Healing Through Photography: Photos from our grief-friends

If you’ve followed WYG for even a little while, you probably know that photography is a passion of ours.  We specifically love photography as a tool for exploring and expressing grief.  We even have an entire website dedicated to this topic (though admittedly, our posting is sporadic).

About twice a year we run an e-course on the topic of exploring grief through photography and, suffice it to say, we are always blown away by the work participants share week-to-week.  Today we are honored and privileged to share just a fraction of this work with you, WYG readers.  We hope you’ll take a few minutes to check-out these moving photographs and their accompanying thoughts. Also, if you’re on Instagram, be sure to read all the way to the end of this post for details on our August photo-a-day grief photo challenge.


My grief has been a path through pain and chaos. It has been loud and confusing. Lonely, too. But I have been determined, and continue down the path no matter how endless a journey it seems. In the midst of suffering and seeking silence and stillness, I have somehow rekindled my creativity as a part of healing. Slowly, but surely, I am learning to trust others. I am beginning to find comfort and safety in relationships instead of protecting myself so fiercely that it is isolating. I am more frequently and easily speaking my truth. Understanding my trauma has brought me closer to myself, and continues to.

Carmella Leone Russell

Towards the tail end of the first year of my husband’s passing, I got this tattoo on the palm of my hand. Yes, it was physically painful but emotionally it was relieving. And feeling something, anything, other than that raw, overwhelming, engulfing, 
all-consuming, sickening grief was a relief. It seems to continually let itself out bits at a time. This was one of those times.

The decision to get this particular tat came from the scripture verses, “…I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of My hands;…”, Isaiah‬ ‭49:15-16‬ ‭NIV‬‬. Previous experiences with the death of a loved one had/has me anxious over time passing, memories fading, and forgetting. Not usually a valid realistic feeling but one I’ve experienced with the past losses of my father and my first daughter. Mostly it’s the fading “strength” of my memories and love for them. And the truth for me be told, it happens…hence the tattoo to remember my husband. 

Kimberly Griner Heinz

Since my boy died, I have searched desperately for meaning in the torment, the anguish, groped in vain for reasons, blamed myself, crushing my spirits with incredible guilt. A constant revolving door of emotions that never seem to stop. Some days the emotions revolve a bit slower, other days they spin almost out of control.

Although excruciatingly painful, I feel the need to return to those places that hold memories of my boy’s earthly presence…so while in Chicago this week, I went up the step & through the revolving doors of Roosevelt University on Michigan Avenue where my Eric entered so many times while attending classes at the time of his death.

I wondered about his own battles of revolving emotions as he kept his battle with addiction a secret for as long as he could. I couldn’t get any further inside the door without a college ID, so when the guard in the lobby stopped me & asked what I needed, I began to cry and asked if I could just stand there for a moment to remember. When I finally left, I stood before this place, with its revolving doors of memories and feelings, and just let the spinning emotions wash over me until I could walk away.

August Photo Challenge: 

If you’ve never participated in a WYG photo-a-day challenge before, here’s how it works.

Photo Prompts:

Take a look at the photo prompts listed below. Each day there is a new grief-related photo prompt. For example, the prompt for August 9th is ‘dreams’ and the prompt for August 20th is ‘stillness’. We’ve intentionally left the prompts vague so participants can express them in ways that are unique to their experiences and point-of-view.

[directions continued below]

Take a photo:

The concept is simple, each day you take a photograph representative of that day’s prompt. The challenge is to take a photo each day in August, though you don’t have to take a photograph every day to participate.

If you need a pass:

We’ve found in our e-course Exploring Grief Through Photography, there can be a benefit in pushing yourself to photograph the objects, places, experiences, and emotions that feel most challenging to your grief. However, when you’re grieving, some days you just don’t have the energy.  So, if on any given day a certain prompt seems too difficult, use the prompt: “gratitude”. When you share your post that day, simply share with #pass and if you need a little extra support, feel free to share why.

Connect: Share one, Support one

Over time, we hope to build a community of people participating in this challenge and one of the greatest benefits of community is the ability to give and receive support. Our philosophy is – share one, support one – so for every photo you share, please take a minute support someone else by liking or commenting on their photo.

The most important part: Hashtags!

In order for participants to be able to search for photos shared as a part of the challenge, you need to use your hashtags! It would be great if you could tag us as well.

Username: @whatsyourgrief

Challenge Hashtag: #WYGriefPhoto

(This hashtag will allow you to search for all photos shared as a part of the challenge)

If you’re not on Instagram:

Just because you aren’t on Instagram doesn’t mean you can’t participate.  You can also share your photos on What’s Your Grief’s Facebook page or you can just complete the challenge privately.

Become a Patron!

August 6, 2018

5 responses on "Healing Through Photography: Photos from our grief-friends"

  1. I’m not quite sure how I got here. I was just typing in a question and the first word was what and this website popped up. This has to be my son who I just lost and his service this past Saturday and I am grieving so much and I am a professional photographer so using my passion might very well be a way of dealing with this pain and honoring him right now I can barely function but I know in time I will. Again it must be a sign from him that I stumbled upon your site because I was typing in a search for something completely different Amazing!

  2. Kimberly Griner HeinzAugust 4, 2018 at 10:28 pmReply

    Dear Terry Graham, my deepest condolences for the loss of your eternal soulmate, Susan. I love how you are taking Susan with you on the bucket list adventures you had planned, and photographing the experiences. I now also take a bit of my son’s ashes to places and adventures that I know he would have loved. I even left some of his ashes in front of the Chicago Cubs dugout after they won the World Series in 2016. My boy loved the Cubs so much, how he would have loved seeing them finally win it all. Keep going on your adventures, keep taking photos in Susan’s honor…I am sure she is with you every step of the way. With compassion, Kim Heinz.

  3. Thank you. How wonderful and timely. My lovely and kind dad passed away in January. HUGE hole in my gut/heart and life. One of his passions was photography. It happens to be one of my passions too. I have plans to buy myself a camera and get snapping. For me, it is about self expression without words. It is about healing and it is also about ‘getting out of my head and into my heart’. Having the courage to stay with the feelings – when society asks me to box on and put all that behind me. I don’t have plans to leave dad behind me – he is coming with me. Just in a different way. It is a permission to enjoy him in a creative and passionate way. Another type of way for us to share. I have never bought a decent (well more than $100) camera and this post is a gentle support and reminder to me – that I can and will do that for myself and for my next stage of my grief journey. I wrote wildly in the first couple of months and I now just journal every now and then – but I am taken by the physical beauty all around me. I want to capture the loss/the life/ and the strange and often painful juxtaposition of the two. I am planning to have an exhibition of my work in a community centre after Christmas. so in that case – I really do need to get snapping.

    Just out of interest – I also have my hands back in the clay (volunteering at a pottery studio) for the first time in decades…. I am enjoying finding new ways to feed my soul.

    thanks again WYG
    perfect timing as always.

  4. Kimberly, I can so identify with your need to visit where your son spent time. I’m doing something similar but based on were my wife and I intended to go together.

    Susan, my eternal soulmate, and I had on our “bucket list” attempting to summit the highest peak in each of the counties of our beloved home state Nevada. Successful summits (none require advanced mountaineering skills) was not our primary goal – visiting parts of the state we had not explored was. Since she died before we could begin that quest together, I have begun to do so alone – I leave her photo in the summit register, scatter a small vial of her ashes and take panoramic photos for an album in her honor. The album is very tear stained but at times helps me cope with both our families loss and with what she is now missing out on.

  5. Oh my, I lost my wife of 33 years last month,well she passed on June 18th so a little longer but i feel likei need to know that healing will come. The tattoo on your palm is so beautiful! I dont want to lose my memories! I dont want to forget her voice!She came home the night she passed, the next morning i walked through her standing at the head of my bed, i could smell her hair and skin. I am sorry, the revolving door is something i also can relate too. Thank you for your photos and your stories! Nick.

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