Grieving Moms Come Together to Remember Their Loved Ones & Heal (PHOTOS)

Grieving mother photo shoot"Uniquely Woven, a Tapestry of Love and Loss": That's the name Teresa Byrd's sister came up with to describe this powerful photo of 19 mothers who came together to celebrate the life and memory of a child they lost.

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Teresa, owner of TinyMite's Photography in Norman, Oklahoma, had the idea to host the photo shoot after attending a Christian conference nearly three years ago. It was there she realized she wasn't alone. "I began to think of the few women I had already met and developed friendships with over the loss of our children, and I just had this vision of capturing that unity, that bond, in a photo," she tells The Stir. "Even years later, there's this emptiness -- this loneliness -- that I can't even begin to describe. I knew I needed to do something to help other moms know we are here for you, we see you, and we feel your pain. You are not alone."

Teresa lost her own son Christian in 1997, when he was just 17 months old. Christian died from complications related to DiGeorge and Velocardiofacial syndromes.

Christian Byrd

"Rocking him, crying I said, 'You're going to be my baby forever aren't you?'" Teresa remembers. "He opened his eyes, and rubbed his cheek against my tear-stained one. I think Christian knew. I think he knew he was going back to Heaven in the morning."

With a little nudging from her friend Misty Marksberry, Teresa looked to friends and members of a Facebook support group and reached out on her photography website to find women who would be interested in participating. The response was immediate and overwhelming.

Grieving mother photo shoot

On the day of the shoot, these mothers  -- many strangers to one another -- gathered at Martin Nature Park in Oklahoma City.

"We were hoping for a blessing and we received one, but at the same time, it was very painful," Teresa says of the day of the shoot. Feeling anxious, nervous, and scared, each mother stood with a framed photograph of the child she lost. "We are the same, yet different," she adds. "We are together, yet alone. It's a grief like no other."

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Grieving mother photo shoot

"It hurt to hear stories of such great loss, but I felt like there were people there who actually understood how I felt," recalls Brittany Martin.

"I was so sad to see how many mommies have lost precious little ones, yet I was excited to meet each and every one," says Misty.

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Requetta Martin remembers how full her heart was, meeting other mothers who understood the pain she felt losing a child. "I pray that with us getting together, we let people know that our child(ren) did exist," she adds. "It's not something that needs to be put in a drawer and locked away."

Grieving mother photo shoot

As a photographer, Teresa believes photo shoots like this can help families cope with the loss of a child -- and has helped many families remember a loved one in this way. Teresa vividly remembers helping friends Misty and Laura Meridith fulfill their daughter Annie's wish on her bucket list. Placed on hospice, Annie was unable to visit Santa Claus, and desperately wanted a picture. "When I saw her list, I immediately called my brother, who has played Santa for my clients," Teresa remembers. "He and I showed up that night, did a complete photo shoot, and I captured Annie's eyes the last time she ever opened them." The day of Annie's photo session with Santa was bittersweet, not just for Misty and Laura, but also for Teresa -- as it was her late son Christian's birthday.

Grieving mother photo shoot

Even with the pain that memories can bring, Teresa hopes that parents who are dealing with the loss of a child find comfort from a community of moms and dads who experienced similar grief. It's a subject many people avoid talking about that needs attention to show there is support for those who want it.

"Every emotion you're feeling, you're entitled to," she says. "If you need companionship, seek it. If you want to be alone, then be alone. Your feelings are not wrong." While the pain of losing a child never goes away, life will eventually get easier. "If you have joy and peace, then take those moments when they come."

 

Images courtesy of Pamela Bales Photography & Willowstone Photography; Teresa Byrd

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