experiences.
- Adjusting to New Life Situations: Creating art can help patients and caregivers adjust to a recent diagnosis. Crafting serves as proof of a person’s continued ability to accomplish things, despite having an illness.
- Finding Acceptance and Closure: Facing cancer can be a tough pill to swallow for many people. Some find that crafting aids in accepting a tough diagnosis or loss. People facing grief may find closure and healing through creating meaningful art.
Researchers found other physical and psychological benefits of scrapbooking such as decreased stress levels, fewer symptoms of depression, less perception of pain and fewer difficulties breathing.
Legacy-Building Activities Improve Quality of Life
Professional counselors and social workers incorporate legacy building as a means to improve quality of life for patients, easing caregiver stress and consoling those who have lost loved ones.
Some of the more common legacy-building activities include compiling photo albums and scrapbooks, journaling and recording video diaries.
The internet has plenty of websites dedicated to legacy-building crafts and projects. For the more artfully inclined, Pinterest is a good place to start. A person’s choice of activity doesn’t matter as much as the sentiments behind the completed project.
Tips for Starting Your Artistic Legacy
Trying some of these heartwarming ideas could spark patient reflection and foster family unity.
Patients who would like to reflect on past experiences might begin their legacy-building journey with one of these projects:
- Milestone Reflection: Think about major social events that occurred over your life span: A sports championship, memorable presidential election or a generational event. Describe the event and then reflect on your personal life during that time. For example: “In 1990, the Cincinnati Reds won the World Series. I was…”
- My Life Soundtrack: Consider all the songs you’ve claimed as your favorites. These songs tell an intimate and meaningful tale of you. For every decade of your life, choose a few songs that captured your thoughts at the time and explain why they shaped your life. Write about the songs in a journal or let someone burn them onto a CD. Listen to the music and dive into your musical memories with family and friends.
Some other ideas for married couples where one partner is a caregiver as well as activities the whole family can take part in might include:
Love in Photos
Gather old and new photos of the two of you together. Talk about the memories you’ve shared at the time the pictures were taken. Create a new album that captures your special moments as a couple or put them in a special box separate from the rest of the family photos.
Lovely Little Notebook
Sit across from each other or side by side. Begin by writing short, one-sentence love notes to your spouse, and then passing the notebook and pen to your partner. The other spouse will read the note and write a response. You might begin with, “I love the way you smile when…” or “I knew I would love you forever when…”
Have each family member trace their hands with a pencil on construction or printer paper. Cut out each of the traced drawings and create a wreath, a garland or a hand-drawing photo album.
A family member will begin by sketching an image of a fond family memory. After holding the picture up for others to see, loved ones will try to guess the event the drawing depicts. Regardless of creative ability, this activity is sure to stir a few laughs.
The beauty of crafting as a form of building legacy for cancer patients is that it transforms self-expression into a keepsake loved ones can enjoy and reflect upon when the artist is no longer at their side.
Melanie is currently pursuing a Master's degree at the University of the Cumberlands. She has a Bachelor of Science in psychology from the University of Phoenix. Her father was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 1992. She is dedicated to writing about her unique experience with the rare disease.
- Allen, R.S. et al. (2008, September). Legacy activities as interventions approaching end of life. Journal of Palliative Medicine, 11(7), 1029-1038
- King, J. et al. (2016, February 3). Scrapbooking as an intervention to enhance coping in individuals experiencing grief and loss. Retrieved from https://sites.temple.edu/rtwiseowls/files/2016/02/scrapbooking-as-an-intervention-to-enhance-coping-in-individuals-experiencing-grief-and-loss_final_accepted.pdf