A few Saturdays ago I sat with a cup of coffee and looked out my casement windows to what was promising to be a glorious sundrenched spring day. I ran down my list of things to do, which was endless. The weed infested garden demanded attention, dirty clothes sat in the laundry room hamper and I needed to stop at the grocery store. I was not inspired, for what I really wanted was to go into my art studio and create. There was a time when my to-do list would have won out, but life changed me. On October 11, 2001 my 17 year-old daughter, Kristin Rita Strouse, ended her own life.
Like many other defining moments in people’s lives, that traumatic loss, closed the door on life as I knew it. It set me on a journey I never could have imagined. In the chaos of those early years, the only thing in my control was how I embraced each day. What was once important, fell by the wayside. I entered into a creative process for my own healing and stepped into the world of collage. Paper, scissors and glue became my saving grace. I needed to take care of myself, if I was to make it through.
Over the past ten years my creative process provided the space for me to move from surviving to thriving. While in my studio I entered a relaxing timeless dimension. I was present to each moment, just as it was. I created and allowed what was wanting to move through me to come into form. A candle burned while I listened to the music I loved and collaged into my life. I was released, restored and rejuvenated because of the time I gave to myself. Rather than placing myself at the bottom of my to-do list, I placed myself at the top. I could not put myself aside like I had done in the past. Ultimately, I was in a better place to engage my every day.
I leafed through magazines and tore out words and images that reflected my inner world. I created large poster-size pieces and small, 5 by 8 inch collages on cardboard. I collaged on empty boxes of tissues and small paper globes. Recently, I collaged into an antique children’s storybook. In a way I rewrote my own story. My personal creative explorations turned into a template of healing for others. I traveled around the country offering workshops and presentations for The Compassionate Friends (TCF), an organization for parents who have lost children, and The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), the national veteran’s service organization that provides emotional support, grief and trauma resources for all those affected by the death of a loved one in the armed forces.
Life and loss happen; it is a part of the human condition. How we choose to meet our life is up to us each moment. My passion was collage. Whatever your passion, be it gardening, reading, yoga, painting, tennis, walking or running, the important lesson is to surrender yourself to what you love. Creating….time for yourself is an act of love.
Sharon Strouse holds a degree in psychology and a master’s degree in art therapy. She became a survivor of suicide on October 11, 2001 when her 17 year-old daughter Kristin, ended her own life. This event began her journey into the depths of grief, self-discovery and healing. Her collage making process, in response to the trauma, developed into a template for work with others. She is a nationally sought after workshop presenter, author and artist. Her private practice in Baltimore, Maryland includes art and meditation. She and her husband, Douglas, are co-founders of The Kristin Rita Strouse Foundation for Mental Health Awareness, Education and Suicide Prevention. (http://www.krsf.com/)
Sharon offers art making and meditation workshops, locally in her studio. (http://www.attherefuge.com/)
Sharon is proud to be in the inaugural issue of The Spirited Woman Directory, which is bringing together women from around the world in a massive collaborative effort. Women from six countries and 25 states are featured in the magazine-style digital Directory celebrating the “every woman” visionary, who are inspiring and changing the world, one Spirited Woman step at a time.