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Mother Daughter Life: A grief photography collection

Eleanor and Evelyn

Everyone deals with grief in different ways. While some may choose to keep their feelings to themselves, others may feel comforted by the company of friends and family. Some people find ease in talking to a therapist or getting creative by writing a journal, painting or making music.

For Eleanor Haley, a mom-of-two from Maryland, photography is a conduit for processing her emotions.

Eleanor and Virginia Eleanor and her daughter Virginia

Her award-winning photography collection called Mother/Daughter Life was inspired by the loss of her mom Evelyn, who died 12 years ago.

“It’s basically inspired by my frantic need to hold onto every moment that I have with my own children,” says Eleanor, who lives in Maryland.

Ginny on the Dock Ginny on the Dock by Eleanor Haley

After her mom died in October 2006, Eleanor struggled to remember Evelyn, and the memories they made together.

“It got to a stage where I could no longer remember the sound of her voice” she said.

Looking for a way to channel her grief, Eleanor started taking photographs of her day-to-day life.

At the time, she had just given birth to her first child, Evelyn — named after her mom.

“I was both a new mother and a grieving daughter and I found that these two things were related in ways I never even expected,” she explained.

Roadtrip Roadtrip by Eleanor Haley

Eleanor wanted to make the most of every moment with her daughter, despite the sadness of losing her mother. She realised that photography became the medium that could capture her past and present in a single moment. A record of continuing the bonds with her own child, that she had had with her mom.

“After someone has died, it’s easy to feel like you’ve been robbed,” says Eleanor.

“That’s why it’s so important to keep your eyes open to the many ways they continue to exist in this world.

Eleanor began taking photos of Evelyn every day and continued adding chapters to her collection, when her second daughter, Virginia was born three years later.

“I'm not sure I would feel quite so compelled, or if I would treasure this bond in the way that I do if I didn't know what it was like to lose my own mother” she explains.

Evelyn Evelyn by Eleanor Haley

The photographs are now a part of Mother/Daughter Life, which was launched at the US Air Force Academy’s Permanent Professors Art Gallery in 2014. You can now view Eleanor’s collection online.

Taking photographs has also helped Eleanor to recognise her own mum’s constant presence in a linear world, explaining: “I’m in the middle, and we’re all connected.”

Creative outlets like photography are an encouraging way to explore and understand your grief.

Medusa Medusa by Eleanor Haley

“The process of creating images allows you to spend time reflecting on your emotions and to feel closer to your loved one’s memory” says Eleanor.

If you are looking for other alternative ways to channel your grief you might find that one of these therapies helps you as you begin to deal with the death of a loved one.