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Posts tagged ‘healing’

New Session of Meaningful Making Open!

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Registration is now open for my summer session of the Meaningful Making eCourse! This creative online course is for anyone who has experienced the loss of a loved one. During our month-long journey, beginning June 12th, we will be exploring the power storytelling has to heal. I will guide you through writing, photographing, and painting some of your most vulnerable stories… allowing for raw expression, gentle acknowledgement, and reenergizing to occur. If you feel alone in your grief, or would just like the chance to tell your story in new ways and have others be there to listen, come join us!

Sign up before May 15th to receive the Early Bird price of $65!
To learn more and get your spot, hop over to my main website: http://www.streanor.com/maketoheal/

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Since writing is a big part of this course, I am also gifting the first 5 to register one of my beautiful, custom-painted Moleskine journals! I love making these for people, and thought this was a wonderful tie-in the the class itself. There are still a few of these beauties left… Sign up now before they’re all gone!

REGISTER NOW!

Project Update: Into the Unknown

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There are new things on the horizon, I can see it. New landscapes I’ve yet to explore – within my artistic career and myself. I’ve been feeling it for some time now… and as I sat down today to write week 37 of the series, I somehow ended up with THIS post inexplicably. So I’m deciding to pay attention… to listen to whatever stirrings have finally decided to come out….

Closing One Chapter:
Although I have not reached a full 52 weeks on the project, I have made it a full year of shooting the series. (A few weeks were missed for holidays and bad weather). And so I’ve decided that I will make the informal close of the first year be at week 35. The dates of my last 5 or 6 posts I think will reveal I’ve slowed down things a bit. It’s good, in a way… it is because so much life has been happening. Rushing in quickly since the beginning of the year. Still, Life is happening, indeed.

I never planned on Week 35 to be the closing image, but somehow looking at it now, it feels appropriate. It is about the point in which life truly begins again… the rushing in of life and the reaching out into it. It suddenly feels just right for this image to close one chapter and allow for the next chapter to begin.

I say the “close of the first year” because I’m intending to continue “Still, Life” indefinitely, but at a slower pace. Perhaps one image a month. Or perhaps just organically as life allows room for. I will be working that out out over the coming weeks and months. I’ve still many shots planned for this series and others still unknown that will come – so I’ve no doubt that this is now going to be a series I carry on for a very long time.

Into the Unknown:
As for what lies ahead… there are other things my ambitious heart is yearning to get itself into. It’s a bit terrifying, and I have no idea where it’s going yet, but I’ve got some ideas. I’ve just submitted my first proposal for a public speaking engagement on death and creativity. I want to begin speaking to people about the healing power of creativity, about everything this project has taught me in the past year. About everything I’ve learned over the course of my life about creativity and healing, and the power of death to help us live life more fully. There is so much to share from behind the scenes of this series, and I’m feeling like it’s time to begin making room for that.

Along with public speaking, workshops, articles, and the like… the even bigger project that is calling my name is the “Still, Life” book. I have dreamt of this since I first begin the series. Have held it in my mind and heart all this time. With every image and every word written… with every painstaking hour and uncomfortable position I put myself in for a shot… always, the book was there in the background whispering to me. A physical manifestation of one woman’s voyage… navigating the depths of herself as she lives through death, loss, fear, anger, and despair… coming out the other end more powerful and more alive than ever before.

This is the first time I’ve been so open about sharing of the book. I’m hoping it lands in supportive hearts… I’m having faith that it will be heard by just the right people out there who can help me to make it happen too. I believe in those connections… in opening the door and the right person walking in. I’ve got faith and things to share and I know the right publisher will be found. And the right speaking and writing opportunities will too. If you’re out there read this, and have any advice, ideas, or connections for me, feel free to leave a comment below or message me on my Facebook page. My heart is open, I’m ready for what’s ahead, and I’m all ears.

I want to thank everyone who has been on this journey with me thus far, whether you have been enduring your own journey with death or not. The growth and number of lives this project has touched could not have happened without every one of you. When it’s gotten hard to keep going, just knowing I had an obligation here – with you – kept me pushing ahead. And it will continue to do so as I take my first steps into the next phase of this journey… onward it goes. Thank you all!

Week 36 // Balance

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I’ve been waiting for this image for a long time. Over the past year it has evolved in various forms until the idea of creating a story around heartstrings came up. The original of the idea came from hearing a story about a woman’s near-death experience recently, in which she described leaving her body but seeing literal strings connecting her heart to all the other hearts around her. That clicked for me as the perfect concept for this shot.

I’ve sat with all the images from this shoot for over a week now because so many of them turned out to be very powerful. So much so that I’m thinking I will break it out into its own smaller series – in color. I’ve certainly had a hard time choosing just one for this series, but this is the one that is speaking to me today.

The heart story. Connections, love, vulnerability, tension, fear, courage. The heart is a raw, wild place inside us that we only ever allow a very select few to see. Personally, I like it that way.

There has been, all my life, this constant tension between myself and the outside world. I have lost far too many people in my 32 years to be frivolous about who I attach it to. This isn’t something that has been caused by my fiance’s death, but likely by the death of my mother when I was very young and likely also to the dysfunctional nature of my childhood. I turned inward when she died, and spent much of my time within my own heart and mind. Safe from the pain of losing others. Over time, I became an expert at keeping connections at bay… but in the background, I always knew there was something about this that I didn’t like. It was all too easy to sever ties with most people because I never let them connect to me in the first place.

My fiancé’s love changed all that. He crept into the depths of my heart in ways that I had not allowed anyone else to. His essence wrapped itself around the deepest, darkest, most vulnerable parts of me. There was no fixing, just existing. Together. Wrapped around each other’s darkness. And around each other’s light. I let him all the way in. When he died, I could do nothing but bleed for a very long time. The brokenness made it impossible not to.

So it was his death which actually began to change something in me. In particular, the trauma and shock of how suddenly he died. It ripped my heart right out of my chest. What I didn’t know back then, is that although this meant my heart was now more vulnerable than ever, it also meant that it was more out in the open to receive love. That’s the thing of it – to receive love, to create connections, we must be willing to put our hearts out into the open and risk them being ripped apart.

It’s a terrifying thing. In the past few months, there have been some powerful shifts for me that have led to new challenges. There have been events and people who have come into my world which have pushed me to decide whether I will continue working to keep my heart our there in the world. Beginning to date again, and move into deeper friendships with men again, has been one of the biggest struggles of late. Particularly because it began to present itself so without warning and it has uprooted all sorts of things I had yet to begin to work through.

As I move forward, I’m learning a new balance with the outside world. I am not hiding my heart away like I used to. Finding less need for that now. I am not leaving it out in the open either though. I am holding it close to me, grasped firmly between strong hands – protected, but connected. Allowing others to grab hold of my heartstrings without letting them pull me out of balance. Choosing people who will not want to pull me out of balance. From here, I can loosen or tighten my grip as needed, in order to feel safe. And I can trust others respect that and do the same for themselves. The tension is no longer a negative. It is no longer out of balance on one side or the other, but instead like two equal forces, myself and the hearts of everyone else around me, creating power, energy and stability in the space between us.

PURCHASE PRINTS HERE

“Still, Life” is a year-long self portrait series exploring the journey of grief. You can read more about the project in this post. To see the full image gallery visit 2014 PROJECT. Please share with anyone who you feel can relate to the imagery, my hope is that it gives many others a visual for something they are going through in their own lives.

Week 33 // Point of Return

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I wanted to talk a bit in this post about the idea of claiming yourself again on the journey of grief. It seems, as I am discovering, that there comes a time when you begin to truly be done with the heaviness of grief at its worst. After years of feeling and crying and aching and longing… years of shutting yourself out from the world and from life, years of clawing your way through the mud and fighting for your very life… I think there comes a time when a shift begins to happen. And you begin to return to yourself and to life.

As I was talking to my grief coach this week, I shared something that I’ve struggled with the past three or four months in relation to this project. I explained to him that for several months now – without entirely realizing it – I was moving into a new landscape in my life but was holding back from showing it in the images. Some part of me felt uneasy to show that shift. For me, creating images out of a place of pain is far easier than from a place of strength.

I suppose it has something to do with why so many of us struggle to show our boldest and most bright selves. We are all fighting a fear of shining too bright and of what people will think of us if we do. Beginning to capture the parts of this journey I could never plan – like returning to life – has been a deep struggle for me.

There have been some extremely long months of being in serious battle over each image and the entire project. It wasn’t an internal battle as well – with not wanting to embrace this part of the journey yet. Not wanting to boldly admit that I am feeling healed enough to move toward life again. But as each of the images unfold in the past few weeks – I’m discovering such a deep alignment with exactly where my soul is right now… and I’m seeing how incredibly healing and beautiful it is to fully own wherever I am.

This week’s image ties back to several other shots in the series in a very prominent way. Visually it ties very closely to Week 15: Surrender. That image was representative of letting ourselves sit within our pain and perhaps give that pain to some higher force.This week speaks of surrender too, but in a little different way. Not surrender into the pain, but instead, surrender into the life that is left.

The other image that it ties to in a very major way is Week 19: Between Two Worlds. That image spoke of feeling torn between two worlds – the life I have now and the life I had with him, as well as this earthly life and the beyond. It was about being caught in the middle of the tension of all of those worlds.

This week, there is something very different going on with those boundaries within me. There is a feeling of lightness stirring in me that hasn’t been there before. A feeling that I am moving more fully into life again, stepping above the darkness and returning to myself.

I cannot express how impossible it all seemed two and a half years ago that I would be coming to a point like this. And more importantly, for it to feel okay. I feel assured that he will be as much with me in the skies of a new life ahead as he was in the landscape of our life together. Simply put, it is feeling strangely okay to live life again. To fill my world with everything there is left in life and not worry that it will mean he is less a part of it all. I’ve feared that for so long… but gently, slowly, over time, I’ve come to see it isn’t the case at all. He goes wherever I go. He will always be my wings, bringing me back to myself.

BUY THIS PRINT

“Still, Life” is a year-long self portrait series exploring the journey of grief. You can read more about the project in this post. To see the full image gallery visit 2014 PROJECT. Please share with anyone who you feel can relate to the imagery, my hope is that it gives many others a visual for something they are going through in their own lives.

Week 13 // Frozen

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Something incredibly deep happened with this week’s portrait. I honestly do not think I can put into words how this image goes straight to my core – and how shocked I am that it came out of me. As I got further into processing it today, I found myself with tears wilting down my cheeks at least a dozen times. There’s no doubt in my mind something outside of me was channeling through.

Quite often as I bring my images into the computer, a certain song begins to play in my mind. I normally don’t share the songs that accompany the images, but I felt very strongly compelled to share this one, so I hope you’ll listen as you soak it in and think of this song in the light of loss – where a life shared with someone so dear now often seems as though it were a dream: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TZ44x0GnKh4

My idea was to capture the feeling of being trapped, frozen just on the other side of where life exists so lush. It is the feeling that my fiancé’s death gave me – being so completely surrounded by vibrant and beautiful life and being so unable to reach it or feel it. Essentially, for me, it is about navigating your daily life with an empty, haunting, deep pain that prevents you from experiencing the beauty right before you.

It is a feeling we will all experience at some point in our life – whether for years or fleeting moments. It might not even come from the death of someone we love. It might come from another darkness we are in that slowly freezes us below the surface just the same. Some of us might spend years here. Some of us might not ever make it out in our lifetime. It’s true. But here is one good thing I do know about this state…

Even in the hardest winters of your life – when you cannot feel a thing for how cold you have become and you feel as close to dead inside as possible – you are still alive. You are hibernating. And if used wisely, this can be a time which gives you incredible strength. A time in which you can come to know yourself to depths of which you have never known existed. And one day, there will come a moment when something will warm your life again. And when that day comes, you will be stronger. You will be wiser. You will be more deeply present to feel every touch and smell every scent of it. And it will be ten thousand times sweeter than anything you knew before the winter. I have known death. I have known abuse. I have known pain and darkness most of my life. And if there is one thing I know for certain, it is that life is always waiting just above the surface. Keep your eyes open and your heart fearless… your spring will come.

“Still, Life” is a year-long self portrait series about living on after loss. If you’re new to this project, you can read more about it in this post.
Please share
 with anyone who you feel can relate to the imagery, my hope is that it gives many others a visual for something they are going through in their own lives.

Week 11 // Sanctuary

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When you lose a parter, you lose your sanctuary in a very real way. The person you used to go to with your most vulnerable feelings, daily stresses, irrational fears, crazy hopes, ridiculous doubts and horrible secrets is no longer there. You have lost your home and all the safety, warmth and encouragement that came with it. I personally don’t think there is any more debilitating trauma than to lose our sanctuary – whether it be a parent, partner, child, sibling, or best friend.

For my fiancé and I, our home was very much each other. We were deeply bonded. The space between us was sacred – a sanctuary where each of us was protected, loved, and accepted above all else. This was the core of what we shared, and in this, we were home. Nothing has ever made me feel as vulnerable, lost, scared, sad, hopeless, tired and in danger as losing the sanctuary we so carefully and lovingly built together.

I once read a quote that said “The thing with feelings, is to make it safe to feel them all”, and that is what a sanctuary is for. A large part of this “after” life now is about learning to recreate this space in a new way. As it turns out, building the nest for this image was just as powerful as the end moments of laying down inside the curves of it. I was reminded that a sanctuary must be created – piece by piece. That it takes times, and that one must carefully select only the most loving people, encouraging thoughts, and inspiring things to build it with.

Even though my sanctuary now is very different from the one he and I built together, parts of him still surround me there… and it is still the place where all of me is safe and nurtured. For me, this image is a reminder for those times when I am impatient with myself or I begin to feel lost, angry, or scared. In those moments, I am learning now to step back into the gentle womb of my new sanctuary, breathe deep, and allow myself to rest safety until I am restored.

“Still, Life” is a year-long self portrait series about living on after loss. If you’re new to this project, you can read more about it in this post.
Please share
 with anyone who you feel can relate to the imagery, my hope is that it gives many others a visual for something they are going through in their own lives.

Week 7 // Hope

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Hope is an incredibly small thing when you are in a very broken place in your life. I don’t think it is something that looks bubbly and enormously bright and fills up the room – not when you are in total darkness. At the beginning of this journey through grief, for me, there was not even any room for hope. I was in total despair almost entirely for the first six months. But there were, in those early months, small glimpses. It did not come rumbling in with bold splendor, but instead appeared in small, subtle ways. Like the first time I was able to take my camera out and photograph the sunset and ENJOY it, about a month after he died. Or the first moments that real, honest, laughter happened. Or in the sharing of painful stories with another wounded soul and helping each other feel less alone. Or going art galleries and filling up my soul with inspiring and beautiful artwork that somehow made my incredibly broken soul sing for a few moments.

Hope isn’t always easy to see or find amidst the debris of a broken world. It can be easily overlooked when you are so tightly focused on the pain and on keeping things together. I have learned in my grieving that to find it, I must try to always keep a part of myself reserved – assigned to the job of looking only for hope wherever it can be found. The rest of me can wallow and cry and scream – all 98%… but that other 2% of me must always be looking for hope. No matter how small, no matter where. Find it.

Hope is the most powerful thing you can have in your hands when you are going through a deep loss. When you have fallen into the depths of grief and there feels like no way out will ever come… even the smallest proof of light can entirely reframe your world. Even if you cannot see the sun – even if you don’t want to open your eyes and try – to have some small piece of evidence that it indeed still exists somewhere creates a visual in your heart of a place you want to be. And that visual, if you hold it with you as often as possible, eventually, will get you to the sun.

If you’re new to this project, you can read more about it in this post.
Please share
 with anyone who you feel can relate to the imagery, my hope is that it gives many others a visual for something they are going through in their own lives.

Week 3 // Relics of our Time

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When someone dies, we receive back so little of them… not the warmth of their hands, or the glow in their eyes, or the song of their laughter.  We have only objects to remind us – and they become worth their weight in gold to us. He was halfway across the country when he died, there was no getting to him. I was returned his things mysteriously from a far away place. They are the pieces of him that clung tightly to his body when his soul decided not to anymore.

He wore this watch every single day for all the years we knew each other. Took it off only to go to sleep at night. It was the watch that got him to our first date 15 minutes early just to be sure I wasn’t waiting – and every other date we ever had exactly as early. It was the watch he always told me the time from, because I was too lazy to read a watch myself and I liked that he would do it for me. It was the watch that got us to every concert and to all the parties with our friends or family on time. Despite the fact that I worked at a watch company, he never wanted another one. This was the only watch he ever wanted to wear. And because so, whenever I look at it, I see him. It so completely embodies him and – most importantly – our precious time together.

If you’re new to this project, you can read more about it in this post.
Please share
 with anyone who you feel can relate to the imagery, my hope is that it gives many others a visual for something they are going through in their own lives.

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