Capturing Love

by Ashley-Anne Masters

Cheryl Haggard, Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep co-founder, and her baby Maddux Achilles Haggard. Photograph taken by Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep co-founder, Sandy Puc’.

Parents should not outlive their children. Yet when the unthinkable becomes reality, many hospitals offer a variety of supportive resources to accompany families in their grief, shock, and heartache. In addition to other memory-makerssuch as handprints and saving locks of hairone beautiful resource offered is that of bereavement photography. For families with infant loss, bereavement photos are often the only family photos ever taken, making them priceless.

In my experience in various hospital settings, photographers who offer the gift of bereavement photography come to the hospital bedside, get to know the family’s story, and do their best to capture the boundless love within the limits of a hospital room. The families are given the option of whom they would like to include in photos. This is an especially delicate situation to navigate in terms of what may or may not be appropriate for young siblings to view in a hospital room. Typically the nursing staff, chaplain, social worker and child life specialist work with the photographer to ensure the family’s wishes are met in light of age-appropriate preparations and accommodations for siblings.

When I mention bereavement photography to families as a memory-making option, some families initially decline, stating they do not wish to remember their child in that way. It is important to affirm their feelings, as what is significantly meaningful to one family may be painful to another. However, depending on my relationship with the family and my sense of their bereavement needs, I often suggest they think about it, as perhaps six months later they may wish they had photos. Some families choose to have bereavement photography done but request the photographer not send them the photos until or unless they request them at a later time. This, too, is perfectly appropriate, as each family grieves uniquely. Ultimately, all that matters is families know there are numerous resources available to them to tangibly capture the love they share that even a tragic death cannot ever take away.

For more information regarding bereavement photography and to support their upcoming virtual walk, visit NowILayMeDownToSleep.org.

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