create. heal. inspire. beryl ayn young.

I am always looking for ways to share how healing photography was for me after the loss of our first daughter Bella Rose in 2009. A few months ago, as I prepped the post you’ll see below to be shared with the Faces of Loss family, I realized how many of us there are using our own combination of art, creativity, and writing on our own healing journey. And so this January series of posts was born. We are just over half way through the month and it’s my hope that you’ve been inspired by one of the lovely ladies feautured here thus far. We have many more wonderful baby loss moms still to come, but today I am honored to be the one to share the story of our Bella and the birth of her Illuminate e-course with all of you. xo. ~beryl

3 years ago I picked up a camera with one goal in mind. We were starting a family and I didn’t want to pay a professional photographer to take photos that I thought I could learn to achieve on on my own. I was quickly bitten by the photography bug and when we fell pregnant on Mother’s Day 2009 everything seemed to be falling into place. I was gifted a brand new camera and upon the baby’s arrival I was confident I’d be able to capture beautiful newborn portraits of our bundle of joy.

I never expected that things were going to go terribly wrong.

At our 20 week sonogram a few defects were discovered and we were alarmingly referred to a high risk practice to have them investigated. The vivid memories of our trip to that high risk office will haunt me until the day I die.  I sat in that waiting room pondering what a terrible job it must be working there. I wondered how many times in a day they had to deliver bad news to expecting parents. I wondered if we’d be their next ‘victim’ but hoped (and ironically expected) that things would be fine. The technician called us back and rushed us through a series of sonogram photos. She was rough on my belly, she pressed a little to intensely, I could feel our baby kick her back as if staying “Stop!”. I wanted the technician to stop too. Finally she left.  Minutes dragged on like hours.

Then, the doctor finally walked in and broke the silence with 5 little words that would change our world forever: “Your baby has multiple problems”.

Without stopping for air, he continued to spout out medical jargon about this syndrome, or that syndrome. Things we had never even heard of before.  He listed off the numerous organs you were missing one by one.  So cold. So heartless. We were just another number to him.  Pretty soon, I felt like I was in a Peanuts episode where the teacher is speaking but the words come out as gibberish. He rushed us into an amnio and sent us away with orders to return to his office in 2 weeks. I was numb but held it together in that office, I didn’t want that doctor seeing me cry. My husband almost fainted on the way out. He didn’t want to believe what he was hearing. That evening, as I googled every little snippet of medical jargon that doctor threw around at us that day I completely fell apart in my husband’s arms.

We sought a 2nd opinion at Children’s Hospital in Washington DC where a fatal diagnosis was confirmed. Our daughter Bella’s defects were 1 in 20,000. No expects to be the 1 in 20,000. But somehow the devastating baby loss lottery struck us. And our lives were forever changed.

Bella was stillborn on September 11th, 2009. When we arrived home from the hospital empty handed and broken hearted the emails, calls, and cards came rolling in. Flowers began to arrive in mass quantities and I wanted a way to collect their beauty and preserve them for when I might be able to truly be enjoy them.  That’s when I remembered I had her camera. The one intended to be used to to take beautiful images of newborn Bella to fill the walls with canvas and framed prints in our home.

Instead I picked up Bella’s camera after she died and used it to capture a glimpse into my fragile heart.

I found photography allowed me to integrate back into the world, interact with others, but still have a place to hide being behind the lens of my camera. In the weeks after our loss, I was taking photos almost daily – learning and perfecting tricks the pros use – and it didn’t take long for me to achieve my goal of becoming a professional photographer myself.

And then a magical thing happened.

I discovered photography to be an incredible tool in my healing and I started to shift my perspective. I uncovered small bits of beauty. I celebrated the little accomplishments, even when it was simply getting out of bed in the mooring. I visually shared gratitude for what I did still have in my life. I began a blog where I offered lessons in how photography allowed me to experience emotions more fully, learn about myself , and have the opportunity to meet amazing new friends along the way.

These days I serve as a photography muse over on my personal website, Beryl Ayn Young. I believe in nourishing the soul with lifelong learning, photographic healing, & a glass half full perspective. I offer e-courses and photography mentoring aimed at teaching you how improve your camera skills and cherish life.


I have a five week e-course, Illuminate, specifically designed for the baby loss parent seeking a creative way to use photography to foster healing after loss. It’s a a safe community for you to remember your loss, to talk about your babies, and to find peace behind the lens of a camera.

Any camera type is welcomed and encouraged during the Illuminate e-course: cell phone camera, point and shoot, or dslr.  This class is all about using what you have to seek images of beauty and healing.

Today I’m giving away a spot in the upcoming March 2012 Illuminate class ($125 value).

To enter:

  • Leave a comment on this post: Why do you want to be a part of the Illuminate e-course?
  • You can gain additional entries by following Beryl on facebook and/ or twitter ~ be sure to leave a separate comment for each one.

The contest closes January 24th and a winner will be announced January 25th on the facebook page!

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  1. Amber Roads says:

    After the birth of our son, my husband and I tried for a second baby only to be shot down three times. I had three miscarriages, each more devastating than the last. Then we got our baby girl Addison. She came with a price no baby should be responsible for…the price was me. I am supposed to be a mother to these two wonderful children and I’ve lost myself. I’ve lost myself to the devastation of futures that will never be, to hands I will never hold, faces I will never cherish. I need to find a way back to them, to my husband.

  2. Oh wow. I feel like God has placed your post right in front of me for a reason – I have always had an interest in photography and especially since losing my daughter. I find as many creative ways to take pictures of her grave and things in nature that remind me of her (which is everything beautiful). I have been desperately working to learn more and buy all the proper equipment needed for being a great photographer. My goal/dream someday is to achieve the “professional” status so that I can volunteer to be a part of the NILMDTS foundation and be a photographer that can help change other families’ lives the way our photographer did for us when I saw the pictures she took of our daughter. I know exactly the types of photos these families will want to hold onto forever. I think it’d be healing for not only others going through the same thing, but for me as well to be able to offer them something they don’t expect and something they will cherish forever. I would be honored to learn as many techniques as available to me for not only learning more for myself in my healing but for others as well.

  3. I am also now following Beryl on Facebook – thank you!

  4. I would love to use this class as a step in my healing. With my due date in a few short days it makes it sting a bit more. I never thought this would be such a difficult journey.

  5. I have always enjoyed photography. Never thought I was that good but I took photos anyways. When I became pregnant with my son I, too, wanted to learn how to take great pictures so that I could take newborn photos, daily photos, birthday photos, anything and everything. my son was born sleeping on August 30, 2011 at 37 weeks due to blood clots in the placenta. I had my camera with us at the hospital and although I didn’t get to take the pictures, my sister did, with my camera. I have so many beautiful and wonderful pictures from that day. I have since then taken many photos of his grave, the flowers that were sent to us, and I really want to learn how to take better photos so that I can join NILMDTS and take photos like the wonderful nurse who helped deliver my son did for us. She was amazing and the experience with her was great. i want to be able to give back to other families who have to experience this horrible tragedy. Money is sort of the issue why I don’t take classes to become better. I would absolutely love to be able to win this free class. I hope to learn more so that when I get pregnant again I can take pictures of my rainbow.

  6. My dear friend Hope introduced me to the amazing work you do through Illuminate. Our children drew Hope & I together. She has 4 children, as do I. She has 2 earthly children, as do I. And she has 2 beautiful Heavenly daughters, as do I. I am truly blessed to have her in my life!

    I have loved photography since my teens and always strive to be a better photographer, to catch that single image that will speak to the very soul of the viewer. But losing our youngest daughter, Eilidh Beth, to stillbirth changed everything, including how I view my photography. Now I want to acheive so much more when I look through my viewfinder. I want to move people, soothe their souls if they are wounded, bring comfort and solace through the images I capture, to heal. Above all I want to provide the Highlands of Scotland with a quality photographer with the skills to capture beautiful memories of their much loved & wanted baby for bereaved parents.


  7. I love your story of how photography led to healing after losing Bella. I have experienced the same thing — a day or so after we got home from the hospital after losing Eve, I started snapping photos of anything and everything that reminded me of her — flowers, cards, the casts of her hands and feet, gifts, etc. It made me feel a little better, as if at least I could control this one thing when everything else was going wrong. It helped me to feel grounded, and it soothed me to know that I was doing everything in my power to collect what little memories I had of Eve.

    I’d love to be a part of Illuminate because I would like to delve deeper into this photographic healing, and to follow a more structured guide. It is such a gift to bereaved mothers. Thank you for offering it. <3

  8. I follow Beryl on Facebook.

  9. I follow Beryl on Twitter (@betherann).

  10. I would love to take your photography course, not only to join a community of other moms who’ve been through what i’ve been through, but also because the art of the photograph has taken on so much meaning for me since my daughter was stillborn. We weren’t aware of the services of Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep at the time, and so the only photographs I have of my daughter are the ones my husband was able to take with his cell phone. They are deeply cherished, but I wish I had taken some closeups of her hands, her feet. I wish I had known how empty that feeling would be, when all I have to remember of her sweet face is contained in fifteen pictures.

    I think taking your course would be a wonderful way for me to create an opportunity I wasn’t given at the hospital: to use photography to heal, to see my daughter in other ways, to see her in nature and all the other beauty out there in the world.

  11. I follow you on FB.

  12. In the past 4 years I have had five miscarriages ranging from 5weeks to 10 weeks. Then recently got the diagnosis of balanced translocation, PCOS, I have to MTHFR gene and a clotting disorder. We were blessed in 2010 with an amazing son but trying for number 2 has been just as hard as it was for him. I love photography and find it helps with keeping me grounded to earth. I would love to be able to grow with the photography and be able to open the feelings that are hidden behind each object.

  13. Julie Peck says:

    I would Love to be a part of your class!! I think it will help me with my healing after the Loss of My son Josiah Julian Peck~Born 1/2/2011 & passed 4/1/2011~Due to SIDS. I have always had a love of photography,since I was just a child. I have cotinued to do so throughout my whole life. I would Love the opportutity to learn for you.You can never learn enough about one thing ,there is always room for more.No matter what age or how much you may think you know. I know this would be a great exprieance for me & Healing process as well!! I would also like to tell you I Love your work,And your story has just thouched my Heart!! <3 Im so very sorry for your Loss.<3

    I follow you on FB & Twitter. I also subscribe to your stuff as well. I have followed you for a while now.

  14. The reason I would love to take your class is probably for the same reason you began to teach it. I would like to get past this emptiness that has been holding onto me since the loss of our son Dylan in 2010. I would love the opportunity to learn techniques to help me better capture the beautiful world around me and hopefully make the day of someone else a little brighter in the process.

  15. Stacy Lockhart says:

    I love taking pictures and have found that most of the ones I take are somehow related to how I am that day and where I am in my grief. I would love to be able to use that and bless other baby loss mommies with it.
    I also liked you on Facebook. Looking forward to reading your posts.

  16. Oh Beryl, we never really told our stories to one another, but as I read yours. . . IT WAS LIKE MINE. To the horrible thoughts going through my head in that High Risk Office to the cold delivery of those five words that our Perinatologist gave us. They all must be given the same sensitivity training and script!

    I have already learned SO MUCH from your Illuminate course, so just skip me if I am pulled to win! I HIGHLY recommend it to EVERY babyloss parent.

  17. Kat Halleran says:

    Our daughter Emily was born still at 21 weeks and 4 days at our 20 week ultrasound we found out the baby would not make it to term we were sent to a MFM doctor and they confirmed she would not make it and told us that she did not have a lymphatic system.

    I would love to take the illuminate class because I have been trying to find beauty since we lost her and I would like to capture that beauty.

  18. What a beautiful story of how you’ve used photography in your baby loss journey! I would love to win this course to help in my healing of my son’s brief life and death. Noah 7/13/10-7/14/10. I enjoy photography but haven’t used it as much since he died.

  19. Thank you for offering this giveaway. I’d like to know more about the healing that can come through photography because I really want to find some creative outlets for my pain. I don’t want to get lost in grief…I want to work through it instead. There are so many things I see that remind me of my son and I would love to learn more about how to use photography to capture them.

  20. I follow Beryl on Facebook.

  21. Hollie Binkley says:

    I am 9 weeks pregnant and have loads of emotions with this second pregnancy (It will be 7 months on the 2nd that Nevaeh has been gone). Im hoping by taking this course I can see the possitive things with in this pregnancy. Every thing I see or do I wonder if it is going to harm this new little life and I will loose this baby too. Things have been so down since Nevaeh passes away that it has been hard for me to celebrate this new life. Please help me celebrate this new baby and heal from Nevaeh’s life taken too soon.

  22. My heart is breaking. To read the above stories. To know the pain that so many of us are feeling. To see that so many of our stories are the same. I too wanted to take photos of our little guy. I too took photography classes at the local junior college while I was pregnant. My final project was of happy pregnancy pics with my husband. Little did we know that at the end of our summer our full-term son would die because of pre-eclampsia and mommy getting HELLP. I am very interested in this class and hope that we all win a spot. Hugs go out to all of you.

  23. It’s been not quite 14 months since we said goodbye to our daughter Maddie. The pain has eased up a bit, but I struggle with the grief of not being able to make new memories. Someday I hope to be able to make memories with a little brother or sister for Maddie, but until then, keeping her memory alive through this class would be priceless.

  24. I want to be a part of the Illuminate e-course because I have a passion for photography and for my little girl, Lily Katherine, who was stillborn at fullterm on March 16, 2010. What’s better than putting the two together to grieve and heal :)

  25. I am now following Beryl on facebook.

  26. I would love to take this class for a few reasons. For one, I wish I had more pictures of my son. And I feel that his short life helped teach me the importance of never letting anything pass us by. Becuase of him, I have since given birth to his healthy 7 month old brother and I want to document his life better. Another reason, is that I want to learn how to take better pictures, but not just in quality, but in meaning.

  27. I am so lost right now. In grief, in depression, in photography, in life. I need something to pick me up and get me back on track. It will not fix my life but it may help me come out of this dark place just a little.

  28. I follow you on fb

  29. Sheryl Rexrode says:

    I have lost three babies (5wks, 7wks, and 20wks) in the last 18 months. I have really be struggling to find a way to deal with and heal through my losses. I am struggling with depression and how to balance my family (husband and living children) and my feelings regarding my losses.

  30. I like taking photos and I loved taking photos of Joel, when he was born sleeping in March 2011. These are the only memories I have that I have a son and he was perfect in every way. I would have loved to have been able to take proper photos of him, and we didn’t have a professional photographer, and I would love to know how to take photos professionally.

  31. This class sounds like the very outlet my heart has been searching for! I’ve found some healing in a couple of creative projects that I’ve started since the death of my 3 month-old daughter, Kristen, in August 2009. Both have been a way to keep my hands busy and to reach out to other hurting hearts, but I would love to learn a new and meaningful way to express my own heart through the lens of my camera.

  32. I “like” you on facebook! (And thank you for the iPhonography tips…I just got an iPhone last week!)

  33. I follow Beryl on Twitter!

  34. I have finally gotten a great camera and on Lilly’s one year anniversaries I started my photography journey. I have always wanted to get into photography.

  35. Sarah Geigswitt says:

    I want to be a part of the illuminate course because I need a creative outlet and more healing. I know this process will uncover places I have not traveled on my daughter’s grief path. I feel exploring it with a creative spirit will feel safer than jumping into the deep water’s of loss without intention and hope.

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