Creating a storybook has been an important part of Robyn Te Paiho’s journey through grief.
And now that the book has been published, she hopes it will help others who have lost a loved one.
Robyn, who is a counsellor, has written and illustrated a 34-page storybook called The Sun and the Sad House.
In June 2018, her husband Hirini (Sid), aged 56, died from a rare form of cancer, and then her father, John Malcolm, who hadn’t been well for a while, died in October at the age of 86.
Two of Hirini’s siblings died that year too, adding to a rough year for Robyn.
And during the first lockdown, Robyn was very busy doing many online counselling sessions for stressed-out clients.
After lockdown she decided she needed to have a break, so she had a week off.
“I decided I would have some time writing and drawing just to process my grief."
“I had read an article about ‘cocoon times’ which really resonated with me."
“I felt like I had been in a cocoon."
“I was operating normally in the outside world, but still felt like I was in this different world trying to cope with my grief.”
She decided to turn the imaginative story into a book, and was spurred on by the knowledge that it would be another resource her brother Andrew Malcolm and his wife Merryn could add to the Loss and Grief Centre Kāpiti, in Paraparaumu, which they were opening.
“I had always wanted to write a book, and my father was really into storybooks and was arty as well.
“As a way of honouring my father, and my own story, I thought I would have a crack at it.”
The front cover of Robyn Te Paiho's storybook. Photo / David Haxton
She attended and was inspired by a workshop by author Joy Cowley on how to write a storybook.
Robyn’s book, suitable for adults and children, follows a caterpillar who loses a loved one, is overcome by sadness and takes refuge in her sad house - but with the sun’s comforting presence, and taking as long as needed, she emerges with a new way of being.
Robyn, from Porirua, struggled a bit with the artwork, but gradually it all came together, especially after a talk with her husband’s niece Huhenia Pauorini, who is an Ōtaki-based artist, and some others.
She got picture books from the library and bounced ideas off her mother Val Malcolm during visits.
“I started drawing once I decided I would do my pictures in oil pastel and crayon.”
After completing the pictures she contacted designer Briar Whitehead, who took her through the publishing process before the storybook was printed at Nelson-based The Copy Press.
One of Robyn’s goals was to have the book published by her father’s birthday on March 6, which would have been his 91st birthday.
“I didn’t think it would be ready in time because The Copy Press had been very busy.
“But on the day of his birthday, I came home at lunchtime and there was a box at my front doorstep containing copies of the book.
“That was really cool.
“Then I got hold of Andrew and Merryn and said I wanted to have a book party.”
Robyn was proud of the finished product.
“It feels like an achievement.
“The whole purpose of the book was for me to process my grief, but I also wanted it for the Loss and Grief Centre Kāpiti, too.
“I wanted other people to read and get something out of it.”
Robyn has gifted copies of the book to the Loss and Grief Centre Kāpiti.
Copies are available for purchase at the centre, or people can pay one forward.
To order one online, go to The Copy Press’ website: www.copypress.co.nz.
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