How Photography Helped Me Cope with My Mother’s Death

My mom’s death came unexpectedly. I didn’t think she was going to die. She had been admitted and discharged from the hospital the summer before without incident. She was 67.

I haven’t shared the photos below before. They’re very personal to me. But they capture an important moment in my life and I’m glad that I have them. I wanted to put this here as a way to complete the next phase of my healing and grieving. I feel lighter.

I visited her in the emergency department a few days earlier with my dad, brother, and sister. I also visited her a couple days later in the ICU. Then, the day after I visited her and she seemed on the mend, she started to get worse. I was out with my brother at the neighbour’s house having a few drinks when my sister called from the hospital saying we should come and visit, that she wasn’t doing well. We had to call a cab.

We weren’t at the hospital for very long. My dad and sister were in the ICU family waiting area while they were working on improving my mom’s condition. The nurse came out a few times to tell us she wasn’t improving and that they were taking additional measures to help her. Then the nurse came out with the doctor and they explained that she died. We spent some time with my mom trying to understand what happened—I will never forget those moments.

I smelled my mom’s hair. It smelled like her. She was right there but she wasn’t. Her hands looked the same. My mom always used to tell me that I would never know how much she loved me. I leaned over my mom and whispered in her ear that I knew how much she loved me. When we walked out, we passed the room she had been in just the day before, sitting upright in the chair, trying to keep comfortable and warm.

My dad drove us all home to his house afterwards. We all stood in the kitchen quietly. We started talking about what had to be done next. Her death was so immediate that the moment didn’t even seem real.

It really began to sink in for me when I looked around the house. I saw all the signs of my mom. She had left the house not even thinking twice that she wouldn’t come back home. To see all her things again. To put her things away where they belonged.

I had a feeling that the next few days were going to go by in a blur, so I made a point to record moments that I thought would be important to me later.

I love that about photography. Looking at a photo can bring you right back to the fleeting moment you photographed. From the funeral home to finding photos at home, the following days and the chaos of visiting family, and making arrangements, the grieving process had only begun. It’s been a year and a half since and time heals… it does. But the hole doesn’t get smaller, you just don’t feel it as much.

About the author: David Martin is a photographer, husband, and father to three girls who hasn’t been able to put down the camera since his kids were born. Capturing the mundane and beautiful moments of everyday life is his passion. To see more of his work, visit his website or follow him on Twitter, Instagram, and Flickr. This article was originally published here.

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