How it Feels to Vlog Your Wife’s Death
For Tom Mills, losing his wife Andrea was devastating. His YouTube audience helped him through the process
Moments after his wife of 20 years passed away in a hospice close to the Wyoming home where she raised nine children, Tom Mills turned on his camera and started a YouTube live stream. “Andrea’s passed away,” Mills said before panning the camera around his grieving family and thanking his viewers for their prayers. The two-minute video ends with a two-second shot of Andrea’s body lying peacefully on a hospital bed.
Andrea Mills started her YouTube channel in October 2014 as a place to document life as a religious family of 11. She shared organisational tips, vlogs of her home-schooling schedule, and even the home-births of many of her children. Before she passed away from cancer and complications from a miscarriage on August 19 2019, Andrea had gained 50,000 loyal subscribers. “The people that she touched, they were not YouTube fans,” says Tom Mills now. “They were people that knew our names, that send my kids individual birthday cards, all nine of them, for all their birthdays.”
Andrea’s sickness and passing was sudden and shocking. Through tears, 43-year-old Mills recounts how his wife spent days lying in bed in pain before doctors said her gallbladder needed to be removed just months before her death. The gallbladder surgery revealed that Andrea’s liver was “bumpy”, and doctors flew her down to Denver to see a specialist who found cancer cells in her body. In Denver, Andrea miscarried the couple’s tenth child while awaiting further tests — shortly after, a doctor told the family she didn’t have long to live. Andrea chose to return home to a nearby hospice to die.
“They’re grieving her as much as I’m grieving her.”
When Andrea first became sick, videos on The Mills Family channel became less frequent. “Everybody was worried, everybody was very upset and concerned, and wanted to know badly what was going on,” Mills says of Andrea’s viewers. In response, he went to Walmart and purchased a laptop so he could update viewers while in the hospital. “I don’t want to say it’s a responsibility, but it sort of is,” Mills says. The family gained 20,000…