How 1 Photographer Used a Single Mirror to Show the Heartbreaking Emptiness of Losing a Child

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Photographer Susana Butterworth and her husband Dallin experienced any parent’s worst nightmare when they found out their unborn son had trisomy 18, a deadly genetic disease in which babies have a third chromosome in some, or all, of their cells.

Although they did everything humanly possible to celebrate Butterworth’s pregnancy, the couple realized they had lost their son at 35 and a half weeks when they could no longer hear his heartbeat. Butterworth delivered her son, who was stillborn, on March 8.

Butterworth channeled her grief into “Empty,” a photo series in which mothers who lost children hold mirrors, whose reflected image is altered using Photoshop to show a literal emptiness, a manifestation of what they’ve gone through since losing their kids.

“‘Empty’ is a photography project created to shed light on child loss and pull back the curtain on what that grief might feel and look like,” wrote Butterworth in her blog. “The goal for this project is to create recognition for the face of child loss and to build a community of families who can grieve together and find unity in emptiness.”

And Butterworth doesn’t discriminate when it comes to how exactly each woman ended up losing her child.

“Child loss can mean many different things to different people. Miscarriage, stillbirth, infertility, adoption, adult child loss, divorce, and abortion: the pain is there.”

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