A group of moms posed for a photo shoot that is going viral this week after a photographer created a way for them to share both the best and worst things people said to them post-miscarriage.
Melanie Paterak, a photographer in Atkins, Arkansas, wanted to help women suffering as a result of miscarriages to know that they are not alone. The photographer had experienced a miscarriage herself last year, and she knew firsthand that women receive many comments, often meant to be helpful, after losing a baby. She also knew that many of the messages grieving moms get aren’t helpful.
Hoping to foster a sense of community and allow women to heal from hurtful words, the photographer created a series of black and white photos featuring moms posed alongside a chalkboard containing messages from friends or acquaintances — messages that had either hurt or helped them through the pain.
“We completely understand that during difficult times, sometimes people are at a loss as to what to say. Sometimes your heart may be in the best place with the best intentions, but in a place of grieving, we interpret things differently,” Paterak told The Western Journal.
“We felt this project was important to show what stuck with us, both the positive and not so.”
She wrote on Facebook that the black and white photos “represent not so positive words spoken. Photos in color represent things said that kept us going.”
The photographer first got the idea for the photo shoot after hearing from another mom who was struggling with grief after the loss of an infant.
“I actually received a message one night from a lady locally with the idea who had suffered a miscarriage,” Paterak told The Western Journal. “I told her we had also lost a baby last December. She and I got on the phone the next day, and immediately clicked. We worked back and forth for around a month planning this shoot, then put out a post asking other moms if they’d like to be involved.”
The two women received several replies, and on the day of the shoot, eleven women came to pose.
The moms took turns writing both negative words and words of encouragement on the blackboard.
“At least you didn’t have to get to know her and then lose her,” one woman had been told.
“You can try again … it’s not a big deal,” another wrote on the board.
“At least you were not that far along,” a third mom shared.
After taking the black and white shots with the hurtful comments, Paterak posed each woman alongside a message of love, encouragement or hope that she had received from a loved one after saying goodbye to her baby.
The photographer released these shots in color.
“I want you to see that even through the greatest losses & sadness of the times you had, you my beautiful baby girl, you will overcome it all,” one woman wrote.
“Eventually I’d love to have a session just for the dads,” Paterak told The Western Journal, acknowledging that miscarriage greatly affects both parents, though it is much less frequently discussed among men.
This project, though, was a way of offering healing and support to women struggling with the burden of grief. She hoped the experience would remind them that even during great pain, there are others all around who understand how it feels.
“I truly want women that have been through miscarriage or infant loss to know that they’re not alone.”
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