In 2011 Katy Patten and her husband were expecting twins. Tragically, preterm labor set in at 23 weeks. The twins were born with heartbeats, but were unable to breathe on their own. The twins only lived a few short days.
The devastating absence that is left behind when you lose a child is something most of us cannot wrap our brains around, because we’ve been blessed to not have to endure such a thing. How do you cope with the loss of a child? How do you heal? Katy Patten and her husband cope with their loss by celebrating the lives they brought into this world. Her twins, Aiden and Gavin, are remembered on a memory wall in the Patten home that includes footprints and shadow boxes of their tiny preemie outfits. But they decided to commemorate the lives of their children in another way — a family photo.
Gittins told Babycenter she used the shadows of her 4-year-old neighbor to make the photo. The Pattens posed with their arms outstretched and Gittins was able to create the image you see here. It’s breathtaking.
I’ve never been through the experience of seeing my children outside the womb and having them taken from me – that’s a pain I can’t imagine. But I have suffered several miscarriages – the last at 12 weeks gestation and I understand the pain of losing something you’ve spent months nurturing and loving. You don’t forget a child simply because he or she was never born or only lived a few short days. This is such a beautiful way to show how our children stay with us – no matter how long we are blessed to have them.
Talking about loss is hard, and oftentimes loved ones and friends don’t have the words to console you, so they end up pushing the experience away – too afraid that the mere mention of a lost child will be too hurtful. This image is so powerful because it is the opposite of that. It says, “Acknowledge my children. I lost them physically, but they will always be with me.” It’s truly beautiful.
“Katy wears an urn necklace with some of her boys’ ashes inside and has a tattoo of their footprints. On Aiden’s and Gavin’s birthday, the family celebrates, complete with cupcakes. They’ve also got a memory wall that has molded footprints and shadow boxes with their boys’ items. Where there’s pain, there’s also light.
While we all grieve in different ways, this mom shows us how to actively remember.”
Katy Patten is a pediatric ICU nurse and serves on the bereavement committee at the hospital where she works. She uses her experience to help others through their pain. I only imagine this image will give many, many other families a gentle reminder that they are absolutely entitled to remember and celebrate the children they’ve lost.