Chrissy Teigen and John Legend publicly grieve the death of baby Jack

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The celebrity couple has long found a way to make their online presence seem intimate, real, and fun, letting people into their lives via carefully curated photos and lots and lots of sharing. But by sharing the painful end of Teigen’s pregnancy, the pair have done the world a favor by acknowledging the dark times, too.

Teigen’s third pregnancy was revealed in a music video for Legend’s latest single “Wild.” Later, on her social feeds, she shared it had been a surprise, unexpected delight in a difficult time.

But on Tuesday, Teigen wrote on Twitter that she’d been having “scary” complications, including bleeding and a “huge clot,” and that “the scramble to hear the heartbeat seemed like hours. I never thought I’d relief sigh so much in my liiiiife.” Teigen had remained hospitalized, “to kind of get through the danger zone or whatever.”

And yet, for all their candor, it still came as a shock that the pair chose to post photos of their palpable grief after their baby died, including a photo of Teigen cradling a discreetly swaddled infant, her husband consumed by pain.

“We are shocked and in the kind of deep pain you only hear about, the kind of pain we’ve never felt before. We were never able to stop the bleeding and give our baby the fluids he needed, despite bags and bags of blood transfusions. It just wasn’t enough,” she wrote on Instagram.

The post reminded me of an extraordinary story in The Atlantic that chronicled the work of Todd Hochberg, a photographer with a poignant specialty: He photographs families in the hospital after the death of a baby. He calls himself a bereavement photographer, and has come to embrace the unique comfort his work can provide.

“For parents, these photographs document one of the worst days of their life. But they also represent the few cherished memories they will ever have of their child,” says the writer Sarah Zhang. “Hospitals used to whisk stillborn babies away from their parents, but they now recognize the importance of memories in grieving.”

In this fascinating interview, Hochberg shares how he transcended his anxiety about being present at such a difficult time, and what it means to make a portrait of a family in shock. “The photographs are one more thing to help them bond and grieve more completely. They affirm their baby’s life, validate the feelings they’ve had,” he says. “There could be many years of hopes and dreams for this baby’s existence, and to not have evidence—I use the term touchstones. The photographs become touchstones for a family’s own experience and their own feelings.”

Grief is not something modern culture handles well, and I expect the response to Teigen’s post about losing the baby they call Jack will be mixed. “Jack worked so hard to be a part of our little family, and he will be, forever,” she said in her post. “To our Jack—I’m so sorry that the first few moments of your life were met with so many complications, that we couldn’t give you the home you needed to survive. We will always love you.”

To the degree with which their fans were looking forward to watching Jack grow up, it is now a shared grief, of a sort. But for those who have lost and who suffer or are engulfed by the death of a loved one—and specifically, a lost pregnancy—the couple’s public expression of their anguish offers a different, and perhaps more powerful comfort: Grief is normal, universal, and you are not alone.

Ellen McGirt

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