UC Santa Cruz librarian and local author Wei Wei published her second book, Journey to Heal, this Jan. The work features 24 nature photos accompanied by poetry reflecting on her healing process after the loss of her father.
“It was very hard for me when he passed. I couldn’t do anything,” she said.
Eventually Wei found distraction in “beautiful natural landscapes. They were the only thing that got my attention.”
“When my dad was in the United States, we went camping together in a lot of national parks. I kept thinking of the photos I took with my dad when he was here. So six months after he passed, I was crying, looking at these images, and words came to my mind,” she said.
Wei’s original piece debuted on Instagram and received a surprising amount of feedback. Many acquaintances reached out with stories of their personal loss and encouraged Wei to keep going.
After publication, several friends and strangers approached Wei thanking her for the book’s guidance through their loss.
“That’s why I needed to put [Journey to Heal] out,” she said. “It’s not just for me. I strongly believe this can help others, especially anyone who has lost a loved one.”
The project took several years as Wei cultivated her photography.
“At the beginning of my project I was not great,” she said. “I feel more confident in my work now.”
While the pages capture natural beauty across the United States and Canada, Santa Cruz is heavily featured.
While Wei had to hone her photography skills, she was already comfortable writing. Wei’s first novel, Tracing our Footsteps, chronicles the relationship between herself and her father during their immigration from China to Santa Cruz. Wei was on a book tour in 2013 when she became concerned with her father’s health.
“At the end of the tour I got a phone call from China. My dad was very sick, so I had to cancel the last presentation and rush back to Beijing where my dad had cancer,” she said.
He died suddenly and Wei began the grieving process described throughout the book.
For Wei, accepting grief is the most vital part of mourning.
“It’s essential to go through that process,” she said. “If you want to cry, cry. You might have to cry for a year but gradually time will heal. Allow yourself to remember what you did together, the good times, why you miss this person so much. It can take one year, two years, or a few weeks.”
Journey to Heal is now available at Bookshop Santa Cruz and Zinnia’s Gift Boutique.