A Little Bit About Me
Janelle Shantz Hertzler

My name is Janelle Shantz Hertzler, and I am the author of the book Seasons of Solace: A Story of Healing through Photos and Poems. I began this website before I knew my book would be published. My goal is to give space on the web for people to work through their grief. The site is still a work in progress.

I wish there were space for all our "about me" stories. I hope to eventually add options so that readers can write some of their own learnings and grief expressions.

My husband, John, and I were working with a Mennonite organization in Thailand for most of our four and a half years of marriage. He worked with a micro economic development program as well as helping in leadership development for an AIDS program. I was mostly involved in English teaching as well as some leadership development in various areas.

One Sunday morning in July 2005, we were going to join a church gathering in a remote village about an hour away from our town. I and our 18-month-old son went in a car with a Thai friend. John had decided to take the motorcycle because he would be staying overnight for a meeting in the village the next day. Everything happens late in the village, so we had only begun to wonder why John was late when we got the phone call. He had been hit head-on by a drunk driver passing a slow vehicle on a two-lane highway. He was killed instantly.

Learning to Live Again

My son and I came back to Pennsylvania where I have spent the past few years trying to figure out how to go on with life. My natural bent in life is for learning. When life gets hard, I gravitate toward places of learning. So I enrolled in a graduate program as well as began attending monthly retreats at Kairos School of Spiritual Formation.

The graduate program is a MA in Conflict Transformation from Eastern Mennonite University. While in Thailand we experienced conflict in various groups, so I wanted to learn about constructive ways of working through conflict. This program also had an option for a concentration in Trauma Healing. I naturally moved toward those electives in my own need to work through the trauma of the sudden loss of my husband.

At Kairos I began receiving spiritual direction. This was a new thing for me to receive on regular basis. If you are unfamiliar with it, please read the page about it. Spiritual direction was quite transformational for me. I am a private person who tends to stuff all my feelings inside. Spiritual Direction helped me bring these emotions to the surface and explore them. Then I was able to explore who God was for me in this midst of these swirling and confusing feelings. Eventually I decided to also be trained as a spiritual director.

Between these two educational programs, I began to play around with some creative ways to express my grief. As you will see on this site, I began with memory book making, which lead to scrapbook journaling. Then to my complete astonishment I began writing poetry. Writing has always been an important way for me to process life, but I had not written poetry before. And photography just started to happen in the midst of this. I never imagined myself as either an artist or a poet, but this is not about becoming famous or being published. This is about finding ways to express myself so that I can find my own healing and joy in living.

A Place to Be

Recently someone said to me, "There really should be places to go and be when you are in grief--just to sit and be allowed to be real with your grief." She was thinking of a park or public prayer room. While I can't make that happen in the real world, I hope there can be something of that feel on this site. I hope it can be a place where people can experiment with different exercises and come to a greater understanding of their own journey in the process. Grief can be truly exhausting, I hope that you can find something that can offer you greater rest and peace in these pages.

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