Local artist Laurel Fraher's children, Lily and Henry, never met their sister Julia, who passed away from cancer before they were born. Laurel wanted them to know that Julia would always be a part of their lives and that they could see her in the world around them.
"I wanted them to understand why we think of their sister when we see a butterfly, blossoms in the spring, or a beautiful sunrise," Laurel explained.
She wrote a poem about those connections we have with the loved ones we've lost and how we can see them all around us in nature. She and her husband Robert were eager to share their experiences and help others dealing with loss and decided to turn the poem into a children's book.
Laurel added beautiful watercolor art to her poem, and the result was See Me in the Wonder. The book was self-published in 2017 and has since become widely used in grief and bereavement programs throughout the Midwest.
"Our hope is that See Me in the Wonder be shared with a child who has questions about death, given to a friend who is grieving, or read in the quiet moments to remember those who will always be alive in our hearts and in the beauty that surrounds us," Laurel said.
In 2019, Robert, a Professor of Graphic Design and Interactive Media at UW Stout, developed an app, Seeing the Wonder, to go along with the book to further help those going through the grieving process.
"The Seeing the Wonder app is based on two related ideas, first, allowing people to have access to the poem and art whenever they might want a reminder, and second, offering people the opportunity to reflect on their own moments of wonder," Robert explained.
There are two components to the Seeing the Wonder app. First, the book can be viewed with the option of adding an audio experience - piano music, nature sounds, or narration by Laurel. Second, the journaling component allows users to add pictures or text to remember those they've lost. Journal entries can be revisited and shared with others on social media.
"Grief can be very isolating, and feeling the support of others can be instrumental to the healing process. We wanted the sharing function of the app to encourage connection and support," Robert said.
The Frahers hope their app allows more opportunities for people to help each other through their grief.
See Me in the Wonder can be purchased on the Frahers' website, seemeinthewonder.com, and is available locally at Hive and Hollow and Bookends on Main. It can also be found at The Local Store in Eau Claire.
The Seeing the Wonder app can be purchased in the App Store and on Google Play.