Keep shining your light, Stefanie! You are helping so many through your invaluable work!
1. Could you please tell us about YouSpoke.org?
YouSpoke.org is a not-for-profit that cultivates a community for those deeply affected by suicide. Through dance shows, art galleries, music, meditation, literature, poetry, textile, martial arts, distance running, the spoken word and beyond, we create expressive opportunities that encourage others to share their stories surrounding suicide instead of holding them in.
2. Would you be willing to share with us your personal story behind YouSpoke.org?
In September of 2006, I celebrated my 22nd birthday. I remember thinking at the time, “This is the happiest I’ve ever been in my life.” Just two weeks later, my father committed suicide. He did not leave a note. Up until that point, my father had been my pillar of strength, stability, and support. I felt like I had to pick up the pieces of my broken heart and seemingly shattered life.
My journey to healing began with deeply observing the situation. My father was a patient, kind, and peaceful man who lived his life for his family. The way that he cared for us did not seem consistent with the way that he left us. He would never leave the house without a farewell, how could he walk out of my life (permanently) without a goodbye?
It made me realize that my father had lived with a dark and silent struggle that he expressed to no one. He had struggled with anxiety, depression, and OCD for years, but we never really knew how bad it was until he was gone. At the time of this death, he was on several different medications to manage his disorders and they were making him numb. He did not seek out other forms of healing, such as therapy, talking with friends or family, or doing the activities that he once enjoyed. This inspired me to create YouSpoke.org. Whether you have lost a loved one to suicide or struggled with suicidal tendencies yourself, we create artistic opportunities that encourage you to speak out about your struggles, instead of brushing them under the rug. Having an outlet really helps you process through what you’re going through, and sharing them with others helps us understand that we are not alone. We function on the belief that, “Expression, not silence, heals the soul.”
3. If there was one thing you could tell people to try to do that would help them to heal after losing their loved one, what would it be?
In your effort to find peace and wellness, place the most emphasis on the present moment. Do not allow yourself to become too deeply entwined with the past or future. There are many ways in which you can obsess over the past – Why did this happen? Could I have done anything differently? What were they thinking? There are also ways to let future thinking deter your current healing – How will I ever get through this? Will I ever find happiness again? Will music ever sound the same? Will I be angry my entire life?
It is difficult to let go of these recurring thoughts, but my belief is that focusing on the now can help combat this. The day that I began to find ways to calm my mind was the day I began to find happiness again. For me, this was through dance, yoga, and meditation. For others it may be going for a long run, combing through old family albums or painting with pleasant music in the background. I realize now that that my life never ended with the death of my father. It was up to me to transform our relationship into something that I could celebrate today. Whether it is acknowledging the small parts of him that live on in me, or creating a dance project for him that helps me process through my feelings now, I feel that I am continuing my relationship with him. It may be different than I would have liked, but it is beautiful nonetheless.
4. Do you have a healing affirmation or message that you would like to share with readers?
Be gentle with yourself, and understand that any progress is progress. Don’t hold expectations on where your healing should be, just let it unfold organically in ways that are healthy only. You will have good days and bad days, but always stay committed to healthy!
In my worst moments, where I feel like I’m spinning in circles, I remind myself of the progress that I’ve made, and how it is a never-ending process. I envision myself walking calmly down a straight path, away from my suffering. Although the progress may seem slower at times, I remind myself that I am always healing. Then I repeat this mantra, “Where am I on my path out of suffering?”
“We are not going in circles, we are going upwards. The path is a spiral; we have already climbed many steps.” -Hermann Hesse
Stefanie currently resides in northern California where she prioritizes organic living and teaching dance. She practices consciousness through meditation and yoga daily and spends most of her free time exploring nature, finding peace at the beach, ecstatic dance, or the farmer’s market.
You can contact Stefanie at Stefanie@youspoke.org
If you want to find out more about YouSpoke.org, please visit: