Tag Archives: bereavement

Photographing grieving fathers

A guest blog by Raising Arizona Kids staff photographer Dan Friedman

For our June issue, I photographed four dads who had lost children for Mary Ann Bashaw’s story, “Fathers Reflect on Grief.” I wasn’t sure how the four dads would react to me tracking them down by email and telephone to make arrangements to take their pictures. Maybe they wouldn’t even want their pictures taken.

Support from the MISS Foundation has helped these dads cope with their grief. They understand that sharing their stories can be beneficial to others who are struggling with loss — or know someone who is.

With each of the dads, the grief was palpable. These photo sessions were different from any others I have done for the magazine, where the subjects often want the publicity an article with photos will bring them.

Being the photographer for Raising Arizona Kids involves traveling around the Valley taking pictures of people I am meeting for the first time, intruding on their lives for a few minutes and then leaving with an image that hopefully makes sense to our readers and helps me keep my job.

I chat with people to put them at ease while I set up my lights or look around their house for a suitable spot to take a picture. But this was different. I wondered what I would say to the four guys whose children died. Telling them I’m sorry about their loss seemed ill-suited to the situation. Who was I to tell them I was sorry? I was just there to take a picture that would appeal to our readers.

I settled on telling them I appreciated their taking the time to share their stories with our readers, who would be surely benefit. This seemed the most accurate and genuine.

The first dad I photographed was Jimmy Carrauthers. He is also a photographer, so it was easy to talk about photography with him while I was setting up lights. While I was checking my exposure, his phone rang so I have this photo of him holding the photo of his late stepson, Edwin, while he is talking on the phone. Sometimes the emotional moments I hope to capture are interrupted with mundane moments.

Jacob Christen Blain’s son Leo died when he was just eight days old. Jacob preferred to meet at his workplace, which meant the setting was not as personal a space in which to photograph him. I had to find a way to remove the setting. A large stucco wall worked out the best. Ironically, the stark background tells the story because Leo died so young and there aren’t dozens of photos or personal effects to include in the photograph.

Two of the houses I went to for the story were full of photographs. Photos are so ubiquitous in our culture, whether printed or electronic, that our memories are tied up in them. But for Jimmy, his tattoo was obviously the best way to tell his story. The illustration of his stepson is now a permanent part of his body.

Mark Eide had a giant photo of his family on vacation in Hawaii above his mantle. It includes his son Zack and daughter Katie, who died in a car accident in 2009. There many smaller photos around the house and on the memorial Facebook pages for Katie and Zack. The urns with their ashes were on a table nearby but I could hardly bring myself to look at, much less photograph, them.

Jason Freiwald had a life-size photo of his son Braden as well as dozens of other photos around the house but this one was his favorite. It made it easier for me since I needed to have some variety in my pictures to illustrate the story. If I were in Jason’s place could I look at a life-size photo of my dead child? I was amazed how composed and comfortable all four dads were to work with. I don’t know how they did it. But that is what I was photographing, four dads being composed and comfortable about sharing their loss. — Dan Friedman

The June story about grieving fathers was third in a four-part series we are running this year called “Finding Purpose in Grief.” Following are links to all three stories; the fourthwill be published in November. — Karen

The MISS Foundation Offers a Light at the End of Life’s Darkest Tunnel

When Birth and Death Merge

“Fathers Reflect on Grief”

MISS was there

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In the days following the Jan. 8 shooting  in Tucson, the MISS Foundation mobilized a team of volunteers to provide support for the local community.

The Phoenix-based organization, created by Joanne Cacciatore, Ph.D., was the subject of our January article by Mary Ann Bashaw and the first in a series of stories we have committed to publish this year on “Finding Purpose in Grief.” The foundation’s mission is to provide immediate and ongoing support to grieving families. And on the day that Tucson memorialized young Christina Taylor Green, the whole community felt like her family.

Kathy Sandler, the organization’s executive director, sent me some of the photos taken that day and a copy of the email she sent around to volunteers and members. In her words:

The Tucson/Phoenix Outreach team met at a local coffee shop prior to boarding the shuttle bus to the drop off point. We had a natural chemistry. In our 90 minutes together, we discussed the possible crisis intervention or emotional first aid that we would be providing to a community in shock, disbelief and sadness. We were busy assembling Kindness Cards in Christina’s honor and attaching them to the In Mourning Bands…. We were eager to chaperone the bereaved, to be present. I don’t think the day turned out how we anticipated, though, as we didn’t minister to but a few. However…

WE were there…
On the road that would carry Christina-Taylor Green’s hearse
WE were there…
To see the wall of human angels adorned in white sheets
Protecting the sacred path to the mourning place
WE were there…
Reporters, note pads, cameras, media trucks, satellite dishes
WE were there….
“Stop the Hate” the graffiti begged
WE were there…
9/11 Memorial Flag strewn high above
WE were there…
Watched the solemn procession
Strangers, neighbors, friends and family
WE were there….
The walk of a mother with a broken heart
WE were there…
The strong arms of a father, embracing his shattered family
WE were there…
To witness a brother, a pallbearer
WE were there…
To be reminded of the familiar pain as if it were yesterday
WE were there…
The day you said goodbye to your child
WE were there…
And then we went 10 days later to A Day of Healing for Tucson’s Children
WE were there
The littles were sad, scared and yet filled with hope
WE were there
Moms desperate to help their kids cope
WE were there
THE SAFEWAY
WE were there
University Medical Center and the sea of love
WE were there
Please know that ALL of YOUR children were with US when
WE were there

Kathy Sandler, on behalf of the MISS Outreach Team

Tucson Chapter Outreach Team members: Audra White, Bunnie Firestone, Tracy McAdams, and Mary Avenetti.

Phoenix Chapter Outreach Team members: Michele Newton, Robin Kennedy, Judy Haines, Melissa Flint, Kathy McNichol, Lauren Wyatt, Bianca Mera, Kristen Fournier, Emily Sandler and Kathy Sandler.

A community immersed in grief

I spent my lunch hour yesterday corresponding with parents who have lost children.

A mother whose infant daughter was stillborn. A father who lost his son shortly following an emergency (and premature) Cesearean delivery that became necessary when his wife was involved in a horrible car accident. A mother whose 11-year-old son died of an “intercerebral hemorrhage” of unknown cause. And a mother who lost her 18-year-old son during a robbery, when he was shot and killed. He just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was senselessly murdered, just like bright, brown-eyed Christina Green of Tucson.

A lot of bereaved parents wrote to us after they saw Mary Ann Bashaw’s January article, “Finding Purpose in Grief:  The MISS Foundation Offers a Light at the End of Life’s Darkest Tunnel.” Many of their letters will be published in our February issue. I can’t think of a better tribute to the victims of Saturday’s tragedy in Tucson, when 20 people, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, were shot and six were killed, including 9-year-old Christina, who was there with a family friend who knew the young student council member would be inspired by the presence of a role model.

The parents who wrote thanked us for “breaking the silence” on what one parent termed “a tender subject.” For some of these families, their terrible losses occurred years ago. And yet their grief is always there, always part of them. So they know all too well what will soon befall the loved ones grieving small Christina.

For now, the community has rallied; the media is attentive. The family’s shock and the outpouring of support blunts the real blow that will occur in the years that loom ahead, when each day requires them to wake up and miss their daughter all over again.

Christina’s memorial service will be held at noon Thursday at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Tucson. Many, many people will be there, most of them dressed in white to show their support.

I hope that many of them will still be there in the weeks and months to come, providing support, talking about Christina, sharing their love and comforting this family for as long as it takes. Which really means forever.

Resources for grieving parents

MISS Foundation
A Phoenix-based organization that provides crisis support and long-term aid to families after the death of a child at any age, from any cause. Also active in legislative and advocacy issues, community engagement, volunteerism and education.

Parents Of Murdered Children Valley of the Sun Chapter
Offers support for persons who survive the violent death of someone close as they seek to recover.