“It’s easy to feel like you’ve been robbed after someone has died” says Eleanor Haley, who lost her mum when she was eight months pregnant with her first child.
“That’s why it’s so important to keep your eyes open to the many ways they continue to exist in this world.”
Talented Eleanor describes herself as a mother-of-two, wife, daughter, blogger and photographer. Over the last few years she has made it her mission to freeze the precious details of her days with the push of a camera shutter button.
“I always dabbled in photography, taking classes in high school and college, though I'll admit I was never quite patient enough or detail oriented to master developing negatives and printing images,” she says.
Looking for a way to channel her grief after losing her mum, Evelyn who died, in October 2006, Eleanor got her hands on a new camera and began to share moments of her day-to-day life.
'Mother and Daughter' by Eleanor Haley
Evelyn had died when Eleanor was pregnant with her first child — a beautiful little girl.
Throughout her pregnancy, Eleanor, from Maryland in the US, struggled to adjust to coping with the loss of her mum’s physical presence in her memories.
It got to the stage where I could no longer remember the sound of her voice.
“It got to a stage where I could no longer remember the sound of her voice” she explains.
Although her mum could not be there to meet her very first grandchild, Eleanor knew just the thing to keep her mother’s much-loved memory alive, when her daughter was born.
Beautiful Evelyn Haley
“Coincidently my mother was pregnant with me when her mother died and so she named me Eleanor after her.”
“It just made perfect sense to name my baby girl Evelyn, after my mum.”
Eleanor was determined to treasure every moment with her daughter, despite the sadness of losing her mum. She realised that her photography could be a way of capturing past and present in a single moment. A record of continuing special bonds with her own child, that she had shared with her mum.
It just made perfect sense to name my baby girl Evelyn after my mum
“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” says Eleanor.
“At this time 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 explains.
Eleanor began taking photos of little Evelyn every day and continued adding chapters to their photo-story, when her younger daughter Virginia was born three years later.
Sweet little Virginia Haley
The stunning pictures are now part of an award-winning collection called Mother/Daughter Life.
“It’s basically inspired by my frantic need to hold onto every moment that I have with my children,” says Eleanor, who lives in Maryland.
She says that taking photographs has also helped her to recognise her own mum’s constant presence in the world, explaining: “I’m in the middle, and we’re all connected.”
Daughters Evelyn and Virginia are 11 and eight years old, now and have grown up with their mum capturing their lives through a lens.
'Ginny on the Doc' by Eleanor Haley
Often, it’s the ordinary and unremarkable moments in life that Eleanor values most when she thinks of her own mum. They’re the everyday things she’s tried to capture forever, as her girls have grown up with her.
“Shopping for back-to-school clothes, playing duets on the piano with her, sick days when she would dote on me and dinner out at a terrible chain restaurant when I was finally old enough to talk to her about love and relationships.
'Medusa' by Eleanor Haley
“I hardly remember the vacations and the parties and milestones” she says, looking back.
“The moments that stick with the most are the ones I would never have expected. This is how I know the importance of cherishing the small, quiet moments with my children.
“I know that each moment is as precious as the last, and I don’t want to forget a thing” she says.
Eleanor says her mum would have loved what she has set out to achieve, with her Mother/Daughter Life photography.
“Even if she didn’t love the photographs” she says, “I think she would love knowing that I cherish motherhood as much as she did.”
##To keep your own memories alive, Eleanor suggests:
- I would encourage you to try using creative outlets like journaling and photography to explore and express your grief.
- Keep their memories in your heart in so many of the things that you do on a day-to-day basis.
- Remember your loved ones in the small moments too, sometimes these moments are bigger than the big moments.