Heart Connections – No New Photos

This past summer was the ten-year anniversary of the death of my son, Connor. I was struck by the inadequacy I felt about how to describe this very unwanted milestone that came faster than I would have imagined. I didn’t like the evident recognition of so many years passing since I last saw, hugged, spoke, and laughed with my only son. I struggled further when I looked for photos that I wanted to post on Facebook as I tried to express what was in my heart at that moment.

Photos tend to mark time and progress. Family photos are guideposts to our updated lives over the decades. How is that true when our child, sibling, or grandchild’s photos are frozen in time, and we will never have new photos of them again? Where is that meaning when we have a finite number of photos to recirculate that must tide us over for a lifetime?

Most of us long for new photos that would display the physical growth of our loved one who died. What would our child, sibling, or grandchild look like when they were learning to drive, graduating high school or college, or walking down the aisle in marriage as we witness their friends do over the years? How would they look when cradling their firstborn child in wonder?

We somehow still grow during these years that they are physically absent from us and from our photos. Some of us have other children who pass through all the beautiful milestones and marking points of their lives that we are privileged and honored to share. New things come into our lives that spring from the person we’ve become through our loss. We make meaning in our lives in unique ways that we would not have previously imagined. How we live in the world represents growth in honor of the lives we shared with them.

Perhaps when there are photos far in the future that they cannot be present in, their light shines through us in those photos even as their older photos age and date with time. Maybe we carry their light and their lives in significant enough ways that this helps us just a little with the pain of not having new photos. When someone tells me that I have a warm smile in a photo or an air of light in a photo, I know that exists, in part, because of the ways that I live from my love for Connor. May you find the shining light of your child, grandchild, or sibling, in your new photos, no matter how many years have passed, and may this bring you some comfort.

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Comments (15)

  • Dear Shari,
    I’m so very sorry for the loss of your son Connor. Your words are beautiful and eloquent and deeply touched me. Time stands still in those precious photos that we cherish. Darren was my only child, he was 32 when he died 10/3/2018. But his energy & light do indeed continue to shine through all of us who loved him dearly. Thank you for sharing a part of your dear Connor with us.
    Hugs, Darren’s Mom – Karen

  • Beautifully said Shari. Your words are so powerful and moving. I hope you are doing good. 🙂

  • Thank you Shari O’Loughlin, your words speak volumes to my heart. This year its been a 12 year anniversary since my son Jason passed on.

  • Your worlds means so much to me as a mom. I still hold on to our last words, hugs, smile, and all with my beloved son. It’s hard at times to continue without him. We are trying our best as a family. His 2 sisters and my husband. Our son being our oldest and only joy….it’s still hard!
    Thank you!

  • Well written .I see what you mean and commend your efforts in carrying on Connors memory . Me and my wife have, and still do this for our son Daniel {age 20 } to this day. Except for one very different thing. And that is the way our son life was taken. Will unfortunately, haunt and anger me for the rest of my days .
    Stephen Agnelli, Daniel’s dad

  • Beautiful expressions of keeping Connor always present in your life. Your continued love for him still grows as you move through new seasons of your life, forever carrying him with you. How else could we ever choose to walk through life, than to live for them and honor the lives we shared? Thank you for sharing your encouraging ways of getting through the decade…and for decades to come.

  • Shari,
    My son Tommy has been gone for 14 years. Through the years, I’ve often said that there are no new photos. Your words resonate with me, but I want to especially thank you for pointing out “the shining light.” I have said it is the mask I wear, but now I can be comforted as I think of the shining light of Tommy.

    Tommy’s Ma

  • That was so beautifully written thank you for sharing your thoughts! I too am a mother who has lost her only son. My son just passed the 13 year mark of being gone! It’s hard for me to believe it’s been that long and I still wonder/wish things were different. It’s been a true journey since he has passed and I will continue to live for him and my other child for as long as I can. Find ways to honor them and know they do walk beside us. Wishing you peace and hope as we approach this holiday season because I know it’s a difficult time of the year for many! Sincerely! Carls mom forever 16

  • Shari, this essay is me to a T! Danielle’s 10th Angelversary was June 24. Thank you for posting, this has helped me! 🙂 🙂

  • Thank you for your sharing. In February I will come up on the 3rd anniversary of my only son’s death. I see his children grow but I am not part of it. Their lives are full of others. I see some of their photos on social media. But phone calls and texts are rarely answered. It is easier for them to move on. My son still fills my heart and always will. I cannot imagine a 10th anniversary. I am still smiling one day at a time.

  • It has been 8 months since the death of my son Michael, I am moving forward but I find days that are harder than others, I hope that as time goes by the memories will always be of happy times together. Thank you for your comforting words, I have met some others who are going through the same sadness and hope I can comfort them.

  • So beautifully written and expresses so much about feeling grief and all the questions surrounding life after your child dies….thank you.

  • I have been struggling with the exact same thing! As google memories pop up on my phone, the same photos of my child scroll on my phone. It has only been 2 years since my child died, but I have cycled through all the google memories and there are no new memories to replace those. I fear that google will eventually cease to remind me of my child’s memories at all. Thank you for putting into words the things I have been feeling.

  • This very much hit home for me. I have probably posted all of the pictures I have of my son Shawn. I’m starting my 11year of grief. Last year was very difficult. I have dedicated this year to celebrating the light that Shawn brought into the world. He is gone, however his light still shines through me, his farther, and family.

  • I, too, lost my only child. He died by suicide at the age of 28 in April of this year (2022). I am very grateful for TCF as I find myself reading thoughts and feelings that I thought I was the only one who had ever experienced those thoughts and feelings.

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