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Can't Look At Photos

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This may sound like a weird post, but I wonder if anyone else is having trouble dealing with photos. I still haven't been able to look at pictures of my husband. I glance at one or two now and then, but I can't bring myself to really look through albums. Just looking at one photo of him smiling, on vacation, or busy with something makes me burst into tears. I'm pretty sick and tired of crying, so I tend to avoid things that leave me sobbing.

It's been seven months for me, and it seems like the grief process has slowed down and is moving at a crawl. I am now working almost full time and try to get out now and then with friends, I pay the bills, worry about money, take care of my youngest son and the dog, but all the time there this hole inside me that makes me ache and long for my husband and my normal life. I have trouble being with friends who are married and who end up talking about their husbands and their normal lives.

I read about people here putting up photos of their husbands all over the house and talking about their husbands to other people. But I can't look at his pictures and I can't talk about him to anyone other than my grief counselor.

This can't be normal. Could I be developing complicated grief?


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In reading your "This can't be normal"....there is no normal when it comes to grieving...everybody goes thru it differently...When I first lost my "Bob" l.5 mos ago, I hung out on this site all the time...it helps to read all the posts because you will find out "normal is not it "grief"....it just is....It is very difficult to look at photos without feeling angry, sad, regret, remorse, loneliness and all the other ugly feelings that come with grieving....I will pray for you Dear Melina...It is a very very difficult transition and I am reading as many books on bereavement as I can get my hands on plus attending church and a small Bible Study....find a safe place to cry, vent and "FEEL" everything that you can feel....Bless you...Rochel

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Guest Joe1937

Hi Malina,

My name is Joe and I am new to this forum. I am not sure what normal, but finding it difficult to look at a picture of a happy smiling loved one has to be a part of it.

I seem to be having the opposite problem. All I want to remember are the early years when I first met Barbara but I have only one picture to remind me of what she looked like back then. You see a house fire in '96 destroyed the rest.

Far be it from me to tell you how to handle this situation but you might think about boxing up all the albums and pictures and putting them into a safe place until you decide that you want to see one or two of them again. The boxing process may even occupy your mind for a little while.

What ever you decide I wish you warmth.


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Not able to look at your husbands photos? Well, I'm almost certain that's normal for grief. I went through it with my Mom. My family made a poster-sized collage of my Mom's photos for her memorial service. Took me 10 months before I could post it upon my kitchen wall. Now I look at my Mom almost every single day.

I do still experience some pain when I look at these photos. But it's no longer overwhelming pain. And I am getting something very positive out of the photos. They remind me of who I am, and who my Mother was. I actually gain strength from looking at her now. But I can't dwell on it. Usually I'll just look up, and there she is, my Mom, as a child, as a teenager, as a young Mom, as a business woman, and as a retiree. In a real sense I feel like she is still with me.

Once we feel we can display some of the photos, we start the process of 'memorializing'. We replace some of the pain with a pride for the memory of our lost loved one. The photos become links to a shared life which was and still is treasured in our memory.

Don't force anything! You will know when it's the right time to put up photos.

Ron B.

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I'm no longer sure what "normal" is, Melina. Maybe, just maybe, your avoidance of the photos has become a habit. I'm finding that some of the denial/avoidance issues I had early on in this journey have become simply that, and when I look at it rationally, I realize that the pain comes from the idea of breaking the habit, not from the item or from the emotions that initially came from the item.

I don't have this photo issue. In fact, I positively wallow in the photos I've got of my Glenn, and it makes me feel so much better, because it's an affirmation of our life together. Holidays, birthdays, Glenn working in the yard, etc. When I surround myself with his pictures, I feel so much better because people in my life are already wincing when I talk about my life "before". It's as though the life Glenn and I shared for 34 years doesn't exist and looking at all those photos gives me great comfort.

Yes, sometimes I cry like a baby when I look at them, but looking at the photos makes me realize how lucky I was. Without them, I wouldn't have physical evidence of our history.

Far be it for me to give advice because I'm barely holding my head above water, but I find that looking at just one photo makes me sad, yet looking at half a dozen is smile-making. Perhaps you could find it in your heart to pull out just 2 or 3, do the crying and think about how the photos are treasured mementos of your life together.

Whatever you choose to do, Melina, please know that we're all here for you.


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Guest Nicholas

There is no "normal"; I tend to look at photos even though I know I'll cry, maybe I want to cry more, who knows. But when I look at the photos of my son on my website, I am very proud of him and then cry more.


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Melina, I don't think there is a "normal" for dealing with any of this. When my mom first passed 3 months ago, I had no problem looking at photos of her. It did make me cry, but I could handle it. Now? I can't stand to look at them and see her smiling. It's just too much -- almost like proof that she was once here and now she's gone.

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Hi Melina,

I haven't posted in a while but your post brought a lot of memories of myself at around the same time. At 6 months our support group decided to share pictures of our spouses with the group. I was a mess for two weeks waiting for my night to share. Two hours before the meeting I sat on the floor with my son going through the photos and placing them on a trifold board. I sobbed to the point my very soul was breaking. I carried my board to the meeting unable to speak. I had no words to share. All those happy pictures of our life and it was all over.

I kept the trifold board in the kitchen for three months. Daily I sat on the floor in front of it and let my heart break over and over. Sometimes I turned the board towards the wall, to spare myself from the pain. As painful as it was, it helped me face that he was really gone.

I truly believe grief is only unresolved when you stop facing what happened. Each of us coming to this site is actively grieving and working on resolution. This may not be the time to face the pictures. But whenever you do decide to do it, it will be very painful. A new way of seeing what has ended and what will no longer be. At some point I hope the pictures make me smile instead of cry but at 18 months I still tear up at every photo.

I have days now where I am no longer suffering and for that I am so relieved and grateful for. Life is starting to rebound and I can now see myself able to live a life without Mark. I can even say that I will be able to be happy again. I can hardly wait. Grief rears it's ugly head a little less often and not nearly as fierce. The hard part is trying to figure out who I am now and what I want for myself. I may not feel strong very often these days but I know that I can't give up.

You!re doing all the right things Melina! Keep up the hard work!


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Hi Melina, I have an 8 x 10 pic of Michael - the one we placed at his memorial up and have since his memorial. It is in my bedroom and comforts me as I know when I look at his smiling face - what is not in the picture is his arm around me... I also watch the memorial CD we did of Michael - seeing his life unfold from childhood to "us" and remembering the "good" helps me - it reminds me of how loved I was and what adventures we had - and yes I bawl looking at it everytime. I know it says, our "promise" and "future" are now gone as is what was meant to be... and sometimes it is all so very hard.

If for now, it is too painful to look at the past, don't worry, there will come a day and only you will know when that is. Be gentle with yourself, take time to feel what you need to feel and deal with what you must, it is enough for now. You don't need to challenge your grief, by doing "things" your not ready for, just keep putting one foot in front of the other and you'll come through - in your own time. Take care, Deb

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Dear Melina,

I am sorry for the pain of loosing your husband. I really encourage you to let go of worry whether your pain is "normal grief" or "complicated grief" It is my belief that grief "just is" However it unfolds for you is just the "right" way. Try not to compare your path with any other's path as they will never be the same.

I only have one picture of my Melissa as she asked me to take her picture on Christmas Morning 2003, she knew she was going to take her life and wanted me at least to have one photo of her---I know that now---then I thought she had overcome her fear of having her photo taken and wanted to show me. Melissa went into panic at the sight of a camera due to some things from her childhood.

I remember I did not even develop the picture for a very long time, and then in a panic one day thought, oh it has been to long, maybe the photo won't be any good anymore and I rushed to have it developed. Once I had the photo, I could not look at it without weeping, then after a while I could look at it, had it framed and had it hanging, then I had to put it away again, then I brought it out again. I have thought of getting it photoshopped together with a picture of me, so at least I would have one photo of us "together" I still have not been able to get that done. I can now have Melissa's photo hanging and I feel nothing but warmth and love to look at it now.

My point is Melina to try and just let it be, let the grief flow as it comes, as that brings us healing, be gentle with your thoughts, and when it is time and it is right you'll know Melina and you will be able to look at the past and feel warmth and love again.


Blessings and Courage, Carol Ann

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Thanks for all the replies everyone. I realize I should probably face my grief by looking at the photos, but I just can't right now. I'm already crying at least once or twice a day, so to look at those photos - which reminds me of what I've lost - would have me back to sobbing all day again. I just can't do it.

It helps to know that this is normal, though.


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I realize I should probably face my grief by looking at the photos, but I just can't right now.

Melina, I don't think you need to be so stern with yourself. You don't have to face those photos until you're good and ready.

I'm already crying at least once or twice a day, so to look at those photos - which reminds me of what I've lost

My photos of Glenn remind me of what I had. I keep having to tell myself how very lucky I was and the photos help me to remember that.

What I meant earlier about avoidance becoming a habit was reinforced for me again tonight. I wanted to go see a movie in the theatre about a month ago, but was terrified to do so without Glenn. Standing in line by myself, watching the "Coming Attractions" by myself (almost our favourite part of the movie-going experience :)), driving home by myself, with no Glenn to discuss it with. So, I resigned myself to waiting until it comes out on DVD or TV. Then, yesterday, I decided that I was going to darned-well see that movie. I bought the tickets online so that I didn't have to stand in line and I thought of other things before the movie started and I listened to talk radio on the way home and once home, realized that although it hadn't been nearly as enjoyable without Glenn, it wasn't nearly as dreadful as I had imagined it would be.

All of our experiences and emotions are different, but I've been letting the habit of my fears take charge over these 4 months. And, to be honest, the poem that Deb625 posted here yesterday helped my resolve. The last three lines hit such a chord with me:

"Absence is such a transparent house

that even being dead, I will see you there,

and if you suffer, Love, I'll die a second time"

I don't believe in an afterlife, but just in case I'm wrong( :blush: ), I don't want my darling to suffer because of my despair and avoidance of reminders of our happiness.

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