Welcome to the Sweet Pea Project's Blog, part of the Sweet Pea Project's effort to create a supportive and compassionate community for those of us affected by the death of a child. Here you will find updates on the Sweet Pea Project, as well as anything going on in the world that relates to childloss. If you have a suggestion for a topic you would like to see discussed here, I'd love to hear it. Please make sure you stop by the official website, www.sweetpeaproject.org and feel free to email me for any reason at anytime at Stephanie@sweetpeaproject.org.
peace, Stephanie Cole (Madeline's Mom)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

In the spirit of giving

In keeping with the spirit of giving, Sweet Pea Project will light a candle at the five art exhibit for the first 100 parents who make a request on Christmas Day, no donation necessary. To request a candle please email your child's name to Stephanie@sweetpeaproject.org with the word Candle as the subject. We are unable to take requests any other way, so please do not reply to this post or send a message via facebook. For more info on the candles, please visit www.sweetpeaproject.org/five/candle. Thank you for allowing us the privilege of honoring your child.

From all of us at Sweet Pea Project, we wish you a peaceful Christmas.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Lit With Love

As many of you know, Sweet Pea Project will be hosting a community reception at Mulberry Art Studios for the art exhibit five. in January.  At the reception we plan to fill the gallery space with candles, each bearing the name of a beloved baby, so that the room is filled with their light, lit by our love for them. 

For those of us who have suffered through the death of a baby, the glowing light of the candles will be a reminder of their short but precious lives and a tribute to our love for them.  And it will surely move those who have not experienced such a loss to walk into a room and see how our love still burns for our unseen children.

During the month of December, anyone who makes a donation in any amount to Sweet Pea Project will have a candle placed in the gallery in honor of their child.  Donations may be sent by check to the address at the bottom of this post, or be made securely online with a credit card or paypal account at www.sweetpeaproject.org/donate/paypal.  Please be sure to include your child's name when you submit your donation. Please feel free to contact me at  Stephanie@sweetpeaproject.org with any questions at all.

Thank you for your support of Sweet Pea Project, and for the honor of including your beautiful child in this exhibit.

Sweet Pea Project
PO Box 10351
Lancaster, PA 17605-0351

Sweet Pea Project is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.  All donations are tax deductible.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


I was going through old emails when I stumbled upon a letter I sent to family and friends almost exactly three years ago.  It was my second Thanksgiving without Madeline and I was feeling a mix of sadness and gratitude.  Some things have changed since then, but much of this is still true.

November 24, 2008

I have come a long way since last year, and I wanted to share with you how I am feeling with Thanksgiving just days away. Thanksgiving. Last year even just the word pissed me off. My daughter is dead and now I'm supposed to sit around and cheerfully give thanks. Not going to happen. But the passage of time has smoothed down some of my sharp jagged feelings (not all of them, but some) and I have come to realize that there are things in my life that I am grateful for.

I am thankful for having had Madeline for as long as I did. Those months we spent as a happy family while I was pregnant with her overflowed with beautiful, innocent joy. It wasn't nearly long enough, but it was 41 more weeks of joy then I would have had without her. And I have met mothers who spent much less time with their children, who carried them lovingly in their womb but never had the chance to feel the weight of their child in their arms. I held my daughter, I stared at her for hours and drank her in.. I snuck my finger into her little fist, I kissed her soft cheeks. I saw that her eyes were the shape of her Daddy's and that her cheekbones were high like mine, and that she'd bypassed both of us for a pretty little nose like my sister's. The hours we spent with her in our arms were heartbreaking, but I treasure them so much, and I am deeply grateful for them.

I am thankful that I was able to conceive two perfect little babies and feel each of them grow inside me. The days when I felt the fluttering of those little babies of mine were some of the best moments of my life. I have nurtured life in my body twice, and I will be forever grateful for that.

I am thankful my house is no longer sickeningly silent. There is life and laughter here again, mainly because of a brand new noise that arrived this year- the squealing and crying and babbling and shrieking and giggling of the most amazing boy who has ever lived (in my humble opinion, of course.) The world is once again a desirable place to be because of Ben. Before he came along, I was done with this place. Ready to leave for good. He has restored my purpose. He is my reason for being. He didn't make it all better, I would never dream of asking him to- he's just a little boy and that isn't his job- but he has made me happy to be alive again and that is a pretty big deal. Who wouldn't be thankful for that.

I am most thankful that I am a mother, and that title was given to me by the most beautiful little girl in the world. My firstborn, my Madeline. I am beyond thankful.

But I am still broken and I am still allowed to be. I am suffocated by the idea of another Christmas morning without Madeline and her second birthday soon after. I cannot say that I have found a place of peace where I can exist happily, content with the way life is, but I can look around me and see that there is good here, there are things to be grateful for. That is progress for me. And for that, I am thankful. 


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Gifts that Give Hope

The holidays are tough for bereaved parents. A simple decorated tree can bring a mother to her knees as she realizes that she will never see the colorful lights reflected in her child's eyes. I still struggle sometimes when sending out Christmas cards, because there is a little girl missing from our family portrait. This is our 5th Christmas without Madeline, and it still hurts more that words can say.

This year Sweet Pea Project is offering a way for you to shop for the holidays while honoring your child and helping a newly bereaved mom at the same time.  Sweet Pea Project is participating in Gifts That Give Hope, an annual alternative gift fair that offers the opportunity to purchase meaningful holiday gifts in support of non-profit organizations working to create a better world. When you buy a gift at the alternative gift fair, you will receive a card and insert to give as a present.

Sweet Pea Project is offering three gifts this year:
$10.00: A soft blanket will be provided to a new mom to cradle her baby in for the first and only time
$25.00: Five copies of the book Still. will be donated to newly bereaved families
$50.00: A 6 month supply of receiving blankets will be sent to a hospital to swaddle stillborn babies

You may make your purchase online right now by visiting the online alternative gift fair by going to http://giftsthatgivehope.org/lancaster/index.php?pg=shop, then scroll down to Sweet Pea Project and click view.  And if you are in the area, you won't want to miss the actual gift fair at the Farm & Home Center in Lancaster, PA next Sunday, November 20, from 10am-4pm.  There will be lots of delicious food, fair trade items and childrens activities (and of course Beth, Nicole, Richy and I will be there!) so we really hope you'll come visit us.  More info and directions to the fair can be found at http://giftsthatgivehope.org/lancaster/index.php?pg=info 

As always, thank you so much for your support.  Hope to see you next week!
Stephanie Cole

Friday, November 11, 2011

Community Expressions Wall

In just two months, on January 5th, my daughter Madeline would be turning 5 years old. In her honor, and out of gratitude for all that she has given me, I have put together an exhibition of artwork and writings which will be displayed during the month of January at Mulberry Art Studios. The exhibit, entitled five, features my work as well as the work of many other talented artists, all bereaved parents themselves. And I would like to invite you to participate as well, by creating a simple piece for our community expression wall. You do not need to have an artistic talent to participate, all you need is your love for your child, your honesty, and a piece of paper. The community expression wall will consist of the honest expressions of the hearts of individuals from across the globe. It is my hope that it will give non-bereaved guests a glimpse into our experience. If you would like to contribute, please read the instructions below. For full details about this exhibit please visit www.sweetpeaproject.org/five or check out the blog post directly below this one. (http://sweetpeaproject.blogspot.com/2011/11/five.html)  And if you live anywhere near Lancaster, PA, I hope you will consider joining us for live music, a poetry reading and refreshments at a free community and artists reception at the gallery on Sunday, January 15 from 1-4pm.

Submission Instructions for
Community Expressions Wall
On a 3x5 index card (or any piece of paper cut to that size) respond to one of the following:
1. How are you, really?
2. This is my love
3. This is my grief

You may answer with words or pictures using any materials you wish. It can be as simple as a single word written in sharpie or as elaborate as your imagination allows. You may send in multiple submissions. We will also display pictures drawn by your children for their brother or sister. All submissions must be 3x5. Mail your piece(s) to us at Sweet Pea Project PO Box 10351 Lancaster, PA 17605. If you would like your piece(s) returned to you at the end of the exhibit, please be sure to write your name on the back and include a self-addressed, stamped envelope. Submissions must be recieved by January 1st, or delivered to the gallery in person on January 15th during the reception.  Thank you so very much for sharing yourself with us.

five: an art exhibit

Stephanie Paige Cole: five.
During the month of January, Mulberry Art Studios will host an exhibition entitled five, which was created by artist and author Stephanie Paige Cole and consists of her own paintings and writings along with pieces from several other artists from across the world. five opens on First Friday, January 6, and will be exhibited throughout the month of January. An artist reception, complete with live music, light refreshments and a poetry reading, will be held from 1pm until 4pm on Sunday, January 15. The reception is free and open to the community, donations to Sweet Pea Project will be accepted. The exhibit is also available during regular gallery hours, weekdays from 10am until 4pm with evenings and weekends available upon request. For more information and directions to the gallery, please visit http://www.mulberryartstudios.com/.
five deals with a subject that is often considered to be unspeakable: the death of a baby. Cole's firstborn child, her daughter Madeline, died in January of 2007 and would have turned five years old on January 5th, the day before this exhibit opens. Cole relied on her creativity to navigate her way through the darkness that descended upon her after Madeline's death, and she has returned to explore that again with this exhibit. The artwork of five. is honest, raw and unexpectedly beautiful. There is sadness in these canvases, but there is also undeniable hope and life and love in each brush stroke.
Along with newer work, Cole has included pieces she created during the first few months of grief, many of which were part of her August 2007 exhibit Beauty In The Breakdown and were later published in her book Still. Cole invited artists from across the world to add their voice to the chorus of artwork and writings in this exhibition, and received pieces from internationally respected artists and authors such as Kara Jones, Joanne Cacciatore, Sherokee Ilse, Laura Seftel, Angie Yingst, Janel Atlas, Catherine Bayly, Carly Dudley and more.
Individuals who have experienced the death of a child, whether it was during pregnancy, infancy, adolencense or even adulthood, will undoubtedly find themselves connecting with the pieces in this collection. Those who have not experienced it for themselves may find their eyes opened a bit after walking through the space. "There is something about artwork and poetry that allows you to express things that can be difficult to explain in a conversation" says Cole. "And there is something about being able to stop and look at something quietly, in your own time and on your own terms, that makes it a little less uncomfortable."
Stephanie Paige Cole is the founder and president of Sweet Pea Project, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization based in Lancaster, which offers comfort, support and gentle guidance to families who have experienced the death of a baby. Her book, Still: a collection of honest artwork & writings from the heart of a grieving mother, was published in 2010 and quickly became a must read for parents who lost a child as well as the medical professionals who care for them. Cole is also the proud mother of four. She currently lives in Lancaster County with her husband and three sons.
For more information please visit www.sweetpeaproject.org/five.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

2nd Annual Remembrance Gathering

On October 15th, hundreds of people gathered together in the grassy field at Long's Park and watched as nearly 400 green balloons filled the sky while the names of their children were read aloud. Each balloon carried with it a note to a child who is deeply loved and desperately missed, written on paper embedded with wildflower seeds.
It was a beautiful event, and thanks to the images of Grace Photos and music of Sean Cox & Company (both of whom donated their time and talent at this year's gathering and allowed me to use their work to create a video) you can relive the evening by watching the Remembrance Gathering video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uYG_7npBWf4

Friday, September 2, 2011

Stephanie Cole "mominated" for Moms who are Changing the World


Sweet Pea Project's Stephanie Cole has been "Mominated!" as a Mom Who Is Changing The World, part of Babble's celebration of 100 mothers who are changing the world for the better- who've changed the way we view motherhood, whether that's through activism, education, politics, science, or any other area that makes the world a little better. Mominees have a chance at one of ten $5,000 prizes to the cause or charity of their choice, which means Sweet Pea Project will receive $5,000 if Stephanie wins. Sweet Pea Project could do a lot of good for a lot of families with that money, so please take a few seconds to follow the link and vote for Stephanie. And please, share this with anyone you can! Thank you!!!

Friday, August 12, 2011

2nd Annual Remembrance Gathering Invitation

Last year, on a mild October evening at the end of a rainy day, over two hundred people gathered together in a grassy field to pause for a few moments and remember the children that all too briefly graced our lives. The only sound was the beautiful music of a gently played guitar and the names of our children being said aloud, one by one. We stood together and looked up at the sky, watching as green balloon after green balloon rose up into the air, passed through a patch of amazing yellow light that illuminated the treetops and disappeared into the distance. Each balloon quietly carried with it a note written on seed paper for a deeply loved and desperately missed little child, and later that evening when the balloons burst, the letters drifted back down to the ground where they were reclaimed by the earth. Eventually wildflowers would sprout from these love letters to our children.

Sweet Pea Project will be holding this event again this year on October 15th, National Remembrance Day for families who have experienced the death of a baby. Just as we did last year, precautions are being taken to make sure that this is an eco-friendly event. We are using only sap-based biodegradable balloons, vegetable dyed raffia and compostable seed paper.

Sweet Pea Project would like to invite you to join us for our 2nd Annual Remembrance Gathering at Long's Park in Lancaster, PA, on Saturday, October 15th at 6pm. Please be sure to arrive between 5-5:30pm to pick up your balloons and seed paper and write notes to insert in your balloons before inflation. This family friendly event is free, but registration is requested. If you would like to attend please email Nicole@sweetpeaproject.org with the following information by October 1:

1. The name of the child(ren) you are remembering
2. The number of balloons your family will need
*Please note: Each guest may receive one balloon per child remembered. For example, if your family of 4 is remembering twins you may request 8 balloons.

Sean Cox & Company will provide quiet instrumentals and Grace Photos has volunteered to capture the beauty of the evening in photographs. This year's sponsors include Spacht Funeral Home, Baby's Silkie, Charles F Snyder Funeral Home & Crematory, Darrenkamps and Herman & Susan Zeager.

Several other Sweet Pea Project affiliated Remembrance Gatherings will be happening across the country on the same day, if you can't make it to our official gathering in Pennsylvania perhaps you can attend one somewhere else. All affiliated gatherings are listed at the bottom of our event page and fliers for each gathering may be viewed in our facebook album: Sweet Pea Project affiliated Remembrance Gatherings 2011.

Please take a minute to visit www.sweetpeaproject.org/remember for more details and to view a video from last year's event. I hope you will join us, either at Long's Park or in spirit, as we stop to remember the little ones whose tiny footprints have made such lasting marks on our hearts.

Please feel free to share this flier with anyone who may be interested. Everyone is welcome.

Click on the image to enlarge

Monday, August 8, 2011

Sweet Pea Project's Family Fun Night at Friendly's

Sweet Pea Project will be hosting a Family Fun Night at the Friendly's on Oregon Pike in Lancaster on Tuesday, September 27 from 5pm until 8pm. A portion of all sales from that evening benefit Sweet Pea Project, so bring your family and friends and come enjoy delicious food for an important cause. Don't forget to print the flier below or mention us to your server! Thanks so much, hope to see you there!

click on the image to enlarge

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Sweet Pea Project Granted 501(c)3 Status

Sweet Pea Project Granted 501(c)3 Status!

Sweet Pea Project has been granted official 501(c)3 tax exempt status with a public charity classification by the United States Internal Revenue Service. The approval was received in June 2011, but is retroactive to August 2010. This means that any past donations you may have made to Sweet Pea Project from August 2010 until today, and any donations you make to us in the future are tax deductible.

Sweet Pea Project, which is based out of Lancaster County, PA, provides comfort, support and gentle guidance to families who have experienced the death of a child during pregnancy or infancy. Sweet Pea Project blankets are shipped to hospitals across the country so that parents who lose a baby before, during or shortly after birth are given a soft blanket to cradle their child in and remember their child by. To date, Sweet Pea Project has donated over 2,200 blankets. The organization also donates copies of a book written by Sweet Pea Project founder Stephanie Paige Cole entitled Still: a collection of honest artwork and writings from the heart of a grieving mother. It is Cole's hope that the book will help with the isolation many parents feel during the dark days of grief following the death of their child. Additionally, Sweet Pea Project reaches out to the bereaved families in our community by holding several free events each year. Their Annual Remembrance Gathering is open to anyone who has lost a child at any age and is held on October 15th at Long's Park in Lancaster, PA. A Sweet Pea Sisters & Brothers Picnic was added to the event calendar this year, and offered children who have lost a brother or sister an afternoon to simply play in sunshine with their families and be carefree. Other events include internationally renowned guest speakers.

Sweet Pea Project began in January 2009 and became a full fledged nonprofit organization in August 2010. Founding board members include Stephanie Cole, Richard Cole, Beth Gauthier, Nicole Jackson and Simone Lee. For more information on this organization and the ways in which it strives to help our community, please visit www.sweetpeaproject.org or contact Stephanie@sweetpeaproject.org.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Finally, a Victory for Pennsylvania Parents!

When my daughter was stillborn in 2007, I was offered a death certificate but no birth certificate. A few months later I decided to look into it further, because it seemed so illogical to me. I came across the MISS Foundation and the MISSing Angels Bill and contacted Dr. Joanne Cacciatore, who returned my email with a phone call that same afternoon. Her knowledge seems limitless and her passion is infectious. I learned that my state, Pennsylvania, had already been fighting for years to pass a bill that would offer parents a Certificate of Birth Resulting in Stillbirth. I added my voice to the already booming chorus by meeting with my Senator and State Representative, collecting names on a petition and speaking out about the need to pass this legislation. A few years later another local mother, Nicole Jackson, decided to get involved after her son was stillborn. She collected over 1,000 names on her petition and opened herself up to the community by appearing in numerous television interviews and newspaper articles to speak eloquently and emotionally about her son, her experience and the importance of this bill. And on July 27, 2011, Nicole and I were able to watch as the Governor finally signed that bill into law. We were a very small part of a very large process, one that took 11 years and the sweat and tears of countless individuals, many of whom worked much harder and longer than us, and it was such an honor to be there together as we witnessed Pennsylvania become the 31st state to adopt this type of bill. All of us here at Sweet Pea Project are anxiously awaiting September 6th so that we can finally apply for something that should have been offered to us a long time ago: birth certificates for our babies.

Please scroll down to view photo highlights from our time at the Capitol and click on the links below to check out the media coverage we received. And to everyone who played a role in the passage of this bill, we are so very grateful. Thank you.

Front page article in the Patriot News: http://www.sweetpeaproject.org/in-the-news/cherishing-the-life-of-a-stillborn
WGAL television news segment: http://www.wgal.com/video/28685447/detail.html

Please visit www.sweetpeaproject.org/in-the-news to view more media coverage and www.sweetpeaproject.org/legislation to learn more about this bill.

PA parents may file for a certificate for their child at this link:

Friday, July 29, 2011

Sweet Pea Sisters & Brothers Picnic Pictures!

A few weeks ago, Sweet Pea Project held a new community event for kids, the Sweet Pea Sisters & Brothers Picnic. This year's picnic, presented by Angel Bracelets, was held at Hands on House Childrens Museum on July 9th and was an absolutely incredible event. We are already excitedly brainstorming up ways to make next year's picnic even better, and we hope you will join us there next summer. In the meantime, I wanted to give you a sneak peak into the event by sharing a short video with beautiful images from Molly S. Photography. Check it out at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGpg0bYsWqw

Thank you so much to everyone who came out to the picnic, volunteered their time, made donations or sponsored the picnic. More information about the event and our generous sponsors can be found online at www.sweetpeaproject.org/picnic.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Mother's Day: Not Just a Hallmark Holiday

Last year I wrote a piece about the original intention of Mother's Day, and though many of you may have read it already I think it bears repeating. Mother's Day is so much more than a Hallmark holiday, and it is an especially relevant day for those of us who must carry our children in our hearts instead of our arms. Please take a moment to read, or reread, the following post and feel free to share. I hope this weekend is a gentle one for you.

Well, there is no escaping it. Tomorrow is Mother's Day.

For those of you who lost your only child or who are facing their first Mother's Day since their child's death, tomorrow will no doubt be a difficult day. The memory of my first Mother's Day without Madeline is still heavy in my heart. I wanted to just ignore it, but I was constantly ambushed by junkmail advertisements, displays in stores, and commercials on the radio and TV. I found myself questioning if I really was a mother, if I even deserved this day at all. Of course I knew in my heart that I was a mother, but I felt like society considered me disqualified since I had no little ones to scribble "I love you" on construction paper or make me a messy breakfast in bed.

If I only had known then what I know now. You see, since then I have met Kara LC Jones of KotaPress and MotherHenna, and she gave me a little history lesson. Mother's Day is not just a meaningless Hallmark Holiday. It began as a peace protest in 1870 by Julia Ward Howe, who was sick of seeing mothers lose their sons to war. When I read the line in Howe's proclamation that says, "Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead," I couldn't help but feel empowered. I remembered how I felt that first Mother's Day, when everyone else was off celebrating while I stayed in bed to cry alone and then later when my husband and I hiked through the woods to a little meadow where we planted five saplings for Madeline, thanking her for making me a mother. I had felt like such an outcast at the time, but now I look back and am struck by the fact that I was the one celebrating the true nature of Mother's Day. It is not about going out to brunch, it is about honoring the entire experience of motherhood. Kara puts it perfectly when she says, "I'll celebrate with you as long as you will first mourn with me. It is the combination of the two that lends itself to the true meaning of Mothers Day!"

To read Kara's entire article on this topic, including the speech Julia Ward Howe gave in Boston in 1870, please visit the following page: http://www.kotapress.com/section_articles/holidays/motherFatherDays/jones_realMeaning.htm.
Wishing you all a gentle Mother's Day of Peace tomorrow in honor of every mother of every child, living or dead.


Madeline's Mommy, Stephanie Cole

Stephanie Paige Cole
Founder/ Board President
Sweet Pea Project
PO Box 10351
Lancaster, PA 17605
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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Sweet Pea Sisters & Brothers Picnic

We are excited to announce a new community event, and you are invited!

Please visit the event page at www.sweetpeaproject.org/picnic for details.

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

You Are Invited!

Sweet Pea Project is excited to announce our first community event of 2011

Coffee & Conversation with
Dr. Joanne Cacciatore!

Sweet Pea Project would like to invite bereaved family members to join us in the Mulberry Ballroom at Mulberry Art Studios on Wednesday, April 6th from 6:30pm until 8pm to enjoy coffee and desserts prepared by the Master Chefs of Rettew's Catering and hear the MISS Foundation's Dr. Joanne Cacciatore speak about grieving mindfully.

Seating is limited and registration is required. Please email Stephanie@sweetpeaproject.org to reserve your spot. Registration begins on February 3rd and will end on March 25, as long as seats are available. There is no charge to attend this event. As always, donations are greatly appreciated so that we may continue to offer comfort, support and gentle guidance to families who have experienced the death of a child.

To learn more about Dr. Joanne Cacciatore and her inspiring work,
please visit the following websites:

MISS Foundation
Center For Loss & Trauma

Please contact me with any questions you may have. I hope to see you in April!

Stephanie Cole

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

You remembered her birthday

As you probably remember, I recently asked for small donations from family, friends and the community in honor of my daughter's birthday earlier this month. I was completely overwhelmed by the response. Donations flooded in, many from people I've never even met, and we are now in a position to greatly expand our book donation program. If you would like to see Still. added to the bereavement boxes offered at your local hospital at no cost, please contact me for details.

To everyone who made a donation in honor of Madeline's 4th birthday, thank you. You filled a difficult day with so much love and light. I am beyond grateful.


Sunday, January 2, 2011


the coldness creeps in
and my body remembers
winter is so hard

In an effort to make it through January, the most emotionally complicated month of the year for me, I have decided to carve out space in my life for honest contemplation and creation. I will write or make art each day. I'm hoping this will allow me to work through the still raw emotions of Madeline's death and birth in a way that leaves open the opportunity for me to experience beauty, discover truth and find balance.

Catherine, from The Lifespan of Butterflies, did this same thing through her Imago Project leading up to her daughter's birthday in October. I participated with her in October and this month she is joining me. If this inspires you to write or make art at all this month, I would be honored to include your work in the Community Gallery at Beauty In The Breakdown. I will be placing many of my own pieces (maybe even all of them, depending on how brave I am feeling) in the Main Gallery, so please stop by and check them out.

Yesterday I created my first piece of the month out of black polymer clay and finished it with a metallic green powder. A peapod for my Sweet Pea.