Powerful portraits shed light on the best and worst things people have said to women after a miscarriage

Portraits by Melanie PhotographyPhotographer Melanie Paterak’s photo series features both positive and negative words that have been spoken to mothers who have experienced pregnancy or infant loss.

Arkansas-based photographer Melanie Paterak is shedding light on the way people respond to pregnancy and infant loss through a powerful photo project called “Positive Words,” in which mothers shared the best and worst things that were said to them during their time of grieving.

The series uses black-and-white as well as coloured images to compare the not-so-positive words to the words that helped mothers through a difficult time. In a Facebook post, Paterak explained that she hopes this photo series “will open up a conversation so women will know they’re not alone.”

Keep scrolling to see the words that stuck with grieving mothers.


Arkansas-based photographer Melanie Paterak photographed mothers who have experienced pregnancy or infant loss for a series titled “Positive Words.”

“She’s in a better place.” Was I not good enough?


She was approached with the idea by a local woman who had suffered a miscarriage, and who was later featured in the series.

“At least you didn’t have to get to know her and then lose her.”


Having gone through a miscarriage herself, Paterak decided to work with the woman to shed light on the positive, and not-so-positive, words that have been spoken to mums who have experienced loss.

“At least you weren’t THAT pregnant.”


Paterak posted on her business page in search of women who would be willing to show up to her studio the following day for the photo shoot …

“He is so handsome … at least you would never know he had a heart condition.”


… And was surprised by the number of mothers who came to tell their stories given the short notice.

“At least you’re still young … you can try again” (28 years tomorrow).


Each woman was handed a chalkboard and asked to write something a friend or family member had said to them after their loss.

“You aren’t going to cry on me, are you?” Rainbow baby: December 15, 2008.


The black-and-white images from the series represent the words that hurt women in their time of grief.

“You can try again … it’s not a big deal.”


“I truly understand that during a time of loss, people simply do not know what to say,” Paterak told Insider.

“At least you were not that far along.”


“Some of the best people with the most amazing heart and best intentions can say things that are interpreted differently during a time of pain,” she continued.

“At least you were able to get pregnant.” Two of my babies died.


“This isn’t anyone’s fault. But when we know better, we do better,” she said.

“I’m sorry you can’t have children.”


Paterak says the most difficult part of photographing this series was holding it together for the mothers.

“Just remember she doesn’t replace him.” (After stillbirth).


“I cried quite a bit but had to pull myself together to take the images. Of course, I had no idea until they actually arrived what their chalkboards would say, so they just moved me to tears,” she told Insider.

“There had to be something wrong with your baby.”


The series also featured coloured photos, which represent the positive words that mothers held onto during their time of grieving.

“She is beautiful!” My 36-week stillbirth girl was PERFECT.


“I wanted to show the positive messages so people knew that so much of what was said helped and kept us going during the hardest times,” Paterak said.

“All she ever knew was the love and warmth of being in your belly.”


When asked what advice she would give to people who want to offer kind words but don’t know what to say, Paterak responded, “A simple ‘I’m here for you’ is all that is needed sometimes.”

“Your baby will always be with you.”


“If you’re not sure what to say, just be there. Throw your arm around someone. Hug them,” she added.

“You are NOT alone.”


The heartbreaking reality is that more women will face pregnancy or infant loss, but Paterak hopes this series will remind people to “be slow to speak.”

“It’s not your fault.”


Although the series features some not-so-positive words, Paterak says the overall project “is meant to serve as a positive way to bring awareness to a hard subject.”

“I’m sorry. I know how much you wanted this. I’m here for you.”


She also hopes to shed light on the dads who have experienced loss in a future project.

“I want you to see that even through the greatest losses and sadness of the times you had, you, my beautiful baby girl, you will overcome it ALL.”

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