In August 2014, I saw a Facebook post that spoke about Heartfelt, and the need for more photographers to volunteer their time and talent to look after the many families around Australia who are going through a truly heartbreaking time. I had heard of a similar organisation in the US, but I’d never investigated the possibility of getting involved.
That night I spent an hour or so on the phone with Alison, someone I’d never met before, and asked endless questions about what it was like to be a part of Heartfelt. I’m sure I asked the same questions in slightly different ways about seven times. She was incredibly patient, friendly, open and honest.
Heartfelt is a volunteer organisation of professional photographers from all over Australia dedicated to giving the gift of photographic memories to families that have experienced stillbirths, premature births, or have children with serious and terminal illnesses.
Heartfelt is dedicated to providing this gift to families in a caring, compassionate manner.
All services are provided free of charge.
One Year On
Today marks one year since I first said “I can go” to a Heartfelt session, and went to meet a tiny little soul who was gone so soon. I had long been thinking of a way to use my love of photography to bless others, and it seemed Heartfelt would be a good fit for me – something I can do now, in my current circumstances, close to home, and for such a tragic need.
As a person, and particularly as a mother, this last year has had a profound impact on me. Since that day, I have met with another 20 families, and shared in the stories of many more as part of the Heartfelt team. Every situation is so unique, and all indescribably sad. I am constantly blown away by the courage and strength of the parents of these precious babes.
Before joining Heartfelt, my awareness of the pregnancy and infant loss community was limited. After two difficult but healthy pregnancies, I was quite oblivious to just how many families were suffering through something I can hardly imagine. Some weeks are quiet, and some days our amazing State Rep, Amy, coordinates multiple sessions around Queensland. Some families have time to prepare, but for many it comes suddenly and without warning.
Close to Home
Despite a growing understanding that it can happen to anyone, I never imagined I would be driving to the hospital late one night to photograph the beautiful little girl of one of my closest friends. Knowing how difficult it could be, another Heartfelt photographer and wonderful friend, Roz, came with me – for support, for comfort, to shoot for me if need be.
These images are shared with the very generous permission of my lovely friends. I love that even though they cannot hold their baby girl in their arms any more, they can look back at these photos and remember having her with them. All the babies I have met hold a special place in my memory, but my time with them is very short. I often wonder if their families are doing ok, and how their lives continue on after they have to say goodbye. It was an honour not only to meet my friends’ little girl, but also to support them and share the experience of their journey. A journey that never ends – she will be part of their lives forever.
Something I often feel, particularly when meeting truly tiny little people, is what a privilege it is to be part of such an intimate family moment. So few people actually have the honour of meeting this precious little person, and often a Heartfelt photographer is one of them.
I wanted to share this post to say thank you my family and friends who support me, look after the boys (sometimes at odd hours) and unfailingly encourage me; and to say thank you to the ridiculously wonderful Heartfelt QLD team, who welcomed me and look after each other in a truly heartwarming way.
I also wanted to encourage other photographers who might be considering joining the team. The most common concern I hear is “I don’t know if I could handle it.” Yes, there are emotional and physiological realities that come with walking into the room at times like this. Every situation is different, and there’s no foolproof way to prepare for everything you might experience. But it is absolutely worth it! Providing tangible memories for parents is priceless. And often it isn’t as challenging as you fear. New members have the opportunity to observe a few sessions with experienced members, so you are able to assess how you might handle it before fully committing.
If joining Heartfelt is something you are considering. Please have a look through the website, email me questions, or call your State Rep. The Facebook page is also full of information, support and feedback from families.
There is a lot of support available to families experiencing loss – Heartfelt is just one small part. You can find a few related organisations here.
If nothing else, Heartfelt has taught me to hold my babies close, treasure my family, and not to worry about what the future might bring.