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Preserving memories through sadness

An Empty Space- written by Dawn Jasper-Waymire- Author of the Blog Anchoring the Waymires.

When our daughter, Zoey, was diagnosed with a condition considered incompatible with life, we set out to make and preserve as many memories with her as possible.  I was still pregnant at the time of her diagnosis, but we went to Disney World and the Zoo.  We visited the beach so she could hear the waves crashing.  And we took photos of everything to document her adventures.

Preserving memories through sadness

After Zoey was born, we continued to make as many memories with her as possible.  We took thousands of photos on our cellphones and had professional photographers at the hospital and at home.  We are blessed to have photos of Zoey in my wedding dress, pictures with her great-grandma and everyday moments with her.  Zoey lived for 120 beautiful days.  It’s now been nearly five years since her death, and I continue to treasure those photos documenting her life.

Photo by: Nicole Judiscak of Nicole J Photography

But taking photos changed for my husband and I after her death.  Why would I want to preserve the memory of those moments—the ones where she’s missing?  Capturing a smile on camera felt like a betrayal of our grief. How dare we smile when our hearts are shattered? While the photos of my husband and I before Zoey seemed complete, everything after her death seemed so empty.

A new chapter

Six months ago, we welcomed our son into our family.  Now we’re walking a delicate line of celebrating this new and amazing life, while forever grieving our daughter.  Having family photos taken the first time was incredibly difficult. Photos are so important to me, but I didn’t know how to take a “family” photo when one of our members will forever be missing.
For me, I needed to find ways to include Zoey.  Some of the ways are subtle—the anchor pendant I wear around my neck, a butterfly scarf.  Some are more obvious- a photo of her, her stuffed turtle.  While nothing ever feels complete, I’m committed to having photos with our son.

preserving memories through sadness
Dawn with her sweet boy, her husband, and Zoey’s stuffed turtle
photo by Amanda McMahon photography

I’ve appreciated the care and understanding our photographers have shown our family.  They’ve helped me navigate this difficult place and been empathetic about the situation.  To all the family photographers out there, please know that not every family will feel the same way about photos.  Some may find the thought of gathering together without their missing piece too much to bear.

Show the families you care and find ways to include

For some, they know they want photos, but it will take all of their strength to make that phone call to book an appointment.  Some families embrace the term “rainbow baby” while others will shy away from it.  There are million ideas and creative ways to include the missing piece of a family in their next set of photos.  Please be willing to sit with the family and work through ideas. Don’t be offended if you have an idea but the family isn’t on board.  Find a creative way to include trinkets or photos.  Your time, patience and creativity will be appreciated.

preserving memories through sadness
The sweet family with Zoe’s adorable pink bear
Photo by Nicole J photography

Read more about Dawn and her family’s journey at her blog and if you have your own article you’d like to share to help families, we would love for you to submit them here.

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1 Comment

  • Reply Kristen

    Thanks for sharing. What a touching story of the strength of a Mothers love.

    July 16, 2019 at 2:33 pm
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