Roses For Thorns: Jonelle Du Pont

I shook the hand of death –  I made his acquaintance – and then I told him, in a voice that rang like thunder, I will not bow to you.

Hi, I’m Jonelle, a Mom, Wife, Ostomate, Writer and Community Development Practitioner!

I live in Cape Town with my family but I’m originally from Swaziland. I moved here in 2003 to attend university and I loved it so much that I never left.

I write the blog, , which is about intentional living, with a focus on living life positively, purposefully and authentically. I write about being resilient in the face of adversity and being proud of who you are and try to encourage people to live unapologetically! You can find me here: | |

I’m married to the love of my life, Gerard, and we have an almost two year old son called Oden. We also have two dogs and two cats and our life is a little chaotic. My son is a real life miracle story, he was a complete surprise to us after we were told we would never have kids naturally. We had actually already started planning to start IVF when I discovered I was pregnant. We live in Cape Town and if things go our way, we will be moving to New Zealand sometime this year.

I’ve had so much death in my family over the last few years and death changes you.

I’d say the most profound was the loss of my dad when I was 23. I was this naïve child who thought I’d be daddy’s girl forever but then he died in a car accident and suddenly I had to figure out the real world. I had no idea how to take care of myself but somehow I managed. I figured it out as I went along and made a few mistakes but my dad’s death really showed me how quickly everything you know can change. Death and grief have the power to destroy you.

I have had to learn over the course of the last decade to follow my heart and to trust my judgement. I’ve also discovered that I’m pretty darn resilient. Things happen to me and I find myself saying “you survived death and grief, you can get through this” and it helps to put perspective on things. It helps me to be realistic about what’s important and what’s not. Often we stress over things that are temporary, things that won’t matter in the next few years.

But, I wish people were more understanding of what the loss of a family member is like or what it’s like to know you could have died.

I struggled so much when my dad died, I lost friends because of it. I learnt that speaking openly about the grief wasn’t something that people appreciated.

Yet talking about your experiences is a way to deal with them and if people won’t let you speak about your feelings, how are you supposed to heal or to grieve?

I don’t want to pretend my dad was never alive. I want to remember him and I want to speak about him all the time. I wish it wasn’t so awkward for other people who don’t know how to deal with that. Just let me speak. I don’t expect you to make me feel better, I don’t expect you to have all the answers or to know the “right” things to say. I just need you to let me do what I need to do to get through it.

I need to speak about losing him.

I also need to speak about the fact that I nearly died, but people say things like “let’s not dwell on the negative” – I NEARLY DIED.

Yes, I nearly died. When my son was born, there were a number of complications at his birth that nearly killed me.

I had this idea of what becoming a mother would look like. I had this list of things that would happen starting with my straight forward natural birth to my breast feeding plan. NOTHING happened like I had hoped – At no point did I expect that the deviation from my plan would land me in ICU, in a coma.

I spent the first week of my child’s life in a glass room. I had to be on a ventilator in an induced coma. Nothing that you plan for includes that part. In this day and age you don’t expect how easy it is to die in childbirth. My newborn was brought to me in ICU and I’d have stolen moments with him. I was panicked we wouldn’t bond.

One of the hardest decisions I had to make was choosing strong antibiotics that would help heal me over breastfeeding. I had read all the breast is best stuff and I felt like I was putting myself over my child. I wanted to desperately be the mom who does what’s best for him but that would have meant dying. In the end, it didn’t make sense to fight the medication when that meant getting to watch him grow up. I am thankful that I had the medical team that I had. The nurses all held my hand, they cared for my child when I couldn’t. I couldn’t have done it without them.

I think people were really surprised at how positive I was about the whole situation. There was this unsaid feeling that everyone expected me to just fall apart and feel sorry for myself but instead I was just so thankful that I didn’t die. I’m so aware of what death does to the people you leave behind and I was so worried what my son would grow up to be like.

How would he deal with never knowing his mother? How would he cope without his mom? It gave me strength and determination to fight. I know that I survived because of him. If it wasn’t for him I don’t think I’d have had the fight in me to get through all the surgeries and all the recovery. I just kept telling myself that on the other side of this was the rest of my life with my child. That was enough to keep me fighting.

He’s now almost two and I’m still so thankful every time he does something new. Every word he says and every new achievement is a miracle to me because I nearly didn’t get to see it. I nearly missed the first of everything and I nearly had no idea how special and loving and kind this little boy could be. He lives on his own terms. I see so much of myself in him and I’m always aware of how I nearly missed it all.I love him with everything I have and I’m so grateful to be his mom. I want him to always feel loved, safe and protected with me.

I’m so aware of how precious life is and how it can all end without us even knowing it.

You will NEVER stop grieving over the loss of someone you love but I can tell you with certainty that eventually, you learn to live with your grief.

You learn to function again. Even though it may not feel like it now, there will be days in your future when you’re happy. The first time it happens, you might feel guilty for allowing your happiness to slip through the pain but that’s normal. I know for me, it helped to know that my dad would want me to be happy.

It’s hard when you lose someone but you have to remember that although they died, you haven’t and it’s okay to go on living.

I think I’ve learnt that I’m so much stronger as a person because of the pain and hurt I’ve endured.

I’ve realized that other people see me as a warrior and maybe they aren’t wrong. I’ve learnt to accept my own strength and acknowledge that although I feel pain, I am not my pain. I am not the grief and the sadness and the depression, I am a whole person with many sides to me and some of those sides are happy and carefree, but it’s the thorny sides of me that make me tough.

I think it’s a combination of the roses and the thorns that makes us special. We should embrace that.

The Concept:

I only met Jonelle face-to-face after inviting her to be one of our Roses, but I have, for a long time, admired her fierce strength and perseverance – her ability to bring people to attention with her words, her voice…a voice that we could have lost under a sea of grief. 

Her story was one that made me weep – this defining need to be heard and to have the world acknowledge her pain, her journey, her very soul. Nowhere did we feel more suited Jonelle than the ocean with its mix of calm and anguish, the waters ability to give life, yet also take it away, it perfectly echoed this incredible story.

The first initial image I saw in my mind was of Jonelle screaming at the sea to let her speak – silencing the waves because it’s her turn now. With a palette of blues and a beautiful mermaid-inspired crown, we wanted to show the lion-heart of this amazing woman, showing her conquering the depths, to be, almost, reborn.

This shoot wouldn’t have been possible without:

Styling and concept development: Tapestry

Dresses: Jacoba Clothing

Custom Crowns Headpieces and Bespoke Accessories: Magpie Calls

Veiling: Epanouir Floral Studio

Hair and Makeup: Madeleine Hair and Makeup

Photos shot with Canon 5DIII & 24-70 f2.8 lens. 

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  • Reply sandra January 17, 2018 at 6:40 am

    Wow what a beautiful story and what a strong women.Love it

    • Reply Jonelle January 18, 2018 at 6:46 am

      Thank you Sandra <3

  • Reply Jonelle January 17, 2018 at 6:55 am

    Oh my goodness me. I’m freaking sobbing at this incredible shoot! Thank you Shante for giving me the space to speak my truth and thank you for capturing this incredible photos. I loved working with you and Tam and I am so proud to be a part of this series. BLOWN AWAY <3

  • Reply chastin dreyer January 17, 2018 at 7:25 am

    This series is absolutely gorgeous and awe inspiring

  • Reply Shelley January 17, 2018 at 7:38 am

    I’ve always admired Jonelle for her strength. These images are beautiful and captures that inner strength brilliantly.

    • Reply Jonelle January 18, 2018 at 6:46 am

      All the love! xx

  • Reply Cindy Alfino January 17, 2018 at 8:06 am

    Another incredible story from one of the strongest women I know. Absolutely breathtaking!

    • Reply Jonelle January 18, 2018 at 6:46 am

      Thank you Cindy! <3

  • Reply Mandy Lee Miller January 17, 2018 at 8:13 am

    My Amazonian warrior princess friend who inspires me daily. Beautiful photos S xxx

  • Reply Jonelle January 17, 2018 at 9:05 am

    It’s weird that these comments are about me, when you’re in it, you don’t feel strong, you feel weak and helpless and then you get through it somehow and people see you as strong and it’s a weird feeling. Like what did I do to deserve these comments and for people to think this about me. Thank you so much everyone <3

  • Reply Celeste Booysen January 17, 2018 at 9:53 am

    In awe!! Just wow.

  • Reply Bonnie January 17, 2018 at 10:03 am

    Oh wow! Lovely post and absolutely stunning pics of my beautiful, super strong and brave daughter. Love this. ♡♡♡

  • Reply Anthea O'Neill January 17, 2018 at 10:12 am

    Wow, awe-inspiring story and photos. Jonelle, you look like a goddess. What incredible photography and powerful story!

  • Reply Juwayra January 17, 2018 at 10:22 am

    Wow, what a journey! Your strength is admirable Jonelle.

    Shante, you are amazing with your camera.
    And everyone else who played a part in the project, stunning, stunning, stunning!

  • Reply Celeste January 17, 2018 at 2:25 pm

    Brilliant series! The pictures are stunning.

    Jonelle you are one heck of an amazing human.

    • Reply Jonelle January 18, 2018 at 6:47 am

      Thank you Celeste!! <3 <3 <3

  • Reply Tracey January 17, 2018 at 6:54 pm

    Forever an inspiration Jonelle! X

  • Reply Melissa Javan January 18, 2018 at 4:01 am

    Incredible shoot. I agree with Mandy-Lee, you’re a warrior princess. Shante, this post breeds excellence.

  • Reply Jonelle January 18, 2018 at 7:06 am

    Thank you so much love!! X

  • Reply Belinda Mountain January 18, 2018 at 6:37 pm

    Amazing to read your story Jonelle and see and hear your strength. x

    • Reply Jonelle January 30, 2018 at 12:20 pm

      Thank you Belinda! <3

  • Reply Rugshana January 22, 2018 at 8:55 pm

    Beautiful and amazing story and the way it was captured

  • Reply Jonelle January 30, 2018 at 12:21 pm


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