CAPE ELIZABETH — Sandi Amorello lost her husband Drew to pancreatic cancer in 2002.

He died the day after Christmas, and at 41, Amorello became a single mother of three children under the age of 10.

Eight years later, she has found a way to turn her greatest loss into hope for other widows, divorcees and single parents by using humor, art and multi-media.

“Our marriage wasn’t perfect, but I knew – before cancer, that is – he wasn’t going to leave me and I wasn’t going anywhere,” Amorello said. “When we vowed ’til death do us part, I wasn’t expecting it so soon. That wasn’t what I bargained for.”

In 2005, Amorello moved with her family to Cape Elizabeth. As she started her new life, she began to see the humor in mid-life dating and single parenting. She found that writing about her experiences and creating art work to supplement the writing was cathartic, healing and humorous.

“Losing my husband was the worst experience of my life, but it also allowed me to realize my potential, and opened doors of opportunity I would not have had otherwise,” she said. “It was a wonderful chance for me to be true to myself and to take risks.”

Amorello’s writing became part of a multi-media project called the Irreverent Widow. She created a website to share her stories of love, death, widowhood, mid-life dating, single parenting and healing with like-minded people. Her stories are touching, humorous and honest.

Here’s what she says in a short story comparing grief to dog walking: “One must ask, is putting the poop in a plastic bag and tossing it really the wisest way to deal with it?”

And she compares dating to a shampoo routine in a story called “Wash, Rince, Repeat:” “Why is it that I keep pouring the same guy out of the same bottle … yet expect to get a different product? The next time I (or you, dear reader) am tempted to do a follow up shampoo with the same man who caused us the frizzies, limpness or just an all around BAD HAIR DAY (or perhaps week, month or year!), I implore that we use our heads. Instead of jumping in and using that same old shampoo again … I suggest we think twice.”

Her art is also displayed at her Silver Crayon Studios on Oak Street in Portland, and at the Center for Grieving Children. She said she is looking to move into a larger studio, and soon will have the room to host open studio time, seminars and workshops.

Her newest project, Cathartic Art, is a program designed for anyone who has suffered a loss or major life change. It is a way to inspire and encourage people to use objects of their past to create art, while learning how to move through the grieving process, she said.

Amorello said she will share her own experiences as an example, and then attendees can find their own creative outlet using art or the written word.

“This project is not about self-help for widows, it is not about death and dying,” she said. “It is about celebrating life and living every day with creativity and humor. It’s about sharing laughter and tears.”

Using antiques, vintage items, and objects from her childhood and married life, Amorello plans to continue creating art. In addition to the Irreverent Widow website and the Cathartic Art project, Amorello said she hopes to create large art as part of a traveling exhibit for hospitals, meditation rooms, lobbies and common spaces where art can help inspire those in need.

“We live in a society where people aren’t supposed to outwardly deal with loss and change. We are so uptight and uncomfortable about it,” she said. “I want people to know there is no such thing as speed grieving. I want them to know they are not alone or isolated in their grief, that there is a lightness and a something positive in widowhood and in death. If I am laughing through all of this, others can too.”

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or [email protected]

Sidebar Elements

Sandi Amorello of Cape Elizabeth, a widow and mother of three, uses art and humor to express the comedy of mid-life dating and single parenting. Her website, The Irreverent Widow, is a place for her to share stories, videos and memories of her life after her husband died of pancreatic cancer. She has also created Cathartic Art, a program that uses art as a means to help people work through loss or life changes.

Cape Elizabeth writer and artist Sandi Amorello uses humor and creativity to heal from the loss of losing her husband to cancer nearly ten years ago. This exhibit, “Follow Your Bliss,” is one example of how she takes personal objects and memorabilia to express emotion and move through the grieving process.

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