PhotoGrief: A New Resource for Coping With Grief

Creative Coping / Creative Coping : Eleanor Haley

According to Merriam-Webster the definition of ‘cope’, as we use it at What’s Your Grief is …

Cope [verb]

a.  to maintain a contest or combat usually on even terms or with success

b.  to deal with and attempt to overcome problems and difficulties

I like that first one, it’s empowering. If you want to envision yourself as a warrior heading into combat with grief, I support you.  I will concede, though, that definition ‘b’ is probably a bit more appropriate for our discussion.  Warriors…sad sweat-pants people…were all just trying to get by!

In looking at the definition of ‘cope’, I want you to notice that it only mentions the task of coping and says nothing of its execution.  To cope is your challenge – to get up every day, get dressed, function in society, process your emotions, and adjust to your losses – how you do it is up to you. No one can prescribe the tools necessary to cope because everyone faces different hardships and each person is unique in their strengths, weaknesses, resources, likes, dislikes, personality, culture, and worldview.

In What’s Your Grief’s two years of existence, Litsa and I have tried really hard to normalize the idea that coping can come in all different shapes and sizes.  Grieving is complicated and complex and it requires all sorts of tools. Many people will have to find new skills in addition to those they’ve relied on in the past so it’s wise for people to keep an open mind, try new things, know when to hold ’em, and know when to fold ’em.  Am I right?

There’s one coping tool that Litsa and I have encouraged maybe a little bit more than the rest and that is photography.  We know that most people aren’t photographers and so for many this seems like a long shot, yet we still continue to push it for anyone who has even remotely creative leanings. After all, most people have had practice with photography, even if it’s just taking snapshots on their phone. 

It is so easy to feel misunderstood and alone in grief. Even if it were possible to define our emotions, it would still sometimes seem as though there aren’t enough words to overcome the myths, misconceptions, misunderstandings, biases, and judgements we encounter. Photography allows us to reach across the void and say – here let me show you. Even when neither of us feels like talking, we can still connect. 

For the longest time Litsa and I wished we had a place where people using photography to cope with grief could go. Where those who prefer to speak in pictures could feel heard and where those who read more from an image than from words on a page could connect to the experiences of others.  We waited and we thought about it and we waited some more and then finally the stars aligned.

Today we are so excited to welcome you to our newest resource for coping with grief – PhotoGrief

Screen Shot 2015-07-09 at 11.28.27 AM

If the world of internet grief support were a place, you might think of this as the town’s art gallery.  Or if we were all a family, you might think of this as our photo album.  As we said in our introductory post on the site…

“In the long run, our hope is for the pages of this site to be authored and illustrated by people around the world dealing with grief and loss. This may seem like a lofty goal, but grief and art are universal and photography and the Internet are at the very least international, so our mission may not be that crazy after all.”

We’re simply asking for people to submit original photographs that illustrates something about loss, grief, and/or their loved one.  Submissions should broadly fit into one of the following categories:

  • #WouldHaveLovedThis = My loved one would have loved this and so I took a picture of it
  • Emotion = This is a representation of an emotion I feel/have felt in my grief and healing
  • Gratitude = This is a photograph of something I feel/have felt grateful for in my grief and healing
  • Hope and Strength = This photograph inspires me to feel hope and strength
  • Symbols = This object or symbol reminds me of my loved one and/or things I have felt in my grief and healing
  • You’re Still Here = This is a reminder or representation of the ways in which my loved one is still present in my life and the world

Along with photographs, we want people to submit a little bit of writing or even a lot.  A sentence or two, a quote, a poem, or a lyric would be fine. That being said we would absolutely love for people to share several paragraphs or an essay.  We simply want people to be thoughtful. Although we might not be able to publish everything, we hope to post selected submissions twice a week.  In the end it should look a little something like this…

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Or this…

Screen Shot 2015-07-09 at 11.26.36 AM


Even if photography isn’t your thing, if all goes according to plan this will be a place where you can share, connect, learn, and support based on the experiences of others.  We hope you’ll consider checking out PhotoGrief.  We really hope you’ll subscribe, but if not you can always pop over from the What’s Your Grief site to check things out from time to time.

Screen Shot 2015-07-09 at 11.59.02 AM

We plan to ask people to post and tag photos around certain grief and remembrance themes on PhotoGrief’s Facebook page and What’s Your Grief’s Instagram (username @whatsyourgrief).  We will repost and share those photos so you should definitely follow us on social media if you don’t already.  Lastly, here are a few photography exercises for exploring grief to get you started, they’re really pretty simple.

We have some really good posts coming up in the next few weeks, so be sure to subscribe.  

Let’s be grief friends.

We post a new article to What’s Your Grief about once a week. Subscribe to stay up to date on all our posts.

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11 Comments on "PhotoGrief: A New Resource for Coping With Grief"

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  1. Jo  October 20, 2016 at 1:00 am Reply

    Where can I view other photographs that are submitted? I’ve submitted some and would like to know what happens to the submitted ones. Thank you. Photogrief is healing.

  2. susan  September 25, 2015 at 4:08 am Reply

    I lost my Husband and my Dad both last year my husband pass from Lung Cancer 19 months ago and my Dad was very sick 15 months ago .Can you tell me how long do I go though grieving for

    • Eleanor  September 25, 2015 at 9:41 am Reply


      I’m so sorry, but I can’t. There are no timelines to grief. All I can tell you is that it does get better. Your grief will always be with you, because you will always love the people who have died, but some day it will feel different. It will feel like something you don’t exactly mind being a part of you because it helps you to hold onto those you have lost. Hang in there. We have a ton of articles on this site about dealing with grief, look around and hopefully something will help.


  3. Helen Zz  July 26, 2015 at 9:51 am Reply

    Sorry, I wrote that last comment without reading your whole article in detail! 🙂 One of those days 🙂 I’ll find you on Instagram!

  4. Helen Zz  July 26, 2015 at 9:47 am Reply

    Would you consider letting us upload our photos too?

  5. Jerilyn Ezinga  July 10, 2015 at 7:12 pm Reply

    I bought my first camera in February 2010 after looking at all the beautiful pictures my girlfriend was taking. I had no idea how to use it or what an F-stop was…but I just got out there and starting taking pictures. At last I had a hobby and I fell in love with it. Unfortunately my world came crashing down in May 2012, when my husband was diagnosed with cancer. He passed away a very short 11 months later. I promised him that I would continue taking pictures no matter what. Well it turns out that photography has played a huge part in my healing. It keeps me grounded and focused when everything else in my life seems out of control. I am so looking forward to being a part of this group and contributing some of the pictures I’ve taken along the way.

    • Eleanor  July 11, 2015 at 11:09 am Reply


      I’m sorry about your husband’s death and I am so glad you had photography to lean on in your healing. We’re are looking forward to seeing some of your photos as well!


  6. Clif Martin  July 9, 2015 at 2:07 pm Reply

    This is the greatest idea since sliced bread.

    • Litsa  July 10, 2015 at 8:06 am Reply

      Aw shucks, thanks Clif 🙂

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