TW: This post contains a discussion of bereavement and the loss of a child.
When I met Brittany years ago, her middle child was a baby. We were in a parenting group together, and she volunteered to stand in for a large group breastfeeding photo project. I had no idea at the time that we’d be starting a lifelong friendship.
Flash forward a few years and things looked completely different for both of us. We’d both been through a lot in our personal lives, and Brittany and Nowell found themselves facing any parents’ worst nightmare; the loss of a child. Through their grief, they found an opportunity to forge something stronger than ever, to appreciate the lives they still had, and to bond them in a new way that felt like honoring their family. I’ll never forget how loved and honored I felt when they reached out to me about photographing their wedding at the San Diego County Administration Building. Life doesn’t teach us a lot about how to deal with situations where bliss and despair overlap and coexist, and their trust that I could show up for them, that I could witness and record both and love them through the whole thing? That’s one of the greatest gifts anyone has ever given me.
I’ll let Brittany tell her own story:
There’s no words to begin to describe this journey that lead up to how we got to our wedding day. We are a blended family of 7, four beautiful girls and one son. February 5, 2018, the day of our wedding, we decided to not only embrace our Family – but to embrace our daughter Jasper on her first birthday. Our angel Jasper passed away o January 22, 2018. She was 11 months old.
My husband Nowell and I were engaged for 8 years, but it always seemed like life was moving too fast or something else was going on. We had no time for the wedding of our dreams. This was a wedding that we never dreamed of. One without all of our children.
Going back to 5 days before our wedding I went to (my now husband) Nowell and said “Let’s get married on Jasper’s birthday. Let’s make a promise that we are gonna get through this!” My husband said “I was just thinking the same thing! Make the appointment!” Well, I already had.
Our wedding day wasn’t one that I would describe as a dream, but it was the most beautiful way we could have honored our love and memory of our daughter, and the love we have for our children and us as partners.
Our wedding was more than a bond between husband and wife, but a promise to us and our children that we will be okay, that we will persevere. That regardless of trials we face as a unit, we can overcome anything.
Overall there was a sense of sadness when it came to her absence, but also a sense that we have each other, that we’re all okay, and the joy can go on.
How Do We Face Joy & Grief On The Same Day?
Brittany has become one of my closest friends, especially since this day. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I love people, and how I show up for them. I asked her today if she’d tell me a little about what it was like to work with me that day, as she remembered it.
Let’s be real, most of the time when having your photo taken, it’s …awkward! I have never felt more comfortable in my own skin than having my photos taken by Chris! She is fantastic!!! So warm and inviting.
Our wedding day was nothing but rushed and so not planned! I asked Chris with short notice (like 3 days) before the BIG DAY. She was free! I had no idea what dress I was gonna bye, or what I was doing with my hair.
We didn’t even get a chance to go over family photos or anything! Chris was a total badass and just took over. Told us where to stand, who to hop in with us next. What I remember most about her that day is that she was so respectful, always asking “Can I help you, something is showing!,” “May I move this hair out of your face?” She loves to honor you and what matters the most.
That day was not only our wedding day, but my daughter’s first birthday, and she is no longer with us. Chris honored everything about that day!
I can’t thank her enough for the moments she capture that my husband and I will forever cling to!
Honoring Your Story Through Photography
I hope if you happened upon this because you are sharing a similar pain, you see this and know there’s hope. It’s been a year since their wedding, and Brittany and Nowell’s family are still some of the strongest, fiercest, most steeped-in-love folks I’ve ever known.
I hope if you read this and you’ve got a difficult situation, you can know I’ll be here to help you honor it, and I’ll love you right through it.