WSU Tri-Cities student uses independent study to uplift women after child loss

WSU Tri-Cities student uses independent study to uplift women after child loss

WSU Tri-Cities student, Susana Butterworth, has been using art to help others.

“I really wanted people to connect with me and connect with this experience,” Butterworth said.

Susana took photos of mothers who have lost a child. Susana had each mother hold up a mirror to their stomach in their photo to represent the hole in their lives.

“I wanted people to see and feel what that was like,” Butterworth added.

Suana’s, “ Empty Photo Project, ” gained traction quickly. The Huffington Post showcased her work on an international platform.

“So crazy I still can’t believe that,” Butterworth said while looking at the Huffington Post article.

However, for Susana these photos are personal. Around this time last year, she and her husband were preparing for the birth of their son Walter.

“We went into the University of Washington’s hospital and we saw a specialist,” Butterworth added.

This one check-up changed everything for the 22-year-old mother from Richland.

“They flagged multiple different markers on my son’s ultrasound that gave us a definite answer that he had Trisomy 18,” Butterworth continued.

This first trimester screening revealed an extra chromosome, a developmental syndrome consisting of a multitude of other defects.

“He had really short forearms,” Butterworth said.

Every sign pointed to a reality no mother expects to face.

“He actually passed away from his heart being on the wrong side and having so much pressure on his heart,” Butterworth said.

Susana says she became isolated by her loss.

“It was immediate disconnection from people, that’s kind of where this Empty Project came in,” Butterworth added.

The photographer traveled to meet women like her hoping to open up a door for them to share their pain and healing to others. People across the Tri-Cities who’ve seen her work and heard her story have also been moved.

“It was very powerful, you could feel the emotion in the room, I think the speaker is very brave for taking on this project,” Pasco resident, Jill Bleazard said.

Susana hopes that using her heartfelt message will help families fill the void through expression and community connection.

“If you have gone through this, you can see you are not alone,” Butterworth concluded.

Susana launched a kickstarter campaign Thursday to help fund her trips to photograph other woman like her.