Seeing these pictures can hurt and cause you to grieve, but they can be a source of hope or offer some solace.
My first therapist asked me to bring in family photos for context which was very insightful. She could tell by these when things started to change, and could pick up on family dynamics and better understand and remember the players involved. This was very early on-- it might have been the second or third session.
From there my sessions with her and other therapists were multimedia events. I would bring in poems, books, music and videos etc. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. Sometimes we don’t have the words to communicate what’s going on with us, but can do so in other ways. This is the basis of art and music therapy.
From my experience, caregivers aren’t the only ones that grieve this loss. Their sons and daughters do too, although they may not be able to articulate it. Part of recovery is getting past this grief, and moving on to what might be next for you both. I found I was often trying to sort out what was my illness and what was me, and what was the medication, etc. Eventually I came to peace with my limits and how I was effectively a different person. Yet I was more miserable in my prodromal and acute phases, so my residual or recovery phase was an improvement,. So once I got past that I began to grow again.
Of course my experience isn’t typical, but the blessing and curse of photos is they are only a snapshot in time and bittersweet for everyone-- nothing stays the same. It’s a question of degree. Your pain may be more poigiant than the happy photographs seen in funerals nowadays, because their transformation took a different form.
Some of this is how you look at it. They were happy once, and may be again, you don’t know. You may be able to use your photos as a tool to move both of you forward, or maybe not. But at least you had some happy times together. Some people don’t even get that, as illness or death strike before young adulthood.
My brother has BPD and has a tendency to live in the past, and talks frequently about his accomplishments in high school and college from thirty plus years ago. While it’s tedious and repetitious to listen to these stories, I marvel at his near perfect recall and nuances of detail that he brings. I’d like for him to make new stories if he can. But if he can’t, I try to appreciate the good times that he’s had, and those that we have shared. And I think that’s all anyone ill or not can expect.