Elise Weber

Elise21-year-old Elise Weber tragically lost her father earlier this year. The USA-based photography student shares what it was like to lose such an influential figure in this stage of her life and how his death inspired her current project “It Is What It Is.”

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What is one of your favourite memories with your father?

One of my favourite memories of my father was about a week before he died. My parents drove out to Texas from Alabama for my 21st birthday. I had given him my old camera and he was taking pictures of my party. We started talking about photography and he told me he was going to learn the manual controls and his goal was to take a picture that would “wow” me.

What were the circumstances behind your father’s death and what was it like to lose such an influential figure in this stage of your life?

I had driven home for spring break on March 8th. The drive took me about 10 hours after I had school and work the day before. When I got home my father greeted me at the door. I gave him a big hug and he suggested that I take a nap. When I got up I ran a few errands then my mom came home and dyed my hair. We went to bed around 1:00am. At 4:00am my mom woke me saying my father had just had a heart attack and the ambulance couldn’t find our house because it is located in between towns. He never regained consciousness. Losing him at such an important time in my life is devastating. He won’t see me graduate college or get married but with him gone I am even more dedicated in my pursuit to greatness because I know that’s what he wanted from me.

When did you become interested in photography and have you ever taken photography classes/courses?

I have been interested in photography as long as I can remember. When I was younger my parents would buy me disposable cameras and I would take pictures of everything. I would even put our pets in settings and photograph them. I am starting my senior year at Sam Houston State University to get my Bachelor of Fine Arts in photography. I plan on getting my Masters in photography when I graduate.

How has photography helped you to heal?

As I waited for the paramedics to do their work I felt an intense urge to grab my camera and photograph what was happening. I decided against it but at the hospital I gave in and started documenting everything and as soon as I lifted the camera, the pain subdued. Its as if a wall goes up between my emotions and the pain. I can turn off my emotion and focus on the image making. I know that my father would want me to do anything I can to heal and if it also expresses my creativity that is all the better.

Has this loss influenced your personal style at all?

With his death I had an extreme explosion of creativity. It burst forth from me like a plug had been pulled. My father had always thought that people were stuck in their “isms”. Their “isms” being how they act, how they dress, how they treat others according to what others think about them. He told me that he hoped that I wouldn’t get stuck in my “ism”. My burst of creativity not only affected my art but my style as well. In the healing process I discovered myself, which is the main turmoil in a young person’s life. I have broken out of my “ism”.

Tell us about your current project – what motivated you to do it and what meaning do you hope it will convey?

One of my current projects is “It Is What It Is”. These photographs are part of an ongoing series that started with my father’s death. I then photographed the birth of my first nephew on June 17, 2013. He was born on my father’s birthday who so happened to be born on Father’s Day 1951. The project will conclude on September 21, 2013 when my family performs a Viking burial just as my father would have wanted. Bryant H. McGill put it very succinctly, “Birth and death: we all move between these two unknowns.” It Is What It Is seeks to draw attention to the stages of grief and the different ways people cope with it. It brings forth feelings of love, thoughtfulness, confusion and pain. It shows how fleeting life can be and that death is an eventuality that comes whether we want it or not.

Elise2-saving his eyes to help someone else Elise3-CPR didn't work Elise7-Remembrance Elise8 Elise9-DSC_0361-2 Elise10-DSC_0414-2

What is one photograph you are particularly proud of and why?

One image I am proud of most is one of my mother clutching my father’s ashes titled “My Heart Hurts So Much”. It shows true grief and what true love really look like. What it looks like when one soul is ripped away suddenly from another. It makes one reflect on their own family and what it would be like to lose someone so precious to them.

My heart hurts so much

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I am doing everything I can to pursue my career in photography. In five years I would like to be just where my father said I would be, working for National Geographic. I would like to use photography to help others the way it has healed me.

Madeline Gibson

In keeping with this week’s theme of the healing power of photography, I wanted to share some photos by 15-year-old Madeline Gibson in Wisconsin, USA. Photography has helped the year 10 student deal with the loss of a close friend three years ago.

Maddy

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“I became interested in photography  a year and a half ago. My best friend bought a DSLR camera and whenever I went over to her house I would  use it. I realized how much I love taking pictures so I bought my own. I enjoy taking self portraits, especially emotive shots, and I like using vibrant colors. Photography has helped me deal with the loss of one of my best friends who died in an accident in 7th grade. It was very hard on me and I am still shocked that she is gone. Photography helps me to express my emotions. It gives me the artistic and individualistic freedom I need in order to express myself and it makes me feel better.”

Maddy1 Maddy2 Maddy3 Maddy4 Maddy5 Maddy6 Maddy7

Michelle Linn-Gust

Michelle Linn-Gust is an American author and speaker on coping with grief following suicide. Having lost her younger sister Denise at the age of 21, Michelle offers advice to bereaved youth and shares how she responds to the inevitable get to know you question: “Do you have siblings?”

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MichelleWhat kind of relationship did you two have?
We were like friends. We shared a room for ten years; we knew everything about each other although we probably wouldn’t have admitted that had we’d been asked. We fought like friends do, too, but we were trying to grow up under the same roof and learn who we were supposed to be in the world.

What’s one of your fondest memories with her?
Family vacations exploring the motel swimming pools.

What were the circumstances that led to her death?
She was bulimic, depressed, and had been date raped.

You were only 21 when she passed away. What was it like to experience this loss at such a young age?
For a period of time I felt like my future was taken away. My sister was the last person I expected to end her life. It took me some processing to return to a place where I saw my future and hope again.

What have been your biggest challenges since her death, and how have you overcome these?
My biggest challenge was going on despite my sister not being in my life in the same way. I had always been so focused on my dreams and some of them got put aside because of her death. One of them was writing fiction which had been a dream since I was I was six. I ended up doing a lot of work in the suicide field but I picked up my fiction again several years ago because I know that my sister would want me to fulfill my dreams. She would say, “I appreciate all that you’ve done for the suicide bereaved but don’t forget the dreams you had before I died.”

How do you get your friends to understand what you are feeling?
I didn’t need to. They were great. They asked, even years later, how I was doing. If they didn’t want part of it, they drifted out of my life.

How do you respond when people ask if you have siblings?
I never minded saying that one had died but now I find it harder only because the discussion turns to my suicide work and I want to talk about all the other things I’m doing, not her death. I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me. I have a great life and she’s still with me. No one has asked recently but now I’d probably say I had three siblings since she still with me. I won’t act like she never existed so I would be truthful if they asked where they live: Illinois and Heaven.

How has your grief changed over the years?
My grief has changed a lot. I don’t believe grief is a lifelong journey like I used to. I thought I would never be the person I was before she died but I know now that at my core I am still that Michelle and I try to honor that person by doing the things that were important to me then- my writing and also learning to surf.

You went on to coach high school students. What advice do you have for young people affected by grief?
The world is still your oyster. Life is short but great. Don’t let this derail you. Your loved one is still with you and wants you to be happy.

You have also written several books. How has writing impacted your recovery?
It probably has in ways that I don’t realize since I’ve done so much writing and speaking about it. Recently someone told me that not everyone gets the chance to immerse themselves into grief and this kind of education. I won’t ever really know the answer to that, I just know what has been my life and that I’ve made the most of experiences handed to me.

Adriana Marchione

Since losing her husband Eddie to cancer in 2007, Adriana Marchione has relied on the arts to heal and renew her life. The San Francisco-based Expressive Arts Therapist is currently working on “When The Fall Comes,” a performance project that explores grief, dreaming about dead loved ones, and the variety of ways healing after loss can take shape.

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AdrianaWhere did you meet your late husband and how would you describe the relationship you shared?
My husband Eddie and I met through a community that included sober members. We had known each other for several years before we started dating. Eddie was 20 years older than I was and I always thought he was kind and handsome, yet did not consider him as someone I would date because of our age difference.  I was in a stage of life where I was visioning the relationship I wanted to have and I realized that Eddie fit the ideal I had if he had been younger.  This opened up the idea for me to ask him out, and after our first few dates we fell in love quickly and started a life together.  Our relationship was full of passion and adventure, yet also involved a lot of responsibility because he had two young kids, and we both worked hard on our careers to make a comfortable living in San Francisco.  We lived in a house by a park on the top of a big hill, and often had parties and celebrations there together.  We had a very creative life together as he was a musician and I was an artist and arts/movement therapist.  We also learned to dance tango together.  Our relationship was very deep, and spiritual in many ways.  And, it also challenging at times because of our age difference and different needs as the years went by. We were together for twelve years and it will always be one of the most significant and special relationships of my life.

What was it like to lose Eddie after a long battle with lung cancer?
Eddie was sick for two years and for much of that time we thought he would survive the cancer.  In the last few months of his life the cancer took hold very intensely and things happened very fast.  The doctors even said he has several more months to live and then he died within days.  Eddie died at home in a very lucid state, and there were many people there to help us through the dying process including hospice workers, his children and our dear friends.  He sang a death song hours before he died, which was both very sad and heart opening.  At first, I felt an incredible relief when he died because he was no longer suffering and I was extremely exhausted.  I also felt a sense of peace for many days after he passed and very taken care of by friends and family.  But overall I was so disoriented and fragile.  It was hard to function normally for weeks afterwards and I had to take everything very slow. I felt like I was in an alternative universe after the initial shock of his death.  And, then it was a long time of rebuilding my energy and organizing my life and my emotions.

What is your overriding memory of the initial period of grief?
A sense of emptiness, and a feeling that I was in a fog.  Yet, there were also times when I was very present and clear, and I felt taken care and safe.  Life felt simple and stripped down to what was most essential after such loss.

How has your grief changed with time?
It has softened over time and I feel that I am able to be more of a witness to the grief process and the circumstances of the loss. I also lost my father a year after Eddie so I had to negotiate two big losses at one time.  I realized I needed to grieve them separately and find ways to do this consciously over the years.  I do find that the pain of the loss of Eddie still can affect me in unexpected moments and places.  Recently it was the tenth anniversary of our wedding, which was held near the Point Reyes National Seashore in California.  I was surprised that I was caught with some depression, many strong memories and much sadness in response to it.  Yet, I have found that I can let in more of the good memories over time without feeling so much pain.  In the first year after Eddie’s death there were times when it was hard to remember certain things about him, or I would focus on negative experiences around the relationship and the illness leading up to his death.  I find that the loss is more integrated into my life experience now and has more neutrality rather than being a tragedy.

You work as an Expressive Arts Therapist. How have the arts personally helped you to heal?
The arts have helped heal initially when I stopped drinking alcohol in 1993, and then have continued to be an important tool for my recovery process throughout the last twenty years, and have very much guided me during my grieving process. I find that the arts can hold all of my experiences, my pain and my vision as I have renewed my life.  I have used dance, poetry, visual art and performance to illuminate my inner life, to diffuse intense emotions and to help me ‘imagine’ what is possible as I have healed from loss. They have also helped me to find a voice for my experience.  Telling my story about loss has been very freeing. The arts help me to organize my emotions and my memories in a very meaningful way and have allowed me to reach others who have also experienced significant loss. 

Tell us about When The Fall Comes and the short film you are working on.
‘When the Fall Comes’ is a performance project that chronicles the loss of a spouse and the dreams that guide the path of the one left behind. Using dance, poetry and spoken word this project shares reflections about grief, dreaming about dead loved ones, and the variety of ways healing after loss can take shape.  ‘When the Fall Comes’ was originally performed to an intimate audience at Noh Space Theater in San Francisco in January of 2013 as a personal healing ritual. Based on this experience, it has been made clear to me that a broader audience could benefit from witnessing the performance.  Therefore, I will be performing it again over a weekend at Noh Space Theater in San Francisco on October 11, 12, and 13 of 2013, as well as create a short film that documents this process of using the arts as a tool for supporting the grief process.

The hope for this project is to provide a venue for further reflection and dialogue for people who have suffered from the loss of a significant other or loved one.  We live in a culture where there are so few opportunities to honor loss and to explore the emotional and spiritual disorientation that occurs from grief.  This project aims to demonstrate that the arts can provide an opportunity to allow inexpressible feelings and experiences to be seen and heard, as well as provide a venue to come together around the topic of loss.

How can Our New Lives’ followers support your projects?
They can email me to be on my mailing list at adriana [at] creativesourcesf [dot] com and/or join my Facebook page.  I am also seeking donations to help me fund the project which can be done by contacting me directly or going to my website.

Nico Nordström

NicoNico Nordström always had a camera in her hands as a child, and not much has changed as a young adult. Her hobby took on even greater meaning three years ago after her best friend tragically passed away. The Photography student at Texas State University describes how the camera has helped her to heal and how Louis’ death has influenced her personal style. Nico’s works have been featured in Vogue Italia and The Weekly Flickr, and in numerous gallery exhibitions.

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When did you develop a passion for photography?

I’ve always had a passion for photography, when I was really little I would set up little photo shoots with my Barbies – even building them sets, costumes, and props. I loved all forms of art growing up, but my love for photography really started to develop when I was a freshman in high school when I took my first darkroom class. I became completely enthralled and have worked hard at it ever since. Not a day goes by that I don’t work towards bettering my work and myself.

Photography took on greater meaning in 2010, after your best friend of ten years tragically passed away. How do you remember Louis?

The things that I remember most about Louis are his infectious laugh, big bear hugs, sense of humor, striking eyes, and warm hearted nature. He was the life of the party, and always a delight to be around. There wasn’t anyone that didn’t absolutely adore him.

What were the circumstances behind his death and what was it like to lose someone so close and so young? 

Louis passed away peacefully in his sleep at his home, only days before his 20th birthday and Christmas. It was utterly surreal to lose someone at 20 years old, someone that was always supposed to be around. You hear about it happening to other people, but you never expect it to happen to you. “The crew” as we call our group of friends, have all been close for years, so we just banded together in the wake of Louis’ death and supported each other. These people are more than friends, we’re a family.

What are your strongest memories from the initial grief period?

My strongest memories from the initial grief period was walking around in a fog. It felt like being a zombie – being physically present, but not mentally being present at all. I didn’t even touch my camera in the beginning, it was all about taking things day by day – baby steps. Besides walking around in a haze, the most poignant memory was the support and love from people around me. Specifically had it not been for my mom, fiancé, and the crew, moving on would have been so much harder. Louis’ death showed me how cruel the universe can be at times, but it also showed me how beautiful the souls of the people around us are.

How has photography helped you to heal?

Photography has helped me to heal in many ways. In the beginning it was mostly just a distraction, but then I started to channel my grief into my work. Whenever I would have rough days, I would grab my sketchbook and start working on new ideas, or get my camera and just start driving. One of the hardest things was not being able to sleep at night, so that’s when I got most of my work done. I knew my choices were to either sit there and wallow, or to try and create some sort of beauty out of the grief that I was feeling. So the harder things got, the fiercer I worked. Because of photography, I was able to get out of my small dark apartment, and defy gravity, hug wolves, explore a desert, and see magical worlds in front of me. Photography, like Louis, completely changed my life in unimaginable ways.

Has Louis’ passing influenced your personal style?

Louis’ passing has definitely impacted my personal style. I now have a greater appreciation for the beauty around me in everyday life, because I see now how short life is, thus making me aware of how beautiful our time here is. Because of Louis’ interest in dragonflies, I always try and incorporate them into my work when I can, as a way to remember him and to thank him. I also have begun to use branches and flowers more, to symbolize the cycle of life, and the beauty around us everyday.

Ashes Horizontal School

Flowers

Tell us about your favourite work and the inspiration behind it.

My favorite work is my Renovatio (or Phoenix) series. It took a month of working hard everyday, emotionally, mentally and physically with my team to pull off that shoot. I was inspired by the journey of myself and the people around me, and how much growth I had seen in all of them. It’s a reminder that no matter how tough things in life can be, the phoenix always rises from the ashes so to speak. Besides being the most difficult shoot I’ve ever done, it was also filled with the most laughs. My cat thought I had a 6 ft wide nest in my dining room for 2 weeks just for him, my production designer Michael looked like a crazy person building the nest in my apartment (which in itself was hilarious to watch!), while outside we literally had people coming up to us asking if my model (who was in full costume and make up) was a part of the apocalypse, and just having your best friend dressed up like a mythological bird in your living room squawking around is bound to be hilarious. It was a blast, but after 15 straight hours of shooting on 3 hours of sleep, I’m definitely glad it’s over!

Fire Beginning FirePhoenix

What are your plans for the near future?

I’m currently working on a huge project that has been incredibly difficult to keep under wraps for the past couple months. I’m taking everything that I’ve learned from my photography adventures thus far and pushing it even farther, it’s been really exciting! I’m also exploring my options for teaching photography/Photoshop workshops, and in using my art for book covers. My adventures have only just begun, and I can’t wait to see where else they will take me.

Anna-Joy Veenstra

Anna-Joy Veenstra (BAS Honours) is a graduate student at the University of Waterloo’s School of Architecture. Her thesis, currently entitled Relinquish to Dust: A Centre for w(R)esting Grief in Toronto’s Community, explores why cities need a new approach to memorialising our loved ones. For more information, visit Anna-Joy’s thesis blog and portfolio.

What is your thesis about? Screen shot 2013-06-24 at 4.26.48 PM

This thesis intends to offer a new methodology and vision for an urban community, one that incorporates the cycle of life, death and rebirth. In a society induced to discount the importance of humanity’s mortality, the space allotted for death in the city is allocated to the outskirts or even ends up as dead zones within the city. The proposal is to search for a means to integrate this shadow into the urban fabric and everyday life of the city’s community. Without this, there is a danger of creating cities without memory that are in denial of both death and humanity’s relationship with history. The thesis uses project precedents, documents, data, interviews, and sketches to develop design proposal iterations for Toronto’s downtown harbourfront that embrace the life-long search for meaning after loss through grief work.

Did a personal experience with grief inspire you to pursue this topic? 

We have all been touched by the loss of a loved one, some earlier in life than others. However, it wasn’t my grief in particular that provided the main driver, it was rather the experiences of grief by those around me that raised questions of what I felt I could do for them. At a young age I perceived this sense of loss indirectly through the death of a best friend’s mother in a car accident, the knowledge that my mother lost her mother to cancer before I was even born, the slow passing of a family’s eldest patriarch in my childhood church and the suicide of a classmate’s twin brother. It is the question of caring for family, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances in our contemporary world that interests me. How can I, how can we, how can a city acknowledge and support each other’s life-long search for meaning after loss?

An example of how far we need to come is in how Canada has figured out the importance of a yearlong parental leave for a newborn child (35 weeks + 15 weeks of maternity leave), yet bereavement leave is typically only three to five unpaid days and not even all the provinces and territories have this meagre amount legislated. We have begun to understand the need for developing relationships as crucial at the beginning of a new life, yet we don’t take the time (or allow the time) at the ending of a relationship and the reshaping that takes shape from there.

Why is a new vision so important? 

As a society we need to stop avoiding the topic of our deaths and face it together, because only once we do, can we focus our efforts towards more meaningful developments, within the city, our families and community. It has to begin on an individual level, but quickly our society will feel the impacts. This will be the case particularly if the leaders of our nations took this to heart. If the people who make the final decision regarding war or peace between nations had contemplated their own deaths, perhaps destruction would not be the common tact, rather a movement towards peaceful resolutions would occur.

I have been pondering how grief is a tool to move from meaninglessness to meaningfulness after a loss; then pairing that with how architecture enhances the emotions within, makes them apparent to the outside world and provides people with a feeling of being part of something greater than themselves. As Alain de Botton said in his 2008 book The Architecture of Happiness, “It is in dialogue with pain that many beautiful things acquire their value. Acquaintance with grief turns out to be one of the more unusual prerequisites of architectural appreciation. We might, quite aside from all other requirements, need to be a little sad before buildings can properly touch us.”

Considering how important grief is for the healing process towards leading a meaningful life, our society seems to place an undue pressure ‘to just hurry up and move on’. It is no wonder people feel so alone in their grief with this conflict between their feelings and what the industrious world proclaims. Models of grief for them are few and far between. Even friends and family are often uncomfortable with the grieving process, as it reminds them of their own unresolved pain and how precarious their life is.

However, grief is very real, because loss is real. This pain of loss is so intense because in loving someone a binding connection formed, which death then broke. Grief reflects this depth of love and connection found with another human being. Yet by feeling what at first seems like great emptiness, then becomes the capacity for fullness. There likely won’t ever be a moment of finally ‘getting over’ the loss; instead there is the possibility of renewed meaning and enrichment for having known the loved one.

I understand the role of the architecture here as providing a framework in which people can participate in their grief. A place where they can find a model, a language, a ritual, or an identity to aid in the process. People once placed a lot of importance on the event and experience of grief, but it has since been lost in transition, there is no longer a place for it in our current contemporary world. Architecture can help provide such a space and bring back the focus to experience life in its entirety. For Toronto, this strong sense of place lies along the harbourfront as a gathering place for the city’s population to connect and support one another’s search towards meaning within the cycles found in nature.

How would you describe Toronto’s current approach to burial and mortality, and do you think this applies to many other cities? 

Unlike me, most people living in Toronto weren’t born here. They came as immigrants, as small Canadian city dwellers or perhaps from a rural upbringing. There is a unique blend of multicultural backgrounds in Toronto that I have been hard pressed to find to the same extent in any other city so far. This makes translating ideas from a flavourful Toronto to other cities (and vice versa) difficult, particularly when talking about death, although universal, the rituals that accompany it are so varied.

There are over 200 cemeteries listed in Metropolitan Toronto that are spread out through the city, and come in a variety of sizes and shapes, are mostly contained within the grid system and bounded by streets. However, the conditions of these cemeteries generally range from neglected, inactive, marginalized or full. The city has grown around the original ones, restricting further growth and relegating burial to the outer limits once again. Finding a spot in the city for an individual to be buried is becoming increasingly difficult and costly, forcing many to journey out into the suburbs and the new larger cemeteries located there.

There is a need to counter this by placing cemeteries in the midst of our urban environments, creating acknowledgement by making them visible, and providing a sense of activity/identity/place. By situating the cemetery in the midst of the city, human mortality returns to the core. As a place of equality, in the form of a resting ground and a meeting place, all are welcome, living and dead. By bringing the cycle of life, death and rebirth forward, the responsibility to not only care for the earth, but for each other, here and now, increases. This cemetery can provide a new and resilient way to interact and live together in the city.

The trend in Canada and particularly Toronto, is moving away from burial and towards cremation. This has to do with changing religious beliefs, limit of space in inner city cemeteries, struggles with strict cemetery by-laws, and the desire to be scattered in a location with personal attachments. Another emerging shift is towards natural burial, where concrete vault liners, coffins, embalming, and granite monuments are done away with in favour of shallow graves, biodegradable containers and planted trees to encourage the body to return to the earth naturally.

According to your research, what are some ways cities can better integrate and bury the dead, and become more acknowledging and supportive to the living?

My research has led me through a variety of recent case studies and current proposals ranging from building towers for the dead, landscaping contaminated sites, incorporating spaces for the dead into urban planning (perhaps using our dead as a way to make sacred spaces and historical sites by the laying of bones and ashes), and even mixing the cremated remains of a loved one into concrete that is placed in formwork for artificial coral reefs to name a few. Recently, there was a competition entitled design for death that produced entries focused on eco/green deathcare and wrappings of mortality.

While studying in Rome, I was surrounded by such varied methods towards memory, whether it was visiting the still functioning Protestant Cemetery embedded in the city wall alongside the Pyramid of Cestius, or walking along the longest straight road leading into the city (the Via Appia) which is lined with monuments, columbarium, catacombs, and funerary fragments or seeing the saints enshrined in countless churches. It was here, among this fodder, that I decided to pursue the marking of burial as a piece of important urban community architecture for Toronto, while keeping in mind the opportunities to challenge the status quo and search for new possibilities that incorporate grief work.

Do you think younger people have different grieving needs to older people? If so, how would you incorporate these into your vision?

I see the differences in our needs lying in a greater context that encompasses age/maturity, gender, relationship to the deceased person, nature of the attachment, mode of death, prior losses and family/cultural grief. The interplay between all these pieces (and a variety of unnamed others) creates very personal experiences of loss and grief for an individual. My vision provides an opportunity to explore different approaches in a safe environment among other people. Susan A. Berger provides some insight in her book The Five Ways to Grieve into the choices people make as they adapt to dramatic life changes after a recent loss (and beyond) that may include aligning with a new identity like: nomad, memorialist, normalizer, activist, and seeker.

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Anna-Joy’s thesis will be available through the University of Waterloo’s library both as a hard copy and online download by the end of 2013.

Marika Evans

Marika Evans tragically lost her brother Daniel 3.5 years ago, after the 22-year-old fell from the rooftop of their Sydney home. Just 6 months older, Marika says Daniel “was the sunshine in my life.” Since his passing, Marika has spoken with a psychic medium, who connects with the Spirit world to contact loved ones. She bravely recounts what led her to tears and laughter. 

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MarikaWhy did you decide to speak with a psychic medium?
Since my brother Daniel passed away 3.5 years ago, I had always thought I would go and speak to someone who could connect me with him – I just needed to be ready. My mum’s sister saw an advertisement for Ezio De Angelis and thought it was a sign that she go because it was to be held the night before her birthday. When my mum said she would like to go too, I knew this was my opportunity.

When and where did the communication take place?
It was held at night time at Kareela Golf Club. There were probably about 40 people there. Ezio acted as the medium and at the end of the session, his wife, Michelle did some tarot readings. They travel to different clubs around Sydney every week or two and this one was near my aunty’s place.

What did the psychic medium talk about?
He introduced himself and quickly ran through how the session would work. A few other loved ones ‘came in’ and then we were lucky enough that my brother did too. He started by saying ‘Flynn’ who is my baby cousin, son to my aunt who told us about this. He was born about a year after my brother died. Ezio then started saying all these things that he couldn’t possibly have made up. He spoke about how he died, how he loved food and dancing, that he loved playing ten pin bowling with me, that he was sorry he couldn’t say goodbye and that he wanted to haunt my ex-boyfriend (if I wanted him to, of course I said no!) It was such an emotional experience, I couldn’t stop crying and laughing.

After he moved on to a couple of other people, he started talking about how there was this girl here who wanted to speak to someone. He then went on to explain how she died and I suddenly realized it was one of my best friends who had passed away two years after my brother. I was so shocked to hear that she was there too. Once we had the connection he spoke about how she loved the conversations we had about boyfriends, that she was happy now and that my brother had coaxed her into connecting with me today because she was nervous. I was so glad she came through, and it made me feel even better that they had found each other over there and were ‘hanging out’.

How did you feel before the experience?
Very nervous but excited. I wanted so badly for him to come through but I was scared at the same time. I knew there would be a chance that he wouldn’t come through but deep down I had a feeling he would. I had many family members surrounding me so I also felt safe and secure.

What were you hoping to gain from this experience?
I wasn’t quite sure at the time what I wanted from it. All I could think about was hearing from my brother and to know he was ok. I hoped that we could actually converse through the medium but this session wasn’t like that, it was more the medium telling us what my brother had to say.

How did you feel afterwards?
Ecstatic that he came through. It was just amazing to think I had a connection with my brother, that he was actually there and still his fun, loving and happy self. But I also felt the sense of loss again. It brought back a lot of emotions… It took me a few days to stop feeling down.

What did you gain from it?
Satisfaction, happiness, sadness but most of all, the peace of mind knowing that he was in a good place and had people who knew and loved him over there with him.

Have you told many people about this experience?
I told my partner when I got home but I was feeling very emotional at that stage so could only say snippets about what happened. It took me around a month to speak about the experience with my close friends who know my brother and friend. Nearly everyone responded well. They were all fascinated how the medium spoke of both of them in such detail and ways he could not have made up. My older brother, however, was very skeptical when we told him. I think he just doesn’t want to believe in these things. Many people believe that these mediums are a bit of a con and maybe some are, but it was a case where he probably had to be there to believe.

Would you do it again?
Yes, but I would like to do more of a one on one session. It will probably take me another year to get the emotional courage to do it.

What would you say to people who have never done this?
You must make sure you are ready. Ready for the joy it brings but also ready for the sadness. Don’t expect anything. Also, make sure you do your research and make sure that the medium is credible.