Roses For Thorns: Angela Rea

In the silence of our room, I feel you move through the walls, through the duvet we once shared and the pillow that held your fair head; the curtains sway and I wish it to be you. But it isn’t. Purely just a memory from a time when my heart was fully beating.

Hi, I am Angela, a widowed mum to a toddler boy, Elijah Micah. We have two dogs, a Border Collie and a Border Scollie called Flop and Millie, and a Russian Blue cat called Spider Pig or just Pig for short. You can find me on my blog here.

When my son was seven months old I tragically lost the love of my life, my husband Darrell, while he was on duty putting out a fire in his helicopter.

My whole world came crashing down – literally – Darrell was my whole world.

Darrell was the chief pilot for a very large aviation firm and it was an exciting and different life. One becomes very close to their spouse as their working environment is so unconventional. We were either living in each others pockets as Darrell did a home standby, or we were pining for each other when Darrell was up North for the fire season. We would talk at least 20 times a day and were continuously on WhatsApp with each other.

We did not like to do anything without the other one, and were actually known around town for being “That Soppy Couple” as we were always leaving parties or dinners early as we really just liked to be with each other.

We had a remarkable bond and even after so many years, we would tell each other that we loved the other one about ten times a day.

We were inseparable. Darrell used to say we were not soulmates but part of the same person.

Losing him has left me as half a person.

We waited a long time for our beautiful son and when he did finally come along, it was a dream come true. It is so hard to know that Darrell does not get to see and share in all the precious moments with Elijah growing up. I think that is what I find the hardest. Darrell was the best father any little boy could ever want. He had such a fun sense of humor and his presence in our lives is greatly missed every day.

I can not remember much from the first year after he died. I was numb. But I am slowly starting to feel again which is very scary as there is just so much pain.

When I first lost Darrell it was definitely a struggle to just be there for Elijah. I carried on breastfeeding him as I knew it was the right thing to do but emotionally I was just not present. I feel the biggest mountain definitely is knowing that Darrell is missing out. I get so emotional when Elijah does something extra cute or clever because I know Darrell would just love to be there.

Without him, I struggle to parent. I desperately want to know what Darrell would have thought and what his approach would be to everything regarding Elijah. It is impossible to be both a father and a mother to a child.

I find the lack of a male role model in Elijah’s life to be a very hard and real problem. Elijah is very lucky to have three amazing grandfathers but they can not replace a father, no one can –  a young boy also needs young men in their lives to tease them and play rough which is something that I just can not do and I worry greatly what the impact of that growing up will be. Who do you get to do the dad tasks? Elijah is desperate to go camping but I am just not sure that that is something I can do on my own, so is Elijah just supposed to miss out on all these rights of passage for boys? He already has lost the love that only a father can give and I just feel inadequate to do some of these things. Hopefully soon I will be brave and learn how to light a camp fire and put up a tent!

It has been over two years now and what no one seems to understand is that while the heartache might get fractionally easier, the missing part actually gets worse and I need people to know that even though two years is up I am still missing Darrell so much. I still cry most days and I still can not imagine a future without him.

That grief is very much physical. My heart literally aches for him – I  get a pain in my gut just thinking about the accident.

I have had a mixed response to becoming a blogger and being so open about my feelings – in some way I am concerned about people being disapproving and saying that I am just looking for attention out of all this – it’s not the case. It’s just my way of making some sort of sense of this tragedy.

The process of this series really made me search deep down in my feelings and come to terms with a few things and I know that that is a positive outcome.

For those who have suffered the same…

I want to give you a great big hug and be there for you; to listen to, and/or just hold your hand. Knowing what I know, there isn’t any way to comfort someone, other than being there for them.

For me, I decided quite early on that I did not want Elijah to grow up with a sad mommy. So we do have a lot of fun together.

I do not feel that a two year old needs to see his mother cry all the time. He needs me to be the one to dry his tears and not the other way around.

Though I might not feel like it, I do realize that I am in fact a strong woman. I was so dependent on Darrell but I have had to learn quickly to be independent. It was a very hard lesson.

The Concept:

The idea, the very thought, of losing my own husband is just unbearable and I so admire Angela’s perseverance and strength. Immediately, upon learning her story, we knew we wanted to portray her as a Phoenix rising from the ashes – to show her conquering fire, and lifting herself from the ashes.

We scouted a location that had recently been burnt, and asking Angela to pose there was quite an ask, how do you tell someone you want them to be in a place that has been blackened and charred by a force that poses such terrible memories.

The floral arrangements were truly amazing, bringing in the golds and reds of fire, but in a manner that gives life; the way they rose up the ladder, to depict how, out of nothing, life can continue, is a beautiful metaphor for Angela’s life.

For her crowns, the Gold Byzantium-inspired crown symbolized that despite not feeling like it, she is such a strong, powerful woman. The gold leaf crown portrayed her fun, mischievous side that gives her son so much joy. She truly is a fantastic parent.

This shoot wouldn’t have been possible without:

Styling and concept development: Tapestry

Dresses: Jacoba Clothing

Gold Regal Crown: Magpie Calls

Ladder: My Pretty Vintage

Floral arrangements and gold leaf crown: Epanouir Floral Studio

Makeup & Hair: Inge-Marie Hair & Makeup


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  • Reply Jonelle February 1, 2018 at 9:26 am

    I read this with a lump in my throat. It’s so hard to read any of the stories in this series and not feel like it’s a personal part of who you are as a person, a story told through someone else’s words. If I had died from my ordeal, Oden would have lived without a mom and all the things you say you feel about your beautiful boy not having a dad, are things that played over and over in my mind, I can’t die because he needs a mom. I’m so truly deeply sorry for your loss. I can’t even begin to imagine the pain you’re going through but I can say that your son is so blessed to have a mother with your strength. WOW. I’m just blown away.

    To the team, THANK YOU for making this possible. For sharing this story and our stories. I don’t have enough words to express how powerful this series is!

  • Reply Juwayra February 1, 2018 at 9:54 am

    I had to stop after reading the first few lines. I wouldn’t want anyone at the office see me balling my eyes out. I will continue reading this later at home.
    The photographs…ALWAYS gorgeous!

  • Reply Abieda February 1, 2018 at 9:57 am

    Wow!! So sad and yet so inspiring at the same time. My heart bleeds for you.

  • Reply Mandy Lee Miller February 1, 2018 at 11:21 am

    Ange, I can never read your mister’s name without my heart clenching. Every time you write about any of this, the feelings get more raw and powerful and that is your gift – you take your readers with you through all of it. Your blog is beautiful, it is a document of love for both your boys. These photos are everything as always Shante ❤️ And you totally caught the wicked sense of humour that is a hallmark of Angela’s being, and the haunting sadness just below the surface. Angie, you are exquisite my friend xx

  • Reply Tracey February 1, 2018 at 5:18 pm

    What a heartbreaking story! The images are really powerful, hope they help Angela in finding her strength during hard times x

  • Reply Sigrid February 2, 2018 at 12:44 pm

    My heart….
    It is incredible what we can live through. Oh Angela, I think we all clutch at ourselves at the thought of losing our spouses, but to actually experience it must be truly heartwrenching. Your strength for Elijah is amazing and admirable. I hope you have people who can support you the way you have supported him.

  • Reply Maz February 3, 2018 at 4:39 pm

    These images are so incredibly powerful… all of them. And this story… what a brave and strong woman. Her son is so lucky to have her as his mamma.

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