Photos can become a treasured possession when we are grieving.

Unfortunately, circumstances may result in regrets about the photos we possess.

We cannot change a lack of historical photos in our archives, but we can address the problem with creativity. Because photography is an interpretive art, we can feel liberty to create our own interpretive visuals.

If you are grieving a lack of photos – consider the following:

– Take a tip from our Victorian ancestors. When photography was introduced in the 19th century, the limitation of time and geography immediately became apparent to our ancestors. They responded by bringing a photo (daguerreotype) of the departed person to their photo session. Or, they might bring a personal item that represented the absent or deceased person. This served as a way to include the deceased, emotionally, in the picture. Like our ancestors, you could conduct a photo session that includes holding a portrait of the deceased.

– Portrait painting was the only visual record for the family before photography. Return to portrait painting! Use various pictures to have a “composite painting” commissioned. Artists can create one seamless painting of several photos. The only limit is your imagination. Look online for this service or use local artists. Do not part with your originals, make copies for them to use, just to be safe.

– Use your own expressive creativity to make a collage piece. Combine any constellation of people in your life into an interpretive piece of art. Work with copies (not originals) of your photos and mementos to create a 2D or 3D collage. The process can be very therapeutic and you can make an unlimited number of collages.

– It may not occur to people that they might have a picture that would mean something to you. Others may be afraid to upset you by initiating such a conversation. Put out a general call for photos, so that people know of your interest and desire. Some new photos just might turn up.

Images can be a powerful tool in bereavement to bring healing and meaning-making. Don’t let the lack of good photos deter you from finding solutions that will aid your mending heart.

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Kim Go

I am an artist in the expressive, installation and performance arts. I write because of our shared cultural beliefs about loss offer far too few tools to people working with grief. When I was very young, I thought little about impermanence. Then, my personal encounters with impermanence grew to include such challenges as: my father's death in early childhood, a near-death experience in adolescence, divorce, fertility challenges, death of a soul mate and spouse and subsequent loss of access to stepchildren, mugging and assault, pet loss, job loss, suicide of two close friends, and geographic resettlement. Perhaps we have something in common... perhaps not. I have learned that the specificity of the loss does not matter as much as the condition of the heart to be open to others who are learning to be present and alive regardless of the impermanence in their story.

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