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Z – Digital Storytelling


This portfolio provides an interactive understanding of the grief process as part of my Digital Storytelling class with Remi Holden at CU Denver.  Based upon my own personal experience with the untimely loss of my mother, I have learned that stories are powerful and healing. Reminiscing about lost loved ones allows us to grieve, to laugh, and to, most importantly, be human. From beginning to end, this grief portfolio offers a rich, digital exploration of such topics as the grief wheel, the science behind tears, cultural burial options, and various stories of loss. One’s grief journey is very personal and my hope is that this portfolio may be a resource to those experiencing loss.

May you find hope and joy again.

My grief journey began December 20, 2014, when my mother went into the doctor to have mysterious bumps appearing along her jawline and neck checked. She was diagnosed with Stage 4 Cancer that had metastasized throughout her body. (More of those details can be read on my blog about my mother’s stage 4 cancer.) After one round of chemo, she made the brave decision to opt for quality of life and invited Hospice into her home on February 2, 2015.  On February 11, 2015 my mother passed as peacefully as possible with myself and my sister holding each of her hands.

Feelings of numbness, rebellion, exhaustion, anxiety, and uncontrollable crying set in. I was grateful to learn from the Heartlight Center this was a natural part of the grieving process. They gave me a Grief Wheel handout, which inspired the creation of a Vine video demonstrating the erratic feelings that accompany the grief process. Perhaps you have experienced non-linear grief symptoms and can relate to this video.

As morbid as it sounds, I found comfort in hearing others’ stories of death and loss. The Living Room weaves together human nature, intrigue, layers of love, and the eminence of death through the personal story of a spying New Yorker. The anonymous setting of the story allowed Diane to give a tell-all interview of the tragedy she viewed through her neighbors’ curtain-free windows. Diane shares her grief and the understandable human desire to see how the couple handled death over the course of a year.

To further explore grief, I wanted to learn a bit about the science behind it. The Microscopic Structure of Dried Human Tears by Joseph Stromberg explains and evaluates a fascinating set of images of human tears produced under different emotions. They ranged from joyful reunions to loss, even including onion-induced tears photographed by Rose-Lynn Fisher. Fisher collected and photographed more than 100 tear samples from both herself and volunteers. The variety of results gave me a new appreciation of the complexity of our human design.

Jae Rhim Lee‘s Ted Talk is facing death head-on. This is such a revolutionary concept within a culture where most people, including myself, don’t want to talk about death until it is upon us or a loved one.  Lee’s innovative, yet practical approach around the inevitability of death takes personal responsibility to the next level by planning her own decomposition and how it will further benefit the environment.

The Fantasy Coffins story offered a new lens for refracting sadness to joy in my exploration of grief. I was curious how such beautiful works of art might affect one’s experience of loss. With such brilliant colors and amazing craftsmanship, I imagine the ceremony to be quite a celebratory send-off into the afterlife versus a somber slinking away. In Ghana, it’s almost like the community is saying,

“May all the positive actions you accomplished in this life, carry-over and continue to grow in the next life.”

Sometimes it is important to revel in all that is beautiful, inspiring, and sweet in this life. I had been spending so much time in the sadness, it was time to start looking to inspirational images and to believe in healing. My video Feminine Grief Transformed was created with the intention to offer hope on the other side of grief.

Song Credit: K.D. Lang singing Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah
Artist Credits: Patricia Ariel

C. Simmons

My mom, Connie Simmons, gave me life and she also gave me her absolute trust to care for her in death. I feel blessed to have had such a wonderful, supportive, and loving mother. I am certain that she is looking down on me proudly as I tell our story.

This one is for you, Mom.