Family Photos Document Life Before and After Widowhood

I don’t take a whole lot of pictures anymore.

This wasn’t a conscious decision, but it is a big change from the person I used to be. 

In my early days as a mother, I was a huuuuge scrapbooker.  I did what every typical mother does.  I took one million pictures of my first born, around 500,000 of my second, and by the time the third one came around, I took about two a month, just so she would know she wasn’t born as a 5-year-old.

I used to not only take pictures at events, but take them at every different angle so I knew that I would have at least one, good “croppable” picture However, in my new, too busy, crazy widowness I click no more.

Now, part of the reason for this is because I lost my camera and after two months of looking, I still can’t find it.  I can, however, remember putting it someplace and thinking, “I bet I’ll forget where I’ve put this.”

Does anyone else do that?   All I can think is that it’s probably keeping my glasses company…which I lost a short time after the camera while thinking the same thing.  And that they’re both probably nestled in a comfortable mismatched sock nest.

Anyway, I rationalize the fact that I have not purchased a new camera with the fact that I now own a phone that takes pretty good pictures.  The problem with that is…I have no idea how the damn thing works and I can’t figure out how to get the pictures off of my new-fangled phone and into a usable format.

Needless to say, I have issues.  But you already knew that.

I will admit that I began to take fewer and fewer pictures as the kids got older because I just didn’t have the time.  It’s one thing to take a picture of a single child lying on her belly in the middle of your living room floor when she’s pretty much immobile.  But trying to get three kids to look at you and smile in some sort of normal fashion when there’s an elephant at the zoo who’s looking like he’s getting ready to poop (sorry…we’re in the “potty word” stage at my house)…is pretty much an impossibility.

And these days, I pick my battles.

I’ve felt guilty for years about my “lack of documentation.”  I was so good about it for so long.  I have a scrapbook that documents every moment of the first year of my oldest child’s life.  My son’s is half done.  And my youngest is probably going to think she was hatched.

One of the things that makes me the saddest about giving up on “memory making” is that in the back of my oldest daughter’s scrapbook, she has a beautiful message written to her by her dad and then a separate one from me.  I was surprised, when I asked my husband (the engineer) to do this, how much time he took.  It’s obvious that, at 12 months old, his daughter had his heart and he told her so…before she was even close to understanding it.  And when I (the English major) read what he had to say…my own letter paled in comparison.

Thanks to my short attention span and (later) considerable lack of free time, my two other children don’t have that.

For me, scrapbooking was more than just a way to be creative and get together with my friends.  I have always enjoyed listening to my grandparents talk about how things were and what was happening when they were growing up.  Scrapbooking became more about journaling to my kids (and their future kids) about what was going on in our lives, than it was about the actual pictures.  There is a big part of me that is so sad that I’ve let that go. 

Unfortunately, picture-taking just wasn’t quite the same after my husband died.

I think for awhile, I just couldn’t stand the thought of taking pictures of events he was missing (and now that I say that out loud…it makes absolutely no sense).  For the most part, I was in all of the family videos because he was the only one who knew how to work the video camera.  But he was in all of the pictures because I was the only one who remembered to take them.

So, to have him suddenly not in anything …that was a pretty huge gaping hole while I was trying to document our family history.

I’ll be honest. After he died, I didn’t even download pictures for 3 months.  Oh, I took them. I just didn’t download them.  I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that that would be the last time I downloaded pictures of him.  I know to a lot of you…that may make no sense. 

But to this day, it still makes me sad.

When I finally did get up the guts to download them (mainly because I was worried that my memory card would rebel at some point and just flush them all), it was such an emotional experience.  I downloaded 250 pictures…from 2 weeks before he died in July to Halloween. 

That is still my hardest “folder” to look at.  There is nothing that drives home the fact that he is gone, more than a series of pictures where one day he’s there…and the next he’s nowhere to be found.

Now,  I’ve decided to let go of my guilt in the picture-taking department.  I try and journal because I want my kids to read about what I went through…what they went through…and how special they are to me.  I want them to know that even though they think I’m perfect (there is laughing in my head right now), I have always just been human. 

I want them to someday know that being “okay” with life didn’t happen overnight.  It’s a long, slow process and that in the game of life, almost nobody draws a full house. 

I have no pictures of the first moment I saw my husband.  But I can picture it like it was yesterday.

I have very few pictures of the fun times we had in college (and the ones I have, I should probably burn.  You know who you are).  But I remember being so completely happy.  And thinking, “I can dress him better.”

Our ride, alone, from our wedding to our reception…there are no pictures.  But I remember looking at him, being so happy, and wondering if my hair was coming down.

Mad rushes to the hospital where we would meet our next member of the family.

Driving in the mountains where we would get lost because I can’t read a map.

Just an every day family dinner.

Holding his hand as he left me.

I still take pictures every once in awhile so that we can remember occasions…but not at every angle hoping to capture every second of life.  Because I know that the most memorable moments…good or bad…are usually never documented with a picture.

They’re documented in our hearts.

Catherine Tidd 2011

Catherine Tidd

More Articles Written by Catherine

Catherine Tidd is a widow and the Founder of www.theWiddahood.com, a free social support network dedicated to anyone who has lost a significant other. She is also a writer, public speaker, and mother to three young entertaining children. She received a degree in English from Rollins College in 1998 and has since worked as a writer, editor, Marketing Manager, and Event Planner. Originally from Louisiana, Ms. Tidd currently lives in Denver, CO. To read more of Catherine's work, visit http://widowchick.blogspot.com

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  • Lauren Muscarella says:

    Hi Catherine,

    What a great post. I was just thinking about pictures the other day. My mother passed away 5 years ago and I wanted to find some good pictures of the two of us or the whole family. To my dismay, I found there were very few in existence. There were lots of pictures she had taken of us kids (I have two older brothers). I think it’s true that our memories are save in our hearts. I’m sorry to hear about the loss of your husband. Losing a parent is much different and I see what my dad goes through and know that it’s very difficult. Sorry I’m getting to my point, I swear. Maybe you could pass the torch. Ask one of your kids to take over photo duty. Just a thought. Thank you so much for sharing your story. Best, Lauren

  • Char says:

    That is EXACTLY how I feel about taking pictures since my husband has died (almost 6 years now)… I just don’t want to take the time to do it anymore now that he’s gone… it just isn’t the same… pictures don’t have any real meaning for me anymore… but other things do… funny how that happens when we’re widows… I was a huge scrape-book person too… not anymore