Wonder Day 12.24.14 - Sarah Treanor

When I was twenty-three, I graduated college, got my first real job, and walked away from an abusive relationship of seven years. All in the same week. It was one of the most terrifying times in my life. I was completely alone. I'd never lived by myself. I had no clue what I was doing in an ad agency being an art director. I had a chest pounding full of horrible anxiety – another new gift I had no idea how to cope with.

But there I was. And it was all the result of many years of not making positive choices. Of making survivalist choices. Of denying my reality. It was a wake up call. And so I got busy doing the work to figure myself out. I started therapy. I devoured self-help books. I learned, I cried, I grew, I learned more, I cried more, I grew more. Slowly, I made friends – solid people who became my foundation to begin in a positive direction.

When I was 26, I met Drew. I never expected us to become anything – we seemed to be opposite. But slowly I found that underneath we were far more similar than I could have ever expected. He was patient and kind and always had my back. The one who spent a year just being my friend and proving to me eventually that I was safe enough with him to try for more. Scared as I was, I stepped into a romance with him that not only healed all of my old wounds but grew me into a person far more than I ever imagined becoming. I grew strong and confident with him. I came to know who I was and what I was worth because of him. I felt safe. Every single day. He was my sanctuary.

He was a pilot, and has just landed his first commercial job. Oh, he was so happy. I've never seen anyone love anything as much as he loved two things: Flight, and Me. Those three years – before the crash - were the most joyous of my life.

He died on a Tuesday. It was a helicopter crash. The best way I have ever heard a sudden loss describes is that it felt like a grenade exploded in my chest. Exactly like that. Pieces of me were blown sky high and I was left with this bloody, gaping hole in my chest.

These years after have been the darkest and most terrifying of my life. His death has taken me to places darker than I ever knew existed. The kind where you hope for an oncoming car to just hit you because you are so tired of feeling the pain. Despite all of that, I did not give up.

He died for his dreams, and so I decided there was no excuse any longer to not live for mine. And so I got to work again. Almost three years later, I am beginning to come out of the darkness some. I am - to my utter amazement - living my dreams, too. I am a professional artist. I am creating work that is deeply personal and telling the story of losing him through it. I am connecting to others who are going through their own loss – giving them a visual they can relate to. We are healing together.

I have decided to face each phase of this tragedy head on. I have decided to pay attention to what I can learn from it – and to try and share what I learn as much as possible. I have decided to go through and feel all of the pain and sadness, and to put it into my photos and share it with the world. It has been one of the most transformative changes of my life.

Ten years ago, I was a girl who caught in a world of abuse – paralyzed by the fear of facing the unknown. Now, I am a vibrant, confident, powerful woman who walks right up to the unknown and beckons it to challenge her. Because now I know that no amount of darkness can stop me. Nor will. I am on a mission to live my life fully in his honor, and nothing will stop me.

All of the choices I have made along the way have built me into what I am on this day. But the most important choice was to love him, to keep loving him, and to keep fighting for myself. It is the choice of love that has given me everything. 

Image credit: Sarah Treanor. From her yearlong, weekly self-portrait series Still, Life about facing grief. Facebook and blog.