Love is a weird and magical thing. What attracts one person to another is unique and often inexplicable. Trying to describe what love is, is almost like describing what color looks like. We each see it in our own way, and no two relationships are alike.
And the ways people meet and fall in love is just as diverse and interesting as love itself.
Photographer Anjali Pinto first “met” her husband, Jacob Johnson, on Instagram, in a somewhat unconventional way. She told The Lily that the two had no mutual friends, but Johnson began commenting on her posts. “I could see from his images that he was special, and I wanted to know him,” she said.
By commenting on each other’s posts, a friendship developed and that friendship grew into a romance and then…love. The couple eventually married in 2015. Then on December 31, 2016, Jacob suddenly died of an aortic dissection, an unknown defect in his artery wall, at the age of 30.
Pinto told The Lily that she documented their close bond through photographs, and they often took photos of each other while on photo shoots. So while she mourned his death, she continued to document their relationship through photos on Instagram and her grief is laid bare in the same unconventional way that their relationship started.
“I wanted to talk about him, to hold tightly to the good memories we made, and to invite our friends and family to feel comfortable in grieving openly too,” she told The Lily.
Pinto, who has over 51,000 followers, posts photos every day, paying tribute to the husband, their love, and the magic of love in general. She said she hopes that documenting her grief and love for Jacob after his death will help her heal, while also paying tribute to her love for him while he was alive.
“When Jacob died, I felt that our love story and his untimely death was worth sharing with the world,” Pinto says. “I felt empowered by telling our history and my circumstance as a surviving spouse.”
There’s no part of grief that is untouched for Pinto. She lays it all out there, with poignant beauty. She writes about the debilitating sadness, the complicated emotions of moving on, and her evolving beliefs about an afterlife.
“Because I am an optimistic person, my advice to other widows has always been — just be patient, someone special will come along,” she wrote in one post. “You have so much to offer, and the successful relationship you lost is a foundation for whomever is lucky enough to be with you in the future.”
But she admits that it isn’t always easy to follow that optimistic advice, writing later in that same post: “So now I tow the line — open to love and hopeful, but repelled by the idea of someone spending long hours in my company at our apartment. It’s not him, it will never be him.”
Ultimately, though, this isn’t just artwork or a social media feed — it’s Pinto’s life. She is living the very real emotions of grief and loss and survival.
“The passing of time continues to be a disorienting part of my life,” she wrote in a recent post. “How much time I’ve survived. No amount of waiting will make things how they were in 2016.”
Not only is Pinto’s vulnerable and real depiction of grief a breath of fresh air in today’s carefully-curated world, it is also a bold reminder to not take our beloveds for granted. I know that I’ll be a little less quick to get annoyed that my husband’s socks are on the floor after looking through Pinto’s photos and reading her powerful words.
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