There is a lot of heaviness in this world right now. As it seems there always is, but in reality of recent news stories, everything just feels more dense. I’m not going to lie, doing this project continuously is a lot of weight to hold and for that reason alone, sometimes I have to take time before I find the correct words to express the stories I am sharing, since I do not want to do them an injustice.
I am an empath through and through. When I was younger, I would hear this term and the negative connotations around it from people who didn’t know how to feel empathy. I thought it was some ‘hippie’ term that revolved around colors of auras and the discussion of horoscopes all the time [lol], this is furthest from the truth. Only 20% of our human population can feel empathy, which is a scary statistic. Many people may feel sympathy and may feel bad for someone, but empathy is a tad different. It’s placing yourself in someone’s shoes, feeling how you would react if you were them, and being able to take a step back and literally see yourself going through these same circumstances, in which you have never personally faced.
This is why grief has had such a specific stigma around it.
Grief is not something you just go through and get over.
Grief doesn’t go away after you face the stages.
Grief is cyclical, and as it comes in waves it becomes less tidal wave and more calm wave that still presses the cool water on your toes. But it’s still there.
I mention all of these things above because I met Lindsay and Andy, and I could just tell who they were immediately. Lindsay has such a big, kind, empathetic heart. I actually met her in college a long ways back, and we’ve just followed each other on social media since that moment. I’ve always known her to be an advocate for children and doing the correct thing.
Andy was a pleasant surprise to meet, as I wasn’t even expecting him to take place in this shoot, but learning about their story and journey together was such a deep dive into both of their hearts. He has been through a lot and despite some personal family trauma has really become a shining light.
It really is a challenge to provide all of these stories visually in one specific photograph, so I’ve found that storytelling through a series of photographs seems to work best. However in every series I find myself immediately finding the guiding light, the trauma, the grief, and the growth.
Andy and Lindsay unexpectedly took in their niece. It was just supposed to be for a few days but it ended up being several months that she lived with them. Being in the educational field, Lindsay put her niece as the priority. Studying, reading, and placing effort into a child who couldn’t read or spell very well. Helping this young child grow into herself, into confidence, and into new skills for the future.
Memories created, bonds established, hearts happy.
Their niece felt like she had a place to call home, finally. She had a routine, she went to school daily for the first time, and she had a home that was consistent and wasn’t changing yearly, if not monthly. Lindsay and Andy even created a whole bedroom with all of the things that she loved to make her feel like she had her own space.
Lindsay got matching shirts in support of her and her hobbies.
They went to all events as a family.
Life however, throws us curveballs. Frequently.
After an unexpected strong bond was created, family drama was kicked up. Adults arguing over control rather than the benefit of the child, families calling the cops on one another simply because they just didn’t like the lack of control, and more diverting tactics.
Adults have this notorious habit of making things solely about themselves. We’re taught to be selfless, caring, and think of others before ourselves, but to be honest I rarely see this happen. Instead of thinking about the good of someone, their growth, their stability, we think about ourselves, our feelings, our ‘way of life’ as being the best when it may not be the best for someone else.
Through shouting arguments and court cases, Andy and Lindsay have been through a lot – financially and emotionally, fighting for their niece to be in their home. It’s created division in their family.
These two took on more responsibility for the growth of another human being, and set aside their own hopes, dreams, desires until the right time for the benefit of their niece.
Lindsay and Andy were going to start trying to have a child when they took in their family member, but decided to wait since they didn’t want her to feel second place again. They wanted her to know she was a priority, that she was enough and that she was loved. I cannot tell you how sad, proud, and all around emotional I was as they opened up to me every detail of this journey.
The day that she was taken from them, Andy just collapsed in the living room of grief when he got home, Lindsay was overwhelmingly depressed, and because of this they both kind of just shut down. One of the hardest parts for these two, is that their niece lives with another family member, in the same city, and they are not allowed to see her. These two put everything they had into this situation, even got her to get into therapy which was helping her tremendously. Before they parted ways Lindsay even scheduled her next appointment so it was already in place – but her niece never got there, or so it’s implied.
Going through grief as a married couple is very delicate. There can be moments of strength where we lean on one another, and there can be moments were we don’t know how to vocalize just how torn apart we are and we lash out – not at the human – but at the situation, however, still making it feel like an attack. Going through this together you can tell their relationship, their value in one another and the growth they had to fight for in their marriage.
Moments of Impact. These big moments effect little moments, too. Things we cherish and care about can invade every single large and small crevice in our lives. They seep into our familiar drives in the car, our routines of walking down the hallway, our happiness in the kitchen baking cookies and impact the way we think, talk, and go about our days. This is what makes grief so cyclical. The memories we cherish can be a godsend or a destroyer.
In this body of work I’ve been using an aspect of ‘light,’ defined differently in every series. Light is the thing that guides us. Maybe it’s lighting up the darkness physically and standing metaphorically. Maybe it’s the light from the sun providing us warmth and hope after a long 3 year winter in our minds, or maybe it’s light from joy. Their dog seems to be a beautiful light in both of their worlds… which definitely was there for the whole photo session, too. I’m always going to advocate for using animals as an excuse of therapy when we are depressed or need additional support. People dump down these relationships but what an incredible gift they are. They are just strong structures of support that seem to give us everything we need when we need in – and in turn we do that for them when they need it.
“Along with the light of Pearl , so was our family, our friends (our tribe) along with our other nieces and nephews. These things kept the light, they brought us peace and comfort, they reminded us of on our darkest days to see the light! We are forever thankful to all of them. God took us into this journey and has brought is out stronger on the other side.” -Lindsay
To Andy and Lindsay:
You are strong, caring, loving human beings with hearts that will only be rewarded for your sorrows. In time, there is chance she can and will make it back to you, whether it’s just for a dinner date, or for something more serious when she is older and has a voice legally in our system. I applaud you for your efforts and level headedness even when it feels like you are on the verge of having a nuclear explosion in your head. Keep fighting your fight – keep living with hope on your doorstep – you have so many around you supporting you.