The wind blows through the open doors and the smell of fresh vegetables from the garden fill the air, her son’s artwork hangs gently on the azure painted wall, and the view of the lake reflects calmly through the window pane. This is a place of healing; a place where Winter Park resident Vashon Sarkisian not only calls her home, but a place that has become a sanctuary for her and her 13 year-old son after the loss of her husband Patrick James McCarty.
After Sarkisian lost her husband to prostate cancer in 2008 she began a desperate search for a way to do pull herself out of the darkness she was left with after her loss. She slowly began to set goals for herself. She planted an organic garden and watched it grow.
“It was so rewarding for me,” she said. “It was like a new beginning, growth, life; it had a lot of symbolism.”
As Sarkisian slowly fulfilled one goal at a time, she suddenly had an epiphany.
“My thought was if someone can follow a diet and lose weight, or someone can follow a series of steps and achieve their goal … maybe someone could follow a series of steps and find their joy after losing someone dear to them,” she said.
For more information on Vashon Sarkisian or her book, “Finding Joy After Loss, My Seven-Step Journey of Transforming Grief into Joy,” go to findingjoyafterloss.com or facebook.com/FindingJoyAfterLoss
Sarkisian will be speaking on Wednesday, May 1, on local radio station WRKP and Thursday, May 23, at the Winter Park Library.
Her first book, “Finding Joy After Loss, My Seven-Step Journey of Transforming Grief into Joy,” was written with the hope that it could do just that. But for her, the journey was in the book itself.
“I started writing and I found such relief in writing, just to get our story on paper and try to figure it out,” she said. “I think I was afraid I was going to be this miserable person for the rest of my life, just upset and missing my husband … There was a fear of what I was going to turn into, what my future looked like, and that fear stimulated this prompting to find a solution or an answer to this problem I was in.”
Kim Weiss, long-time friend of Sarkisian, saw the process firsthand.
“She has taken her tragedy and done something that helps other people, which I think is a very noble thing,” Weiss said. “I really think [the book is] a labor of love; it really comes from the heart.”
Her father Jerry Sarkisian said he believes his daughter’s book has tremendously helped her overcome the grief that she went through.
“I think it’s the best medicine she could possibly have,” he said. “Amazingly they both (Sarkisian and her son) have come out of this tragedy very well and I think this book had a lot to do with it.”
Sarkisian said sharing her story with others helps her heal a little more each day, and that she is finally looking forward to a future she could never imagine before.
“When you have joy you’re in the moment,” she said. “You’re not planning the future, or regretting the past, you’re just living in the moment … It’s just such a beautiful lesson,” she said.
“I thought if I can give people a tool to help them get through their grieving process and make their process a little bit easier, what a gift.”
Sarkisian now thrives on helping others through the same grief that once consumed her, and wants others to know they too can feel joy once again.
“It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey,” she said. “I was hoping my grief would be gone after this process, but really what I discovered was, my grief is okay, all my emotions are okay, and joy can be part of that.”