The importance of photography and the memories that a single photograph can hold is never greater than after the loss of a loved one. When we experience the tragic loss of a loved one, we do everything we can to hold on to those memories we have of them. Nothing helps us keep those memories alive better than a photograph. If you have ever experienced the roller coaster of emotions that follow the loss of a loved one, the memories that photographs hold can be both heart wrenching and comforting at the same time. They can be a reminder of not only great memories, but moments we will never share with that person again. Recreating those memories with new photos is a great way to not only help with the healing process, but a great dedication to the one we lost.
After the sudden loss of my mother on New Years Day of 2012, I spent days ripping through boxes and boxes of photographs that she had stashed away. My mother was a wedding photographer in her younger years, and loved photography, so there was a lot to go through. The photos that I found during the days following her death not only brought back memories that may have been lost otherwise, but they helped in the grieving process. My Mom loved everything about photography and it was something special the two of us shared together. Her heart stopped in her sleep while we were on vacation celebrating New Years Eve, she was 54 years old. After going through her wedding album, my sister and I teamed up and dedicated a photo shoot to her. As a dedication to her, my sister put her wedding dress back on and we recreated some of the poses my mother did on her wedding day. We also shot the photos in one of her favorite places, the blueberry fields of Hammonton, NJ.
After the loss of her sister in 2011, wedding photographer Melanie Pace did something similar. In 2011, 31-year-old Ali Nunery passed away from a rare form of lung cancer, leaving behind her husband Ben and their 1-year-old daughter Olivia. With Olivia turning 3, and Ben wanting to give her a bigger yard to play in and better school district, he decided it was time to move into a new home. Leaving wouldn’t be easy, especially since the house holds so many unforgettable memories, so Ben wanted to do something creative before they left to start life in their new home.
Melanie had photographed Ben and Ali’s wedding 4 and a half years ago, and she had photographed them together in their new home together while it was still empty on their wedding day. As a farewell and dedication to Ali, Ben asked that Melanie take pictures of him and Olivia in their empty house just like she did on his wedding day. Along with a lot of other photos to celebrate Olivia’s 3rd birthday, one of their goals for this shoot was to mimic a few of the wedding day shots using Olivia in place of her mother.
Leaving the house behind was extremely tough for everyone, but it was time. As Melanie describes it,
It was the place where you can literally feel my sister’s presence the second you step in the door. Heck, she poured herself into making that place her home and every inch of it was perfection.
The photos were extremely tough for everyone to take, but after Ben handed over the keys and drove away from the house that had held all those memories, he realized how special they would be. When I came across Melanie’s blog post with the photos, The Nunerys, it immediately reminded me of the shoot that I had done with my sister after our Mom had passed. Photographs are a great tool for keeping memories alive when we lose a loved one. They can help us heal, comfort us when we are hurting, and help us move on with our new lives.