These images are 'too much' for some people.

Jubilee Shalom Duggar was to be the 20th baby of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar but during a routine check-up in the second trimester they  received the news she had died in utero.

According to People: “After the appointment, we came back home and told the children. We had just been talking about baby names last night and they were getting excited about naming a boy or a girl. It has been a real sad disappointment.”

“I feel like my heart broke telling my children. They have all been so excited about this baby and looking forward to April coming around and having a new little one in our arms. That was the most difficult. The Lord is the giver of life and he can choose when that life is ready to go on and be with Him.” The couple have 19 children.

There are many critics of the Duggars; people who believe they should have stopped at 5 children, 10 or even 15. People who criticise the risks they Duggars are taking by refusing to use contraception – even after their 19th child was born extremely prematurely two years ago, spent months in hospital and continues to suffer severe medical complications.

Whatever your view on that, the latest controversy around the Duggars is about something different. It’s about the way they chose to commemorate the loss of their 20th child Jubilee in a memorial service last week.

As part of the order of service handed out to mourners, there were photos of Jubilee’s tiny hands and feet, held by her mother after she was born. The images are certainly confronting but are they ‘distasteful’?

The images were originally intended only for private viewing by those present but when a young cousin at the memorial service tweeted them and they became public, the Duggars posted one of the images as a background to an audio of the eulogy Michelle Duggar wrote for her daughter (you can hear it below).

Cue: outcry among some who have described the images as ‘creepy’ among other things. Writer Roz Zurko from the Hartford Examiner wrote:

The Duggar’s tweeting a picture of their miscarried baby and using pictures of the fetus for memorial cards is getting some backlash today. The use of the fetus for this purpose is called “creepy” and “in bad taste today.” While many are reporting on the story today, it was the National Enquirer who finally came out and said what others may be thinking. “This is just creepy.”

Sure, the images are confronting to look at and they certainly make me think in very different terms about Jubilee, and the Duggars’ loss. There is something about seeing the perfectly formed hands and feet of Jubilee that makes her seem more “real”, more like a daughter and less like a statistic. In our culture, we are generally very uncomfortable about dealing with grief. We struggle with words when our friends fall sick, we falter when someone dies and often we have no idea how to express our own sorrow. But not the Duggars. They expressed their grief very openly via a memorial service for their 20th daughter. And I for one applaud them. They are mourning the loss of their child as they would the death of any child.

Jubilee Duggar and her mother MIchelle

The idea that there is something “creepy” or distasteful about grieving parents photographing a dead child baffles me.  I suffered many miscarriages on my journey to motherhood and sometimes, okay OFTEN, I wish I had something tangible to remember those babies that never came home. It wouldn’t lessen the pain but it would certainly help acknowledges the existence of these lives.

Burying the pain and the evidence of loss doesn’t make us stronger, it just hides our pain.

This is a gallery that we have published before. It documents the amazing work of Heartfelt, a volunteer organisation of professional photographers from all over Australia who have come together to give the gift of photographic memories to families that have experienced stillbirths, premature and ill infants and children in the Neonatal Intensive Care Units of their local hospitals, as well as children with serious and terminal illnesses.

The following letter was recorded by Michelle and played at Jubilee’s memorial service.

Jubilee Shalom Duggar from WMtek Inc on Vimeo.

If this post has brought up any difficult or painful feelings or you need someone to talk to please call Kids and SIDS 24 hour bereavement support line on 1300 308 307.

What’s your reaction to the images? If you’ve experienced miscarriage or stillbirth, how have you commemorated that loss?