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)

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