Creativity is, for me, the most effective tool when navigating through the darkness of grief. A paintbrush or a wad of clay can allow me to express feelings that words are not able to touch. So often during those long and lonely nights after my daughter’s death I would sneak out of bed after my husband was asleep to sit in front of a canvas and paint and cry. Things that I didn’t know how to say, that I didn’t know how to explain, all poured out with the paint as I spread it across the canvas. It was a wonderful release and so necessary to me.
2. What happens in the creative workshops you conduct for bereaved parents?
My favorite project to do at workshops is the clay pot. It is perfect for a bereaved parent because it is symbolic of all they have suffered through and it allows space for destruction and creation. They begin with a clay pot and put a lot of time and effort into painting it before smashing it into pieces and piecing it back together to create a new form.
3. You wrote a book STILL, an amalgam of your art and writing. What do you envision STILL will do in the world?
When I made the decision to publish STILL, my simple hope was that another mother would find it spoke to her broken heart and maybe left her feeling less alone and less crazy in her grief. It has been two years since the book was published and it has already done so much more than I could have dreamed. It has reached broken-hearted parents and I’m constantly receiving emails from mothers who tell me that ther situation was so similar to mine and that they now feel more comfortable speaking about it because of the validation of our shared experiences. The book has also been handed to their families and friends so that they can better understand the depths of their loss; it has been made required reading for hospital staff and medical students in many hospitals; and it has become a staple in bereavement kits and memory boxes. I get moved to tears when I sit back and think about it. It has been the most beautiful, healing, life-altering experience for me.
More of Stephanie’s art can be viewed at www.beautyinthebreakdownart.blogspot.com