“Here’s where my 12-year-old son, Noah, should have stood this morning for his obligatory back-to-school picture. Today he should have started 7th grade. Instead he never will. Instead I have an aching heart, an empty porch, and one less ‘normal’ back-to-school picture.”
Angela Miller, like millions of parents across the country, posed her two sons for the traditional back-to-school photo, but what should have been a sweet moment of celebrating a new school year instead triggered intense emotions of grief and loss for the mom.
Miller lost her son, Noah, ten years ago; he was only 2 years old when he suddenly passed. She told People magazine that it was “a shock.”
“One minute he was perfectly healthy and happy, the next he was gone,” she said. “Noah was my whole world. Noah was love and joy personified. When he died, part of me died.”
As Miller drove her two other sons to their first day of school, all she could think about was the third photo that had not yet been taken, Noah’s.
On the way home, she decided that she could take Noah’s picture even if it wasn’t how she wished it could be.
She pulled up to her house and took a picture of her bright, green door and an empty porch.
“Empty porch, aching heart. Empty space where our child should be. I miss Noah always, but during milestones like back-to-school is even more visceral,” she told People magazine. “I needed to take the three back-to-school pictures I was supposed to be taking that morning — not just two. I needed to be Noah’s mom. I needed to parent him, mother him, the only way I could, on what should have been his 1st day of 7th grade.”
The picture was more than just a picture for Miller; it was her way of remembering her son that had been taken away too soon. She was allowing herself to not be okay for a moment and mourn the absence of her precious son.
After taking the photo of her empty porch, she began sobbing.
“I sobbed because I don’t want to be a grieving mom. A mom eternally missing one. A mom with a hole in her heart. A mom that feels so vastly unlike all the *other* school moms. I sobbed for all the what ifs. All the could have/should have beens,” she wrote.
“I sobbed for every milestone I’ve missed with him so far, and every milestone I will miss for the rest of my life. An entire lifetime of milestones.”
She shared the raw moment to show other grieving parents that it’s OK to not be OK, that it’s OK to simultaneously celebrate sweet moments in life and also taste the bitterness of the absence of a child.
“I’m both happy and excited for my (living) kids 1st day of school today AND I ache for my son, the one who isn’t here. It seems somehow impossible to be both aching and happy — sobbing yet smiling. And yet? That’s exactly what’s true for me today,” she wrote. ” It can be really complicated and messy and that’s ok. There is no handbook, no timeline, no manual for this. It’s ok not to be ok.”
“This pretty much sums up parenting after loss. These are beautiful, beautiful moments of celebration and joy — and yet, someone is ALWAYS missing. It’s ok to acknowledge both the beauty and the ache.”
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.