Loss can take many forms, and Pennsylvania photographer Meg Brock is helping the world understand what it looks like when a family loses their child. Kristin and Dan Naylor had been planning to hire Brock for a newborn shoot in the summer of 2018. But instead of getting a call to schedule her session with baby Abby, Brock said she saw a social media post from Kristin, holding her daughter who was stillborn at 39 weeks.
"I can't even imagine what it would feel like to walk through such an unexpected and deep loss at a time when you were anticipating great joy," Brock wrote in her blog, which first came to our attention via PopSugar.
A former pediatric ICU nurse, Brock continued to marvel at Kristin's ability to share her "grief journey" online. Finally, Brock decided to reach out and see if the family would let her photograph them. As we can see, they said yes.
Some of the photos are brutally devastating: Kristin standing in Abby's unfinished nursery, holding a large black-and-white photo of her; the beautiful unworn baby clothes on a carpet; the eldest son crying in Kristin's arms.
But others show the Naylor family carrying on with their lives, as people with young children have no choice but to do.
That doesn't mean they're ever going to forget their loss. They've planted a tree to remember Abby. Kristin made a special book she reads to the boys to teach them about their sister. They also have a Molly Bear, a special teddy bear made by a nonprofit that is the approximate weight of a newborn.
"I've heard from many families who've experienced loss that family photos are really hard," Brock wrote. "How do you take a photo of your family when one member is forever missing? The Molly Bear is a way to remember Abby in this photo."
Brock believes that the Naylors are helping the families of the approximately 24,000 babies who are stillborn (defined as any fetal death after the 20th week of pregnancy) each year in the U.S., according to the CDC.
"Grief is a common part of life that is rarely talked about; even less often when it involves an infant," Brock said. "I hope that as a society we can become better at recognizing and talking about grief."