“Looking at a photo can help you connect with the inner presence of the loved one. For some people, however, the image refers to longing and this causes suffering”, says psychologist Carlos Carvalho. The different reactions are understandable, as shown by the other two answers in our survey, in order of preference: “Yes love it, I see it” (42%) and “I don’t see it, it makes me very sad, I prefer to avoid it” (12%).
From this result we tried to understand if some of the actions would bring more benefits in the process of grieving elaboration. The consensus is that there is nothing that helps more or less. There is, as in most situations involving grief, the need for absolute respect for the desire of each one. “There is no right or wrong”, says the psychologist Elaine Gomes dos Reis Alves, of the Death Studies Laboratory at the University of São Paulo. “More important than understanding if the photos of loved ones will make the bereaved one more upset or happier, it is respecting the will of those who have lost someone to see them or not. It is allowing them to do whatever they want. It is so natural wanting to see them in order to get in touch with the image of those who passed away as it is understandable the fact that they might want to avoid them for a while”, says Dr. Elaine. However, it is essential, even for one who prefers not to look at the photos at first, to keep them, to keep them at hand for when they want to access them. “What is good” says the psychologist, “is knowing that you can make your own decisions. The person might not want to see them, but at some point they will want. The photos or movies are there for that. The bereaved one experiences a fragile moment, soon after the death of the beloved person. Very vulnerable to others’ opinions. Most of the people I worked with in the office who said they wanted to get rid of photos and belongings, usually did it, most of the time, having been advised to do so by those who believe that acting like this would ease suffering.”
Photos and movies are important because, in addition to registering the beloved one’s image, they meet the greatest desire of all who have lost someone they loved. Not allowing them to be forgotten. “One of the attitudes that have helped in cases of late pregnancy loss or neonatal deaths is to let parents spend time with the child and if they wish, take a picture of the baby”, says Dr. Elaine.“Until recently, in the case of stillbirth or killed at birth; parents were told not see the children. This has fortunately changed and today they are encouraged to take them in their arms, dress them and spend time with them. Parents who take a picture of that time, report feeling comfort from image afterwards, while those who do not have a photo say they regret not having a child of record”, says the psychologist.