Sharing photos of lost little ones: a healthy step, or over-sharing?

Sharing photos of lost little ones: a healthy step, or over-sharing?

While you’re browsing through your Facebook news feed, reading funny status updates and seeing the latest viral YouTube videos, you’ll no doubt find a few photos of your friends’ babies in the mix.

It’s an annoyance to some – endless pics of babies in new outfits, every milestone shared, from baby’s first steps to their first projectile vomit. Mostly, though, people will be happy and excited to see the photos of a friend’s gorgeous bub.

But what if that baby photo was of your friend’s stillborn? How would you feel about seeing a gallery of photos dedicated to a lost little boy or girl?

A couple of friends of mine have experienced this. One explained how she felt when a girl she knew from school shared a gallery of photos taken of her stillborn girl. While she understood it was her friend’s way of coping, she also admitted it was confronting.

"It was just unexpected, seeing the images, as they were publically viewable," she explained. "A lot of people, especially those inexperienced in this awful situation, don’t understand why it wasn’t more private. Most people assume you grieve privately but social media has made those boundaries blurrier."

But it is becoming more common to photograph stillborn children and share those photos. Gavin Blue is the national president of the charity Heartfelt, a network of volunteer photographers from around Australia who specialise in stillborn and premature photography. They also take photos of children with terminal illnesses and all of their work is done for free.

"Everyone is different in how they share those photos, some families have them on display in homes and others may choose to share them through social media," Blue said. "The way we shoot the children is done in a way so they are not too confronting to share."

Blue began the charity in 2006, after he and his wife had a stillborn girl. It was important to his family to have birth photos of all their children in their home.

"We want people to know there are four children, not three," he said.

The founder of the Stillbirth Foundation, Emma McLeod, said people are now much more open about sharing their experiences with miscarriage, and that it's very healthy for them to do so.

"I can appreciate sharing photos is an individual choice not everyone is going to make, but if someone feels comfortable sharing they absolutely should," she said.

Only a few decades ago, stillborn children were whisked away from parents on almost immediately, McLeod said, with some parents not allowed to see their baby or even told where they ended up.

"Now, people are encouraged to spend time with their baby, people are willing to put photos up and talk about it. Personally, I am happy to post on Facebook my daughter's anniversary and am keeping her alive in that way.

"Another woman I work with posted a photo on the 12th anniversary of her son Callum’s death, of her family at his gravesite. It was a very important thing for her to do."

Every day in Australia, six babies are stillborn, while one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage. Death is still something western society did not handle well, McLeod said, but she believes making judgements about how people chose to deal with grief was the wrong thing to do.

"We all have our personal opinions about what should and shouldn’t be posted on social media but they are an individual’s post, and it is ultimately up to them."

How do you feel about this kind of social media sharing? Vote in the poll or have your say below.

This article first appeared on Daily Life.