It’s that time of year, when you schedule a fall photo session with your favorite family photographer to document how your family has grown over the past year.
Except for a grieving mother it is never that easy.
For a grieving mother whose baby has died, there will forever be someone missing in that family photo.
No matter how beautiful it is. No matter how wonderfully coordinated the outfits are or how miraculous it is that everyone is looking at the camera. It will forever cause a bit of an ache, because there will forever be someone missing.
And while I cannot make that photo feel complete or give back what has been taken from you, I thought it would be helpful to pull together a few ideas for ways to incorporate your heaven baby into your family photo this year.
No. 01 | Use a Photo in the Photo
I realize this isn’t a full family photo but it is still a precious example of using a photo, or in this case a custom pencil portrait, in the photo. As a mama with a baby in heaven, this photo and that pencil portrait are two of my most prized possessions.
No. 02 | Something that belonged to baby.
I remember dreading the annual family photo session of my boys and their cousins. Even though just two years earlier it was one of the happiest days of my life — 4 little boy cousins so close in age, the two littlest barely out of the womb. And yet so much had changed just 2 short years later.
My son Aaden was just days younger that his cousin Camden (far right in bottom picture) and I just knew taking this photo without him would break me. I had the idea to use one of Aaden’s most used and loved blankets in the photo and it helped so much.
He was not forgotten. He was loved and remembered. And forever a part of our family.
No. 03 | Great Ideas Sourced From You
In this post on Instagram you all gave such great suggestions and I wanted to include them here!
- “When I lost my little boy at 20 weeks, the hospital gave us a little ring token. I would wear it on a necklace for weeks after losing him. It wasn’t real gold or anything so I ended up storing it away so I didn’t break it or ruin it or lose it. My mother (who is now also in heaven – making this even more sweet) took that little ring to a jeweler and had them make one just like it in white gold. She put it on a beautiful chain. Not a time goes by that I put in that perfect everyday necklace that I don’t think of my sweet boy, Noah and what a treasure it is now since losing my mother as well. When we have family photos done, I always wear it so he is a part of it.” @samvitarella
- “We brought along my daughter’s blanket with us for family photos, as well as the stuffed elephant her brother picked out for her. Both items were in photos of her when she was in the hospital—the blanket also has her name on it.” @thelisahunter
- “So this isn’t a photo idea (looking forward to hearing what others do) but it is a card idea. After Jase died signing family members names at the bottom of cards was really hard for me. At Christmas or birthdays I longed to sign everyone’s name including our sons. My coworker recently gave me this sweet idea, and now with every card we send, each family member signs their names and at the inside top left hand of the card we have a stamp with Jase’s name wrapped with angel wings. I love getting to include him and to just honor my little boy.” @justafulton
- “We had a pencil drawing done of our daughter and framed it. My other children took turns holding her picture.” @nickiwheeler
- “A little different idea but @watercolorsbybree has the most amazing watercolor portraits that incorporate our babies in Heaven into a family picture. So special to me.” @hcphotographer
- “My sister had a drawing of my family with all of our children, earthly and heavenly, and it is the most precious thing I’ve ever received. @morgancasteel.art does such amazing work!” bren04
- “There is a company called Molly Bears that will make a teddy bear in the exact weight and size of your baby. We did this for our twin girls. They are pink with specialized angel wing symbols and their names on the bottom of their feet. I’ve had the bears in our family photos to represent their place in our family. I’ve also had their Bear feet taken with my other two kids feet when they are newborns. They are a wonderful organization and have helped with moments when I want my girls represented in our lives.” @dianaiacovo
- “I have thought about this a lot since my son was born still in May and fall family pictures are coming up. We like to say that when we see sunflowers, we think of Brooks. So I think we are going to always have sunflowers in family photos. I just wanted something that will last a long time and be okay with future teenagers to hold too.” @csquaredm
- “When we transferred our baby’s remains from the hospital to the funeral home, they were presented to us in a small, white silken pouch made by a local chapter of Threads of Love. When we had a moment alone at the funeral home before leaving our baby there, we asked our then-20-month-old son if he wanted to say goodbye to the baby. He leaned down and laid his head on the pouch, gently patting it. It is one of the most bittersweet memories of that whole season, and we asked our photographer for the family pictures we did last fall to help us recreate that moment. It’s one of my most favorite images of all of us together.” @nicolewatfordphotography
- “I’ve seen photographers photoshop in a silhouette of small children, babies, fathers and mothers who the family had lost but still wanted to incorporate them in their family photos. Always an emotional image that grips your heart.” @autumncashion
- “I had @afamilyprintshop do a silhouette of my two living children and include my sons footprints by it with all of their names.” @mindyhopper
- “We include our Maddie 🐻 Bear in our pictures, this teddy has brought much comfort to us, especially our son. Bear from @mollybearsorg” @valvarez_fitchica
- “When we lost our son, my friend shared that when she was young, her parents lost her baby brother. And ever since, for every holiday, her moms birthday and in family photos, he was always represented by a yellow rose. They gave yellow roses to their mom for every birthday. It’s been about 32 years and my friend posted some recent family photos, and sure enough, there was a yellow rose. So we started adopting a similar idea with our son.” @mandi_joy
- “I got a beautiful gold bracelet with my daughters name on it. I wear it everyday. The photographer captured it beautifully.” @jaxxybug
- “I was given a charm bracelet after Ezekiel died that have charms that represent him, I always wear it for family photos (it’s almost always on anyway). I would say that this symbol of him is less obvious, and I might be the only one who knows it. But, we also use a stuffed eeyore in some pictures when we want the reference to him to be more direct. The eeyore was given to him by his big sister and stayed with him during his entire time in the NICU, so it is in many of our photos of him.” @amandawu47
- “We had a portrait drawn of our son. This is on a memorial wall we put up with other items that remind us of him.” @as.daugherty
- “My husband has always bought each of our kids a bear as a gift when they were born. We include those bears in our family photos for our two sons that have passed away.” @Cassondrafaith
- “We have our son’s footprints framed and held that in some of our family pictures. I also held a yellow flower that reminds me of him. Just recently (more than 2 years after his passing) our family (and so many friends and family) have started wearing dinosaur shirts in the 13th of every month – Graham was born Feb 13. It’s been incredibly healing to make a special day on a regular basis and to tell people HOW to support us. Each month we get pictures posted and sent to us of our loved ones wearing their Dino shirts in honor of Graham.” @Laurafolger
I would love to see how your incorporated your baby in heaven into your family photos! Tag us over on instagram with #myjoyfulmourningfamilyphoto so we can see!