In order to communicate the universality of loss across cultures and to honor the feelings of those who grieve, Susan Mah and HealGrief have opened up the Loss Project to the public so that others may share photos about their experience with loss in our worldwide gallery of imagery. For artists, it may be one of your own photographs or it may be a photo of one of your paintings, sculptures, or other works of art. For non-artists, it may be a photo of something or somewhere that reminds you of the person who died. For example: your father’s pen you use to write with, your mother’s cup you drink your coffee from, or a ring you wear around your neck.
As you journey with grief, you may feel a variety of emotions, such as shock, denial, anger, depression, guilt, or acceptance. At HealGrief, we want you to know that such feelings are normal, change over time, and are ripe for artistic expression. As part of the healing process, these feelings can be shared in your artwork, whether or not you consider yourself an artist. We invite you to take advantage of this opportunity for art therapy by submitting a photo of your own. Simply click on “upload your image,” and tell us the story behind the image.
We buried my 44-year-old son, Michael, in the shade of an ancient oak with glorious blue skies above, and a gentle breeze taking Michael to a place where he will be at peace. He described his battle with alcoholism as “Dancing with the devil.” He danced his last dance on May 15, 2020. May he be remembered for the beautiful soul he was, separate from his addiction. They are not the same. Be at peace, my beloved son.
I lost my wife to cancer in October of 2019. This is a picture of her ashes being released into the ocean. This was one the most difficult days of my life. This is a very difficult picture for me look at. I would say it helps me lean into the pain of loosing my wife of 40 years. My two children and I wanted a sunny spring day to release her ashes, but I felt uncomfortable keeping them in the home (that’s just me). So we did it on a Sunday in January. This photo represents a release for me. I will be with her again some day. Thank you for all the wonderful work you do at Healgrief.org.
Two months ago I lost my beloved Grandad and ever since losing him I have felt an overwhelming sense of my own mortality and my depression has been triggered quite badly, causing me to feel demotivated and uninterested in anything. Photography has always helped me to get through hard times and it has saved my life in the past. I’ve found that it has given me purpose and I think being open about our own struggles can help others feel less alone in their problems.We often present a very filtered point of view, especially through social media where we only share our good moments. This morning I fought the darker part of my brain that made me want to stay in bed all day and made work. I decided to photograph myself in my bedroom where I have grown up and spent all of my life so far. Me and my Mum are currently in the process of re-decorating my room and have been peeling the wallpaper off the walls. The wallpaper has been painted over several times and as we removed the cream coloured paint I saw the shocking pink paint I asked for when I was thirteen and underneath that layer of paint I found doodles that I’d naughtily drawn on the wall at an even younger age and hoped my parents wouldn’t find them.It made me think of how temporary everything is and how much everything changes over the course of time as well as how one room can hold so much life.
Since my sister and my brother-in-law passed away, my views on life and God changed drastically. I started reading and trying to understand why. I don’t believe that Jesus was the Messiah. I don’t believe there will ever be a Messiah. I believe in God, but God is definitely not a white-bearded man up in the clouds that will punish you if you don’t believe and make you spend eternity in purgatory. God is the universe, and God is everything in the universe. God is in me, in the ladybugs, in the birds that sing in the trees that grow, in the constellations and the planets within our solar system. God is an all-encompassing being, & we are all part of it. I painted part of our solar system with the Milky Way because I Thank the stars for dying so I can live because we are all Stardust. And I know my sister will always be with me in everything around me. The feel of a breeze, the sound of a hummingbird as its wings buzz by me, the night sky lit up with stars, the laughter of my children and my niece and nephews. I know she is OK, and I know that she would want me to be OK. So after six years of grieving and crying and not understanding, I’ve taken steps to heal and get my life back on track for my children, her children, my father, and, most importantly, myself. If I am OK, everything else will fall into place. I know she wouldn’t want my suffering and depression for this long. So, this was my first attempt at painting something that reminds me of her, the stars, where I’d like to think she’s dancing amongst them.
I took this picture about a month and a half after my mother was killed in a car accident. It doesn’t look like much, but it was her life. Sewing. And this particular pile of material was the very last thing that she touched in her home. She video-chat with me September 1st morning, to sort through that pile with her so she could make a quilt for my daughter for Christmas. We talked for 4 minutes and 20 seconds. About that pile of material. It was the last thought that she had before she left her house to go to work. Everything is exactly as she left it. I just took the picture of our last moment together. Frozen in time.
Last picture of my dad. I’ve realized after a few months that I’m happy he’s gone because he beat me, and he was a drunk.
This my daughter, Willow Hope, my Hopey. I lost my daughter by electric shock while I was at work. She was such free soul, full of life, and only 18 months old. Happened when my husband was at home. He went to the bathroom and, in the blink of an eye, she was gone. Touched exposed wire we were told wasn’t in use. My husband fought to save her: 20 minutes of CPR before the ambulance came. The emergency room tried over one hour ’til I decided and asked them to stop. My husband and I decided to donate her heart, tissue, and organs. And this beautiful soul has saved three lives so far.
Out of all his grandchildren, I was the only one he bought a toy for. He always took me places with him in Mexico. Train sets remind me of his smiles; he would always be smiling when he would watch me play.
My grandfather loved to go camping. Every year, he would go to this lake with his nephew. We’ve decided to keep the family tradition of going every year in his honor. This has turned into a family reunion, a happy time when we can get together instead of only seeing each other during sad and stressful times.
It’s three days that I killed parts of myself. Parts of myself died, and I haven’t been able to get them back. I feel like I’m a shell of a person. So many bad things have happened to me. I want to be a whole, functioning, feeling person. I only know how to experience negative emotions, like hurt, pain, oppression, depression, anger, hate, and self-hate; I’m comfortable with it. I will forever regret the days I closed those doors.
Strength and beauty doesn’t always come from the surroundings; it comes from within. My grandma was very independent and didn’t have a lot of support, but still made it beautiful and stayed strong. I felt really close to her, like SHE was my mom. I could always confide in her no matter how bad it was. She gave me her advice, and I would take it into account because I know she loved me. I still feel loss, but I know she’s still with me.
We enjoyed going to beautiful spots, just enjoying the beauty of nature. At first, I was read sad, but I didn’t even cry at the funeral. The way he looked, he wouldn’t want to look like that. It wouldn’t be any quality of life at all. He wasn’t coming back; I knew it. I would be crying more if he was here.
My name is Misty. This is a picture from a very special moment with my daughter who went home to Jesus.
In January 2019 my beautiful darling angel, Emma, died. She was nearly 2 years old. She was this happy, bubbly, smart, talkative baby who loved the beach, the sun, games and her dad. She was the light of my life. She was her father’s, and my, pride and joy. Now she’s gone. I will never see her again. Her beautiful smile. Never hear her laughter that could make the whole room light up. My heart breaks in grief and misery. Now she is in heaven with the angels and her older brother, Dante, whom I lost when he was 13 months old. The pain i feel…it’s indescribable. I hope no mother ever has to lose their babies at a young age. Rest in peace, my beautiful darlings. Mummy misses you two.
This photo was taken at the nursing home just after my father died in 2018. As a family, we had all been sitting with him for two days as he lay in a coma after being transferred from the local hospital. On the third day, it had snowed heavily and, being a photographer, I thought I would take the camera just to pass some time in case I wanted to get out for five minutes. Sadly, that morning he passed away, and I missed him by about 12 minutes. When I got to the nursing home, I was devastated, angry, and frustrated and so picked up the camera and wandered around the nursing home grounds to take photographs. As I came round the back of the nursing home, the window where my dad still lay was open and, to my surprise, this photograph is of the roof just above his window. I couldn’t quite believe it. Apart from two birds on the top of the room, all the birds sat above my dad’s window. This photograph has given me a lot of comfort. Who knows if there is more to it or not, but it was certainly a sight to behold on that day!
We lost our son, Ryan, about two years ago. He was 28 but “medically fragile” his entire life. Special Olympics was a big part of his life. When he passed away, we strongly requested no flowers, but that donations be made in his honor to the groups who enriched his life. One of the groups was his school district’s Special Olympics team. A significant amount of money was donated, and his coaches asked us how they should use the money. Honestly, we were not ready to help with that decision. A few weeks after his passing, I got a phone call from a coach who worked with Ryan throughout his life. She had an idea how to spend the money. As she explained to me, she always saw Ryan as “light,” and she wanted to have a cauldron built in his honor to be used at all future local Special Olympics events. What beautiful symbolism. This picture is of us lighting the cauldron the very first time–note how the flame took the shape of a runner. This touched us because one of Ryan’s favorite events was the local track and field event!
This was something my boyfriend, himself, had started last year. He had got the stencils of our last names placed, but couldn’t decided what he wanted to put in the middle. He had wanted to make this plaque so we could hold it for pictures that Christmas, to hang on the wall and eventually hold in wedding pictures someday. Well, life happened and we got busy. And he never finished it before Christmas and still couldn’t figure out the middle. Then February 6th happened. He went to work like a normal day, but it wasn’t a normal day. He had a massive heart attack. They were able to eventually get his heart beating again, but he was put on a ventilator. Late in the day on the 8th, we found out he had no brain function due to the swelling that had started from the lack of oxygen the day of his heart attack. We spent the next day remembering him and celebrating him. Then on the 10th, we removed his life support, and he passed peacefully with his family at his bedside. Due to my money situation, I immediately knew I was going to move. I couldn’t afford our house on my own. So I moved in with my mom. As I was moving, I found the plaque and knew I had to finish it for him. It took a couple months but one day it came to me out of nowhere: EST 2012. The year we met. The year we became us. The year we went from being 1 to 2. I know he helped it come to me. I feel his presence every day guiding me. I just wish he had been here to see the finished project and to have been able to hold it with me in a picture. Especially that wedding one we always wanted.
This picture is of his footprints in the sand along with the paw prints of his beloved dog. They were inseparable. And he walked her on the beach every day, twice a day. It has been almost 13 weeks since he passed suddenly and unexpectedly. It has taken her 12 of those weeks to come to me for pats. Even though we took her to see him at the funeral home, so she would not wonder and search for him, she has been as heartbroken as I.
The hospital room where I witnessed an old man’s death last year. He was in the hospital being treated for an illness that he should have survived; yet he did not. My uncle’s passing was an emotional rollercoaster of relief and grief: the relief clearly etched on his face, as his features relaxed after his final breath left his body; the grief mine, alone in a hospital room with a man that would no longer demand a ‘smootch’ from me when I next saw him. There would be no next time. Bob was an 88 year-old man with profound deafness. His deafness was complete and had been since he was a young man. Despite this, he lived a full and productive life, particularly once he met and married my aunt in his late thirties. But after her death from breast cancer ten years ago, which was a long and painful process for all, he became very lonely. And once his little dog passed away, Bob slowly lost his will to live. He was a fit old buggar, but dementia had set in. We were in the process of finalising aged care assessments and seeking an appropriate aged care facility for him (none of which he wanted) when the floods of December 2016 hit his backyard like a tsunami. It brought with it debris from a number of fences that had been knocked down and the contents of his neighbours’ backyards. Somehow it also delivered the golden staph that left him barely conscious on his bedroom floor (when I found him) and saw him hospitalised for the next eight weeks. Despite being assessed as medically fit to recommence the aged care process, Bob began vomiting blood. He was transported from rehab to the emergency department, and the next 36 or so hours were gut wrenching. You see, Bob had his wishes. He did not want to be resuscitated, and he did not want his life prolonged. Certainly not when there was nothing left for him to live for. And, in his mind, being moved from his home into a care facility was not worth living for. We advised emergency department staff of his wishes and had to carefully negotiate his health care. He was moved into a palliative care ward and ‘made comfortable’ until he passed away. As I promised, I was with him at the end. In this hospital room.
My 22 year old son, Brett, died in a tragic snowboarding accident. His college friends and the snow rescue team held a remembrance event for him. Hundreds of people showed up. The night culminated in fireworks and a torch run down the mountain by the rescue team. Such heartache and such an outpouring of love. Grateful and grieving.
My father passed away when I was 16 years old. He was an alcoholic and it’s safe to say that the alcohol is what killed him. He was drunk every night that I saw him, he had at least a dozen DUI offenses and his liver was completely shot by age 47. Without any shred of emotional support from my dad, I can say my mom was the one that raised me and had most of the influence on me, when I was young. However, as soon as my father died, I began drinking heavily and stuffed all the feelings for 20 years. Since I was fully susceptible to the emotional triggers that result in alcoholism, it happened in no time flat. My mom had no control over anything I did form there on out. As a result, I had no adult guidance in life, no role models, no mentors, no career planning advice, no structure, discipline, basic conditioning, motivation or direction in life whatsoever. I basically had to invent myself, as a person. In my twenties, I didn’t care if I even lived to be 30. But in may late 20s, I somehow turned into a writer and never looked back. Writing is what led me to discover all the feelings I had previously stuffed, so by the time I got sober at 39, it came a little easier than it did for others. In a nutshell, addiction is the habitual process of trying to satisfy cravings because your brain simply can’t deal with the unbearable pain of the present moment. Almost always, this is the result of trying to latch onto feelings that are impermanent by nature. Then your brain learns and learns and learns as it goes, teaching itself, and getting used to the process of trying to kill the pain at all costs. To your brain, trying to satisfy the craving becomes a normal process, like intrinsically knowing how to ride a bike. Once I understood all of this, the solution gradually became available. Now things are better. I harbor no hostility toward my dad at all. Forgiveness is a pretty rocking concept. And growing up with no conditioning has proven to be quite a conduit for creativity. I’m able to transform the negative vibes into their positive equivalents. I have learned to be proud of the good qualities he left me with.
This is a pic of Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. After my father passed suddenly on 9-11-16, my family decided to go to CO as a private memorial to him. This particular spot is significant in that we have a old pic of him and his brother here, when they were kids, and my grandfather. The park has been a family retreat for generations. And we left some of his ashes close to this spot. So this is a sacred resting place that my family can revisit. I took the pic initially to share with family. But then felt compelled to pay tribute to my father and my hero publicly. I never really did when he was here. So here it is. I miss him. Every day.
From our lantern floating ceremony. Ha’ena is putting Tutu Papa’s lantern in the water.
The last photo of my father and I. He unexpectedly passed two weeks later on July 16, 2017. My loss has taught me to cherish each and every moment we are given because we never know when our last one will be.
Rosa laying roses on Alfie’s grave. When we arrived at the cemetery, it was a shock to know that Alfie, who took his own life at age 14, was under the cracked parched earth, and that his grave was untended–as if someone so vibrant and energetic and fun had suddenly been swallowed up by the earth. And no matter how strong his presence here, he was gone forever. There was something cathartic about decorating it with roses and flowers and photographs–a way to say I care and also eerie. Could he hear us talking to him or were we just whispering to the wind?
You’ve hit the golden road in brand new shoes. I’m glad we had the time for “I love you’s.” We’ll do our best, although we’re not sure how, to carry on and say “Good-bye” for now.
I used to call my dad “Pop.” I was the only one of us kids who did, and I think he liked it. You can see “Pop” inside of the pearl that the dragon is chasing. My dad was born in the Year of the Dragon. In Chinese art, a dragon is often seen in pursuit of a pearl, which is associated with spiritual energy, wisdom, prosperity, power, immortality, thunder, or the moon. I once saw an “intuitive” in Hawaii where my dad was born and raised. She said she “saw” him playing with other kids, being called by a nickname. He was “Hunga” when he was a boy, and I like to think that he is at peace now, playing and feeling carefree.
The story of the birds on my back: When I was at my dad’s funeral 11 years ago, there were three birds circling his casket as it lowered into the ground. When the casket was finally at the bottom, the birds sat on a tree branch nearby, looking down where he lay. A feeling of comfort/peace came over me because I felt that those birds were my grandfather, my uncle, and my dad always being with me.
This photo is of the shack that my daughter Sasha’s mother was living in with other people. Adoption is a wonderful thing as a way to provide family and nurturing to children who need it. But adoption also inevitably involves loss. When I see this photo, I hurt for baby Sasha who didn’t have a safe place to live, and for her birth mom, too. As it happens, her birth mom died after Sasha had gone to live in the orphanage. I cannot imagine what it would have been like to be her birth mom and not to have a safe place to keep her. It is such a precious gift and a privilege and sacred trust from the universe that I have been allowed to be Sasha’s adoptive mom. I try not to forget that.
North Hawaii Hospice Lantern Ceremony preparation for my friends that I have lost this year.
In December 2015, days before I was to start vacation for the holiday season, I touched base with one of my closest friends who was living in Southern Utah (and I in NYC). I wrote to her, saying we had to plan a phone date to catch up. Three weeks later, shortly after the new year, I learned from her brother she had died. I was shocked, thought it was a skiing accident or car crash, but she had committed suicide. I grew weak, stood at the kitchen table trying to wrap my head around what I was hearing; it didn’t make sense. Ann Marie was the most vivacious person I’d ever met. She traveled; she partied; she worked…she wouldn’t take her life; there was so much to live for! Tragically, she had shot herself in the woods. It took her friends and family days to find the body. It’s been almost three years and most days are easy now, but every time I hit a milestone in my life, I hear her voice. Ann Marie was my cheerleader in life. She had my back and kept telling me to live, not work so much. I didn’t call her that night because “I was too busy”. My life unraveled a little that year because in addition to Ann Marie, nine others died in the span of seven months. It has taken me time to rebuild. I went to creative arts therapy and started to pursue my photography as a little more than just a hobby. I’m currently pushing and working to find commercial success so I can do what I love and love what I do. Her death gave me the license to live and not get stuck in the daily grind. Her death allows me to see the colors a little brighter and feel that breeze on my face. I make choices in living a meaningful life. No longer am I “too busy” to ever pick up the phone and reach out to the people I love. I went to the beach and sat in the lifeguard’s chair to watch the sunset. I always miss Ann Marie. I always wish she was here to tell me she’s proud of me, but since her love can no longer come to me in a form I’m used to, I will accept her presence in these fleeting moments. There’s something magical about hearing her laugh as the sun goes down.
After my best friend died, I got this tattoo to remember her by. People often ask if I’m from San Francisco, but I’m actually from northern New Jersey. Hope was a friend from high school who died by suicide when I was in my first year of college. This bridge symbolizes a place that we used to go to in the next town over, where we would sit and talk about our lives. As it has been three, almost four, years since she died, this bridge has taken on new meaning for me since. It connects me to her from this world into the next and serves as a permanent reminder that I can make a difference in other people’s lives by reaching out. Another thing about the bridge symbol is that people may not know where people are in terms of their mental health: if they’ve walked the length of the bridge and are thinking to jump. It serves as inspiration to say hello to strangers, offer help to those in need, and even take care of my own mental health. However, I know that singular efforts are not enough for a healthcare reform. Moving forward, I want to participate and lead larger movements to bring awareness to the needs of vulnerable populations, such as college students, but others too. The placement of this tattoo has extra importance to me. I met my friend in marching band, and, as anyone in band knows, you step off with your left foot. So long as I put my best foot forward, I know that I’m capable of anything. My work has only just begun.
I think of you in a higher place.
Letting go of the pain and remembering the good.
Missing a loved one
Missing a loved one.
Missing a loved one.
Missing a loved one.
This is my little girl. This picture can show the grief of a little girl missing her mother and holding a wall instead.
This is a sketch I drew of the pain of missing someone. It can be a mother missing her son or a wife missing her husband.
I photograph landscapes as the result of the loss of my dad, Richard Tetzlaff. Photography helps process my thoughts and attempts to identify what grief may look like in nature. These images reflect his influence and illustrate how my participation in this process becomes a valuable reconnection with him through the work.
This is a photo of the irresistible beauty that my son had gone to witness. I am soothed in my grief by the knowledge that his final moments were spent doing what he loved, with people he loved, in a place he just couldn’t resist going. I took this photo when I returned with my sister to the place he fell. The area is just awe inspiring.
I took this photo in a market in the region of the Inlé Lake (during a trip to Myanmar). The child was pulled by the hand of his mom and seemed to be obeying. I like the eyes and face of this child who seems a little bit sad or melancholic. For me, it symbolizes the loss of the innocence and life there. Myanmar is a very beautiful country, but it is also a poor country.
My roommate, Bill, always had the biggest balls in the neighborhood. Miss you, bro. Humor helps with the journey.
My 21 year-old son was killed by a truck driver while riding his bike to work in San Francisco 5 years ago. He had just moved out of our home a few days earlier. He was the oldest of my 4 sons and such a sweet, positive, charismatic, and loving son. His death has devastated our family. The summer after his death, we just needed to get away from everything and go to be with nature. So we rented a cabin up in the Sierras beside the Yuba River. While wading in the water, the very first thing I noticed was this black heart rock, and it felt like it was from my son, Dylan.
These images are the tools of my father he left behind long ago. These images are in homage of my father’s work and memory.
This is a picture of my mum and dad before my mum got Alzheimer’s. She sadly passed away this year, aged 71, and the void she has left behind will never be filled. She was a strong and spirited woman who loved her family, and she loved children. And I miss her every day. I am about to embark on a new journey, doing a photography degree course. And I know that she is with me in spirit, which is something that I will take forward with me on the road ahead. I love you, Mum.
I created a series of images honoring women who have passed away. This image is very personal to me, though, because it is my mother’s wedding dress. I wanted to find a way to honor her life, so I created this image and wrote the following tribute with it: Karen Lee Whittemore wed Ralph Ellington Mosely, III on May 15, 1965 in Nashville, Tennessee. They were sweethearts throughout high school and college. The beautiful ivory silk wedding gown with imported lace was lovingly made by her mother, Jennie Lee Whittemore. The ceremony was held at Second Presbyterian Church. It was a small and intimate celebration, but Karen’s father had threatened not to show up. Fortunately, he changed his mind and arrived at the last minute to walk his daughter down the aisle. Karen and Ralph, who most people called ‘Skip,’ were married for 48 years and had two daughters, Michelle and Jennie. Karen devoted most of her years to being a stay at home mother. Later in life, she entered full-time ministry and found great fulfillment there. She eventually went on to pastor a small church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, focusing most her time teaching people about prayer. This, combined with her own discipline of praying hours a day, causes her to forever be remembered as a Woman of Prayer. Karen was diagnosed with breast cancer at the end of April 2014. Her children cared for her the last month of her life since Skip had passed away 8 months earlier. In her final days, she spoke of seeing her husband. He told her there would be an amazing party for her on Sunday. Karen said Skip showed her a glimpse of this celebration, and it was like nothing she had ever seen. A few more days passed, and then Karen peacefully passed away in her home June 1, 2014. It was Sunday.
I lost my uncle a few years ago. He was always encouraging and supportive no matter what I did (especially my photography). He was like a father to me since I wasn’t close to my own father. My uncle loved the outdoors and loved his Native American heritage. He was, most of the time, kind,but like all of us, dealt with his own demons in his own way. Which is why we could relate to each other so well. “Whatever you do in life, do the very best you can, with both your heart and mind.” (Lakota quote). I miss him all the time.
I’ve encountered many struggles in my short time here on earth, and I constantly felt trapped. My friend and mentor, Jeff, changed that for me in many ways, and although he passed 3 years ago, he continues to impact my life. He helped me introduce activities that had a freeing sensation: a place or activity where I could be in the moment and feel free from everything. As a kid, I would spend hours on the swings in my backyard so it only made sense to reintroduce it. When I’m having a rough week, I do my best to get on the swings and swing the pain away. Since Jeff has passed, it’s been a difficult transition, but I still talk to him, and I can often hear his advice for the situation I’m in: “get on the swings.”
When I went to Johnny’s house the first time after we watched him die in the hospital, I walked in the front door and his shoes were right where he left them. I took a picture. I wondered what he might have been going through when he took these off. I wondered if he had any idea that the last time he took these off, he was about to die.
This is Nina’s tree. Nina and I became friends after I moved into the building where she lived. That July, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. During most of our friendship, I tried to support her through her chemo, surgery, radiation, more chemo, and, finally palliative care. Nina loved this tree, and so we renamed it, claiming it as hers. I had to leave NYC, because of economics, but we spoke every single day. I returned to see her three times before she died. I spoke to her for the last time seven days before her death. We had always talked about me being with her, but once her brother joined her, it seemed inappropriate to interfere. He and I were in touch during that last week. She died more than two years ago, but I think about her every day. I realize that even though she thought I was supporting her, that she was my rock and foundation. Every year, on the anniversary of her death, I post this photo along with the text of Maya Angelou’s poem, “When Great Trees Fall.” It perfectly expresses how I feel about her.
It was home for the first 21 years of my life. It’s where meals were cooked, inches where grown, laughter was had, and tears flowed. If those walls could talk, it would tell you some tales: some happy and some sad. It was the place I learned everything about who I am and where I came from, but what resonates most is that it was the last place I saw my father. He made the most permanent choice that changed everything. I’ve carried his choice with me for nearly 15 years. That is when I found art and self-reflection. Through my photography, I learned to talk about my loss. I grew stronger. I learned to forgive, and I learned I wasn’t alone. Last year my childhood home was torn down, and now more than ever I am so grateful to have captured this image. I look back at it to remember where I came from, and now I can smile because I have come so far.
This is a photo of one of my best friends who lost her older brother at a young age. I wanted to give her this photoshoot opportunity to help with her grieving and share her story about the loss of her brother. I wanted to connect her memorial tattoo she has for him to the physical world as well as to give a sense that no matter what these events are that happen, when we lose someone close, they stick with us, but that person will forever be with us.
We lost my father almost two years ago now. We had him home with hospice for about 3 months. We watched this strong, vibrant, and alive man wither. He shrunk; he atrophied; the light went out of his soulful eyes slowly. To the end, he was internally strong and mad that his body wouldn’t work. He was mad that he had grown dependent. He was mad that he just couldn’t live. He wasn’t one to sit, and in the last months, that’s all he could do. As a care taker, I did things I never dreamed a daughter would have to do. Dad was a military man: USAF and served during the Korean War. He took the flag, this country, and his life very seriously. He loved to fly, be in planes, watch planes, or anything that had to do with flying. He loved nature as well. He’d sit and watch animal life, the clouds, and all that encompassed him. He was an avid photographer, which is where I’m certain my passion comes from. He loved to travel; he loved to photograph nature mostly. This photo reminds me of him. The “rock” for his strength, the blue sky for his heavenly passing, AND him soaring in the wild blue skies, the ‘cracks and crevices’ for his weaknesses, and how beautiful it all is even if it’s ‘not perfect’. Dad was our rock and what brought us all together. This photo kind of ties that all together. We will realize he’s been looking down, watching over us, happy that I am still traveling, taking photos, and living life…from the heavens.
I created this in the aftermath of 9/11, while waiting anxiously for news of friends who worked there. All I saw in the media were horrible images of destruction. What stood out for me were the images of people jumping and I wanted to create an image that showed them safe in God’s hands. My photo was a prayer for those people and for those who loved them.
This last February, I lost my youngest brother, Robb. Robb was the last of my three brothers. It was so hard losing him. Robb left me the guitar that our dad had bought for him. Whenever I look at wear on the guitar, I can hear him playing again.
My father…I learned to love dandelions…to make a wish and to see where the winds will take them…for the way that they sit their huge heads so high. From this man who taught me how to take and see the world through pictures…at his knee, he was my inspiration on how a light meter works or how the chemicals in the different baths created a photo…at the age of 4. He loved photography and sent me down the road of many arts. Flowers were his favorite thing to photograph and a part of that follows me. This beautiful head of the dandelion was taken on the side of a busy street growing from the crack of the curb…with traffic going by constantly…then one day the fluffy head was gone, but the nub still held high. I always saw the cycle, the endurance, and the survival of even the most delicate when placed in a treacherous surroundings…as being perfectly possible…going forward, the little seeds that were planted moved on, and the dandelion’s job was done. But the creation of all those seeds lives on in so many ways…
- It took me one year to set up his drums after he passed.
My little brother. Born in January of 1965ish. Died in 1965ish. Today I am interested in recognizing his existence. Namaste, little brother Johnny. Gone but NEVER forgotten. Prayers and love to all loss and to all hope.
Loving you over half of my life has been such an immense gift. Saying goodbye has been harder than I could ever imagine. Your intuition and thoughtfulness shined through my darkest moments as a child, and you would always come to my aid, even when I didn’t know I needed it. Seeing you so weak breaks my heart, but you have served myself and my family more than you will ever comprehend, and deserve so much more than this world can provide.
Death is an awful but necessary part of life, and I am trying to process this in a time while also working to build upon my former self and create the person I want to be. In your passing, I promise to try and live, to see myself the way you must’ve seen me: a provider, a friend, somehow without the flaws or insecurities that hold me back from the things I am deserving of. You have left such an impact on my heart, where you will remain until I eventually pass. Wherever we go after that point, I look forward to seeing you there.
To my oldest friend,
I love you, Batman.
Princess “Princey” was my companion, the love of my life. I always said, “I gave birth to her.” She was the sweetest, most lovable dog. She licked my tears away whenever I cried. We were inseparable for 14 years. She slept with me. I never went on vacations so I wouldn’t be away from her. I had to put her to sleep last Friday: the most difficult decision I’ve ever had to make. I’m utterly heartbroken. I don’t know how to go on without her. My only consolation is that I’ll be with her one day again. I love you and miss you, my sweetheart <3
This is a portrait I painted of my beloved Floris. Looking at the portrait is the closest I can come to connecting with his essence. Floris left his body November 10, 2017. Floris, you were amazing and such a beauty to see. I was in love with you every day of the 13 years and 4 months together. We shared a deeply bonded relationship; we were extraordinarily close. Floris was a Belgium sheepdog, a working dog: perceptive, sensitive, loyal, smart, high strung, easily nervous, and humorous. We moved many times: lived in the Bay Area, California; Holland; Boulder, Colorado; and Vashon Island where we finally had a home for the last 4 years. We had many, many great adventures: in the wild, hiking, swimming, smelling, running. And also, he totally loved tracking in Holland, agility, and freestyle dancing. Throughout it all, we were a constant to each other. Over the last year and a half, Floris’ body was declining, starting with a seizure and a diagnosis of a pancreatic tumor. He slowly became more quiet. Mostly, in the last months, he was hanging out on the cowhide or his dog bed. But always, his soul-quality-of-presence was felt by close friends that visited. Life in his body was no fun, but it wasn’t all bad either. Delicious home-made food delivered to him 3 times a day, a soft bed, and a steady flow of love and devotion. I believe that the deep love we had for each other kept us both going. “Whenever you are ready, manneke, you can go now; mama is okay.” But Floris kept on going, and going, and going. During the last weeks, fluids started to slowly accumulate in his belly. Walking or getting up was hard for him, with labored breathing. Thursday, I knew — without a shadow of a doubt— “I am complete.” And I knew that Floris had been complete for a long time. All is lived; all is done. Why wait any longer? My vet of choice came the next day, Friday morning. All was peaceful. I was there with him, and at 9:45 am, his heart stopped. I spent the day alone with his body, with him. It was the most profound silence, peace, and emptiness I have ever experienced. A very, very fine, subtle vibration, energy was felt, completely indescribable. It was and is not easy. So existential. Like falling into the crucible of this vast existence. Beloved of my heart, I love you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. You broke my heart open with your love, loyalty, and devotion; you were supreme. I bow to you in deep gratitude; I love you. Love is forever…Ditte
This photos show the ingredients to make a no-bake, lemon cheesecake. When I was young, this was my mother’s signature dessert, and my very favorite one. It was the first dessert she ever taught me to make, and though I have since learned to make more elaborate ones, it is still my favorite for both ease of creation and enthusiasm of reception. Mother died in 2006, and after her death, I thought I would no longer enjoy making this dish. But now it only makes me feel happy to emulate her fine work.
Our favorite, ironic saying was: shit happens.
Not sure I can talk about this yet…Ensure was the last nourishment we tried to provide her, but we were unsuccessful and she passed away the same day. A few days later, I saw the three remaining bottles in the kitchen, with one of the bottles askew, and I lost it and I started crying uncontrollably for over a minute. Because of my personal beliefs, I know that her soul did not die, but transcended to another existence. I’m usually pretty stoic, so this was unusual for me. I’m not sure why this set me off, but it did. Not sure how long it will take me to move those bottles, but I know it won’t be today, or tomorrow, or anytime soon.
My brother by choice, my brother in music, and my brother in heart. I felt a special connection to him through all our mutual experiences. This picture is from a benefit we played at together for a couple of cancer patients (him being one of them). I miss him and think about him daily. I can’t pick up a guitar without hearing him playing the music in my mind.
My mother-in-law passed away suddenly last weekend. Among a number of intense feelings is the feeling of loss I have for you, my dear daughter, who will never remember her Nana. But she does know what it is to love, and I think she will always remember and honor her Nana for teaching her unconditional love. Having a granddaughter was her greatest joy because she only ever had boys, and she wanted to do lots of “girly” things.
After losing my daughter and both my parents within 14 months, I began to see grief as a monster. However, in this painting by me, I began to realize that grief can also be a comforter and help keep you close to your loved ones.
GRIEVING – IN A PICKLE… Since my mom’s passing after only a six-month fight with breast cancer, our refrigerator has been kind enough to hold the “lasts” of her sustenance…the last package of Jello, the last bottles of Ensure, the container of butter that she so loved to slather on her corn on the cob, her last Coca-Cola that still holds her fingerprints, and ALL the jars of pickles that she bought but never ate. Three years later, they remain and are daily reminders that a mother’s existence, MY mother’s existence has always been the only sustenance that I ever needed. As I clean my refrigerator, I cannot bear the thought of letting go of these things. Perhaps one day I will; but for now, I will just rearrange the pickles.
This is my beloved husband James, whom I shared my life with for 47 years, since I was 14 years old. I laid with him for 6 very long days, soothing his fears, assuring him I would not leave and constantly reminding him of our strong, loving bond. He never opened his eyes or spoke, but he did mouth the words, “I love you,” and pressed his cheek against mine before leaving me. This picture was taken without my knowledge by my daughter and I am forever grateful, as it brings me such peace in moments of complete heartache.
Remembering–in my grief over losing my son suddenly at only 23–that others lost him too. This is my mother, a very strong woman, suffering the loss of her grandson. Her help and support has meant the world to me. I love that I was able to give a little back to her. Thank you, Norma, for catching this moment.
On March 20, 2017, I lost my Dad very unexpectedly. While we had a complicated relationship, it was probably the best it had been when he died. While I was mad at him, it was because I wanted to spend more time with him. Not a bad reason to be mad. A few weeks before he died, he actually asked if we could spend some time together over the summer. It was the first time he had indicated to me that he actually wanted to see me in my 44 years of life. And then he broke my heart and left me. After he died, my stepmother found a few pictures he had of the two of us–all from when I was a kid. I don’t have any pictures of us together as adults. I feel this picture really sums up our relationship. It was Easter Sunday, the last before he divorced my mother and me, and I’m sure I made some outrageous comment and this was his reaction. I don’t remember those days, but my mother tells me about them all the time now, and about how I worshiped my dad. This is how I choose to remember him, so this picture is my treasured item.
It will be two years soon since I lost my husband to cancer. I fell in love at 18, just a freshman in college. He was 6”3″, handsome, blond, blue eyes, charming. We were engaged at 19 and married at 20. A wonderful life together, even more in love, seeing the world, growing together, careers, a son, now granddaughters, both healthy. We’d live to 100, we thought. I function well and am very happy again most of the time–work, play, enjoy life. But this selfie captures the occasional tears, sad eyes, and still empty sheets beside me. Enjoy the company of others, but no one is as grand as he…
- A few years ago when my mom passed…shortly after, I became a grief counselor. This was to make sure that people don’t suffer the same way I was. And in the process, I could find some kind of healing as well. For me there’s no day that I stop thinking of her, especially when I had anything accomplished and know that she would be proud. My wife was super sweet to find the right spot for a butterfly that my sister gave me, with a letter attached in the back from my mom. I believe that grief is a process that never stops and healing might arrive. I say this for the simple fact that her presence is everywhere. Love you and miss you, Mom.
It was the morning of August 13, 2014 when I was getting ready to make the 5+ hour ride back to southern Oregon.My sister and I had both been at my brother’s home for many days, and she was unable to stay any longer. We had spent time with our brother, knowing that his time here in our physical world was drawing to a close. So, the morning of the 12th, I drove her home, spent the night at my house, and woke the next morning to get ready for the drive back up to Oregon to be with my brother, my sister in law, my nephew, and my niece. After taking a shower, I was blowing my hair dry and caught sight of this image staring back at me in the mirror. This was grief. Grief spoken without words; grief staring at me through my drying hair. The sadness in my eyes was palpable. I knew that our lives were about to change, change forever, with the loss of someone whom we love so much. I had had my phone close by and captured this: the image, for me, of grief, of loss, of sadness. I’m forever thankful, nonetheless, that our love can be so powerful and precious that it can cause such sadness. This is a gift. I made it back up to Oregon that day, in record time I might add. My brother died late that night.
On March 7 th my beloved daughter Katharine was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. She refused her medications and remained in a full psychosis for several weeks. After three hospizations nothing was working. After being release from Kitsap Mental Health in Bremerton WA, Katharine went to Silverdale WA, a town nearby her home. Katharine believed in her paranoid state that someone was trying to harm her. Katharine ran under the Bucklin Hill Bridge to hide and met her fate. It was a cold windy night and a very high tide was coming in over 10.5 feet. The coroner believed she slipped and fell into the icy cold Puget Sound and her body washed up on shore where this photo was taken in Mid March of 2017. This is the Puget Sound in Silverdale WA by the Bucklin Hil Bridge. My best friend Kelly and I had a rose ceremony for my daughter and cried out the God of all understanding, Thank you most merciful God for giving me my most joyful daughter! Rest In Peace my beloved daughter and angel, Mama
It had been two years since my son died. We did this in memory of the day he was born. It’s the exact spot where he died: on March Creek Road in Clayton, CA.
My mom who passed away on 6-15-15 wrote this poem. I found it the week after she passed away and 7 days after she passed I was faux painting my garage door and praying then asked her to Give me a sign she was well. Less than a minute later a bird came right to my feet and pecked the garage door and flew circles around me and would land at my feet… it stayed with me while I painted and then cleaned up for over an hour. God is so good to comfort us. Love never ends. ❤
This is where I spread my husband’s ashes with my children, his brother, and his two best friends. It was a beautiful day of remembrance.
ETHEL Yesterday, I read about you in a poem, Ethel. After Hurricane Katrina, you waited, and prayed, and hoped with others In the Convention Center, your pleas, unheard by outsiders. You died among your people, lost. Then, louder than the Newscasts, your poem’s voice spoke To me from afar. Reading the poem was like looking into your eyes. In my mirror, I see my eyes Ethel, And through my eyes, my thoughts tell me things unspoken. New Orleans was a lonely place, because there were no others, I left my wife in California, saying Aye-Aye Navy Captain, I will go. But I was lost In the city where I was an outsider. California became home again but then I returned to your city a year ago with other outsiders. With my eyes, I saw a different city that was not lost. We heard your call and came to help Ethel. With the others, I spoke. I spoke About the things I did with the outsiders. With those others, I tiled floors and painted murals. We restored houses and with my eyes I saw the heart of your city Ethel. Your people were not lost. Their spirit was not lost As your children spoke. I looked into the kids’ eyes Ethel As I played ball with them and painted their school with the outsiders. In their eyes, I also saw the hearts of the others- The others From all over your country Came so you would not be lost. I saw in their eyes Loud words spoken. We the outsiders did not forget you Ethel. The blood of your people, Ethel, flows through the veins of the outsiders Too. I came with the others so your people could speak. In our eyes, you will never be lost.
This was an experiment with recycled paper. When I finished the experiment, I found myself creating this paper art sculpture depicting all the areas of my self that I have had to rediscover since the death of my husband, son and father, along with the journey I am making with my mother as she travels through the mid to later stages of dementia. I feels it shows not so much what I feel about those I have lost but how the loss has helped me live a better and more purposeful life.
On January 3rd 2017, my identical twin sister passed away suddenly at age 31. She was a talented artist and theatre-scenic painter. We definitely had a special connection; we created lots of fun art when we were growing up. I created this illustration with lots of love for my sister (after her passing) of her twin dilute calico Scottish fold kittens that she loved so much. They are now part of my #prettykittyclub which is a series of cat illustrations and animated gifs I have done for people over the years: www.NicoleMather-illustrations.comRoxanne identified with Purla so I drew Purla wearing Roxanne’s signature tortoise shell glasses. When we were little girls, I always wore purple and Roxanne always wore pink, but when we got older Roxanne liked purple more so I decided to let her ride the purple unicorn. I hope this illustration serves well as a tribute to my precious sister and that it brings a smile to many peoples faces. This was the first piece of art I was able to create after her passing and when I created this illustration it helped me to realize I can keep creating; that I need to keep illustrating because now I am creating art for us both. Not a day will pass where I will not think of her and miss her deeply.
Trying to make sense of the death of a person close to you, part of your family, who shares with you blood ties is so difficult. Every one try it in it’s own way. To know that my cousin die of sadness doesn’t make things any easier and force me to see myself and to think about my condition. I can’t express with words these feelings, maybe that’s why I create or capture images. This series has so much deep meaning now for me, all that dark places in our heads, all those lurking fears and shadows waiting for us to let our guard down. This is how I try to cope with loss, this is how I confront my fears, this is how I pay homage to my elders. RIP Mario Ricardo, rest in the arms of your dad wait with my uncle for us to arrive to the halls of the ancestors. I can’s stop thinking in my uncle José and my uncle Eliomar too. So much of both of them lives in me. And yes it is personal and probably couldn’t be posted in a public place, but who cares. https://open.spotify.com/track/6dwu2IsZLaCGcHxEWXnVrr
My friend hanged himself because of melancholia.He was a hilarious, kind, and helpful person. However, his work and love abandoned him, which hurt him deeply. Then he started to write some scared notes like he wanted to die in social media. The sad thing was that I understood the emotions because I had depression as well. I knew the feeling of losing the will of living. It was empty, numb, hopeless, and lonely. The feeling was too heavy to make me positive. Nevertheless, I didn’t console him because I believed he would recover or might be going to talk to a counselor, for he always spread happiness to people.I was wrong. I didn’t know he concealed every pain in his mind. I cannot see his smile anymore… As a result, I decided to create a series of self-portrait about melancholia. For me, I can not only release my negative emotions but also tell people what depression is. To tell my story out can help me to get away from gloomy. Also, I can encourage melancholic persons to tell their stories out because they can realize that they’re not alone. After all, I honestly don’t want to see anyone especially my love suffering from melancholia.
On some days when I miss my dad, I wear one of his sweaters.
Would you believe that my wedding song came on just as I began creating this submission? I haven’t heard it played in the longest time. I’m sitting here in tears. This same song somehow also came on the radio 12 years ago, moments after I said my final goodbye to my wife at the funeral home. She had an open-casket service. At the end of the service, my father-in-law went to pull his car around and waited outside for me, so I could be alone and say my final goodbye. When I got in his car, it was just the two of us. Time stood still and the silence was haunting. It reminded me of when I would sometimes fall off my bike as a child; time would slow way down and life seemed different — dreamlike — almost as if I was floating yet still aware that I was falling. So I was feeling all of this, and my father-in-law reached down and powered on the radio to break the silence. My wedding song, Shania Twain’s “From This Moment”, rushed from the speakers and filled the car. Gives me chills to write about it. These type of “coincidences” happen to me on a fairly regular basis, and my mind usually seeks for ways to dismiss them. Why? I really don’t know. I think it’s largely because I fear receiving a message that wasn’t a message; an incident that was an unrelated occurrence that just happened because it happened. But it’s at times like this very moment, when try as I may, the doubt and armor falls — and I stand unprotected and exposed. It’s during these times that love simply overpowers me. I resist the urge to protect myself, because I am unable to, and because there is no need to. I feel safe as ever, wrapped in the love of an existence that I clearly don’t understand, and somehow, at least briefly, I realize that I don’t need to understand; I just need to feel, and be. When I clicked on your link, I knew I wanted to contribute but wasn’t sure what to contribute. But now I know. I will share a picture that was taken of my wife and me dancing to our wedding song. It’s blurry because it’s cropped and taken on an older camera phone, but I actually appreciate the blur, because it helps to capture the blurriness of our continued relationship. I’ve come to learn that when someone dies, the relationship doesn’t end, it just changes. This realization fills me with hope because it allows me to see that she is still there, and always will be. She will forever be only a thought, or song, away.
Baptism, he made the decision himself. 5 years to the day before his death. If what we believe is true, it is a beautiful symbolism of new and eternal life.
Forever loved, forever in my heart, forever 22. My only child was murdered on August 8, 2011. I plunged into darkness for what I thought would be forever. Traveling through the criminal justice abyss, I only found solace in nature. It was through experiencing the beauty of nature that I began to feel my son’s spirit. Slowly, light returned to my world as I felt more and more serenity, awe, and wonder in the midst of the mountains, the streams, the woods, the animals that surrounded me in nature. His spirit lives on forever, in everything that is good and true and beautiful on this side of life, until our spirits unite. Forever.