Seeing light in the darkest of places
by Tanya Smith


The image I have used denotes a lonely mother who has just lost her child. This piece of photography gained inspiration from a G.P. placement attachment I undertook this spring, where I visited a mother who grieved the loss of her child. The patient suffered from severe substance abuse and after involvement with social services, she lost the ability to be the sole guardian of the child. She now has limited supervised access, but still feels she has lost her basic rights as a mother, to care for her child. The patient involved has given consent to use her story, for the purpose of confidentiality I will for to her as Christina.

Christina voiced mixed feeling of anger, and relief over the removal of her child from her home. She spoke of hope, her new-found motivation to stop drinking and the shame she felt from her past behaviour. The image tries to depict these feelings of mixed emotions; this duality was approached by vertically dividing the image through lighting, one half of the picture has dark undertones. In contrast the other is very bright and shows colour. The light almost absorbs the image and alters it, to show how the past cannot be altered but there is hope for the future.

During her debilitating addictive episodes, Christina described the monochrome feeling, a life without colour, just living through shades of black. This obscured her feelings for her baby, preventing her from seeing the love she has for her baby. The blanket which she used to cradle her baby before the child was taken is empty. However, only now that it is empty she can really appreciate what losing her child really meant. This loss can be extended to the need for her to lose her old way of life, to remove the cause of her loneliness.

The oval shape connotes the continuity of the time, and signified how it is possible to ‘see’ into someone’s feelings, when in a caring role. Time can often seem sporadic in such a situation and a sense of time can be lost under such extreme emotional stresses. It is important to be aware of these issues and recognise a trigger that leads a person to change. From talking to Christina, the role of the healthcare professional to her was to accept her as a woman seeking help and not to turn her away; a person with unconditional listening skills. However, individuals revealing destructive personality aspects are not always in an emotional place to listen and cannot always be helped; this reflects an ideal professional relationship and one which we should all aspire to.

Whole Person Care, Year One, 2010