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Responding to the Bereaved: Of Butterflies and Hope

Butterfly in Glass by Wayne Stratz
Butterfly in Glass by Wayne Stratz, commissioned for parents who lost a child to cancer.

Stratoz and I are going to be interviewed for the Northampton Magazine, about alumni accomplishments.  One of the questions we were asked to consider was how Northampton Community College(NCC) prepared us to run a business.  At first, I didn’t know how to answer this question because I never would’ve have imagined having my own business when I was at the college.

Then I remembered, when I was 19, I petitioned to take a newly created class at NCC called Responding to the Bereaved, which was restricted to Funeral Service Education students.  NCC decided to let me in, and there I sat with 10 men and one woman studying to become Funeral Directors, learning about the psychology of loss and bereavement. I took the class because I felt compelled to, in wanting to understand my own pain, but class was a response to the needs of the Funeral students, who wanted more understanding of their clients, who were in the midst of grief.

Some of the members of the class grappled with the material, arguing that they weren’t counselors, and did they need to know all this psychology, but they were willing to consider the possibility.  Their profession was important to them, their role of guide at a moment of disruption.  I felt out of place as the only outsider, significantly younger than most of the students and the only other woman, but I was struck by the importance of the relationship between the person serving and those being served, and by the stories of the student’s own losses that arose in class discussions.  I most likely told Stratoz, when I met him that same year, that I wanted to be a bereavement counselor.

Now here I am, 25 years later, with our business Nutmeg Designs, and the relationship between artist and client is what guides both Stratoz and myself in our work.  We respond to grief at times, when someone commissions art as a remembrance, a gesture of love and healing.  Stratoz created a butterfly mandala in stained glass, commissioned by the friend of a couple that lost a child to cancer.  There is sadness in such a request, and yet such care.  This couple in turn commissioned a butterfly piece for another couple who lost triplets, carrying the hope for healing from their hearts to others.

How we met(Stratoz’s version): Meeting Mosaic Woman

Commission Stratoz

6 comments

  1. mary aalgaard says:

    Excellent response to the question, your class, and the healing power of your art. Best wishes in the interview and spreading that hope.

  2. Snowcatcher says:

    So many points in this post bring tears to my eyes but soothing to my heart and hope to my soul. I’m glad you stuck it out when you felt odd woman out. You make lives richer because of it.

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