Today we’d like to introduce you to Ashley Jones.
Hi Ashley, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
After learning of my daughter’s terminal illness, a friend gave our family a portrait session. It was a beautiful gift in the moment, but after Skylar died at 21 months old, the photos provided a place to grieve. They gave me something tangible to hold long after Skylar was gone. They offered freedom in my feelings.
That gift provided so much healing in grief that I began to pay it forward by offering to do portrait sessions for any family I met facing a terminal diagnosis at no cost to them. As I gave more and more sessions, I realized something greater was taking shape – a way to capture love not lost.
Our 501c3 organization started serving people officially as Love Not Lost in 2016. Our vision is to scale to a national level – having companies come together to sponsor cities so that we can have photographers preserving memories of people facing a terminal diagnosis across the country. We are launching a grief and empathy training this year to help leaders in the workplace, which will provide a percentage of the funds necessary for expansion.
One last thing we want you to know about is our free online support tool at www.HowCanILoveYouBetter.com so you can ask anyone you know how to help them with a tangible offering (minus the awkwardness) and a calendar plugin so you can follow through.
Sign up for our newsletter on our website to be in the know of new events and programs as they launch: www.lovenotlost.org, we would love for you to join our virtual wine tasting on October 14th and Virtual Remembrance Walk happening Nov 19th. Tickets are available on our website, and registration for the walk is coming soon!
Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
We’ve been grassroots from the beginning, which has it’s pros but also cons. It’s not been smooth sailing by any means, especially because we deal with so many heavy emotions.
The biggest struggle has been fundraising and learning how to survive in the pandemic. We lost so much money on our gala that we had already paid for and planned for March 27th of 2020… and of course, canceled on March 10th as the world shut down. We worked to transform it into a virtual gala in the fall, and the same night of our virtual gala, a hurricane blew through the southeast knocking out power to most of our guests. We didn’t break even.
We got the first round of PPP but not the second. Searching for grants and applying for them is a full-time job in itself. I will put hours into searching, writing, and applying, only to get nothing for the effort.
Honestly, at the end of 2020, I felt like giving up. If it weren’t for our monthly givers (The Heartbeat of Love Not Lost) and an anonymous donor who gave $8,000 at the end of the year, we wouldn’t be here. I don’t think people understand how significant your contribution (of any amount) is to a small organization. It can make the difference in existing or not during tough times. So to all of you generous people out there who give back, THANK YOU! Your gift matters!!!
Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I am known for making people cry – not in a negative way, but in the healing way. My purpose in life is to create safe spaces for people to heal, something I didn’t discover until my daughter died and I was left to navigate the unimaginable grief with no guide. The photos we had of our family gave me that space to grieve… to feel… to heal. I’m always looking for ways to find creative solutions for big problems so I can be that guide for others looking for help.
Something that sets me apart is that I have the clarity and wisdom that only death can bring. I’ve walked through the valley, and although it’s taken years, I’ve discovered the beautiful journey hidden in the darkness. I’m a visionary with an addiction to learning (especially in emotional wellness, grief, trauma, healing, etc). But I’m also a doer. I love finding ways to cross-pollinate silos of information to find new gifts for our present moment in time.
I’m really proud of being invited to be featured on BBC and for speaking on the TEDx stage. However, I’d have to say my most proud moments are in motherhood through the final moments with my daughter. What I hope will be my proudest moment in life overall is getting to the end of my time and seeing firsthand that one person can in fact change the world if they don’t give up.
What has been the most important lesson you’ve learned along your journey?
Wow. There are truly so many lessons, which makes this question challenging… I think the most important thing is the awareness that every decision we make comes down to love or fear. And we are choosing one or the other, either consciously or subconsciously. One leads to cycles of pain where hurt people hurt people, and the other leads to wholeness where healed people heal people. I do my best to intentionally choose love over fear, which can be a constant battle moment to moment, depending on the day.
- $25/mo sponsors a photo album each year
- $85/mo sponsors a family session each year
- $35 sponsors a holiday gift for a family
- $250 sponsors a photo album for a family
- $1,000 sponsors a portrait session experience
- Website: www.lovenotlost.org
- Instagram: www.instagram.com/lovenotlostorg
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/lovenotlostorg
- Twitter: www.twitter.com/lovenotlostorg
- Other: www.linkedin.com/in/ashleynicolejones
Featured photo – Tessa Marie Photography.
The one of me on stage is compliments of Made South taken at their Gumption Conference.
All others – Love Not Lost