Heartbreaking Story Behind the Photo of These 19 Moms

Why these women gathered and what they gained.

ByABC News
November 4, 2015, 11:46 AM
These 19 moms who lost their children gathered for a heartbreaking photo and companionship.
These 19 moms who lost their children gathered for a heartbreaking photo and companionship.
Courtesy Pamela Bales

— -- It's been 16 years since Teresa Byrd lost her son, Christian, who was just 17 months old at the time of his death.

The pain never goes away.

That's the commonality between the 19 women who gathered for the photo taken in late October in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. They have all lost children. And though their stories vary widely, they do share that common bond.

"We're together, but we're still alone," said Byrd. Her own son was born with both DiGeorge syndrome and velocardiofacial syndrome and died from complications following open heart surgery. She said she always knew there was a possibility she might lose Christian, but a friend of hers who lost her child in a drowning accident never had any indication.

Byrd said she realized "there are so many of us," when she attended a conference three years ago and the speaker talked of a child she had lost and realized many other women in the room had too. It was there, too, that she got the idea for the photo, but it wasn't until recently one of those women encouraged Byrd to make it a reality.

"People tiptoe around you when you lose a child," she said. "No one knows what to say and you feel like you can't talk about your child. I want people to know that Christian was here, that he lived, that he mattered."

Byrd, who has five other children, said that Christian would have been 18 years old this month. "I'm always trying to keep that fact that I have six children alive," she said.

She credits social media with helping moms find others who might be able to, in some way, understand their grief. "When Christian died, there was no Facebook. Even today, when you look at greeting cards, there's one for losing a spouse a grandparent, even a dog. But it's really hard to find one the addresses the loss of a child."

As for the women who turned out for the photo, Byrd said some felt uncomfortable at first, but then most felt a sense of peace. One mom, she said, didn't want to leave.

"I want mothers [who have lost children] to know that they are entitled to feel whatever they are feeling. There's judgement if you're angry, like you can't be mad at God. then there's judgement if you're happy, if you don't seem sad enough, like you didn't love your child. Baloney. It's been 17 years [since Christina's death] and one day a photo of him will bring me great joy and the next I look at it and it's like I've been punched and can't breathe. And I still have no idea what triggers it."