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Widow As Butterfly Dealing with Grief and Loss

112 pages1 hour


Widow As Butterfly (Dealing with Grief and Loss) is an outgrowth of a keynote presentation for the International AIDS Conference in Amsterdam and over thirty years of working with bereaved families and children. It combines traditional Native American legends and ceremonies dealing with grief and bereavement, systemic family therapy approaches of healing, and a research project on the coping skills of those who lost loved ones to AIDS. The latter was done for the American Psychological Association and the APA’s Project HOPE. It has been shared nationally and internationally with mental health professionals and hospice programs. Widow As Butterfly also examines the unfortunate similarities of what is now happening with the Ebola Virus and the fear-crazed days of the early AIDS epidemic.

Trained as a traditional Native American Storyteller, Ty Nolan studied with Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in working with the various aspects of Death and Dying. His book, Coyote Still Going: Native American Legends and Contemporary Stories, received the 2014 BP Readers Choice Award for Short Story Collections and Anthologies. He is a New York Times and USA Today Best Selling Author. He currently splits his time between Arizona and Washington State.


Origin of the Butterfly

Long and long ago, there were two caterpillar people who loved each other very much, but as with all living things,  one of them died. The caterpillar woman mourned the loss of her husband. She didn’t want to talk to anyone, didn’t want to be around anyone. She wrapped her sorrow around her like it was a shawl and began walking. All the time she was walking, she was crying. For twelve moons (one year) she walked, and because the world is a circle, she returned to where she had started. The Creator took pity on her and told her, “You’ve suffered too long. Now’s the time to step into a new world of color — a new world of beauty.” The Creator clapped hands twice, and she burst forth as the butterfly. Just so, for many Native people, the butterfly is the symbol for everlasting life and renewal.

A traditional Sahaptin story retold by Ty Nolan

(From:  Coyote Still Going: Native American Legends and Contemporary Stories)

Just as life repeats art, this legend sets a pattern the Sahaptin people use in accepting the loss of a loved one.

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