New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Nielson shared her story of hardship and faith at Utah Valley University on Thursday, October 1, 2015 as part of the UVUSA Academic Speaker series. A large audience gathered in the Grande Ballroom to hear her speak, including followers of her blog,” NieNie Dialogues.”
A 2008 plane crash involving Stephanie, her husband Christian and good friend Doug Kinneard forever changed their lives. Although Stephanie and Christian both managed to survive the accident, Kinneard passed away in the hospital a day later due to third-degree burns to over 90 percent of his body. Stephanie was put in an induced coma for over four months and began a number of surgeries in an attempt to repair burns sustained to over 80 percent of her body.
Stephanie’s children had not seen her even after five months following the accident and she struggled to find her identity as the once happy mother she had been. “I didn’t even feel like a woman. I felt more like a monster,” Nielson said.
The first time Stephanie saw her own reflection she said she was unrecognizable to herself. “Panic took me over,” Nielson said. “How on earth could I let my children see me like this? Then I caught my breath and I saw God in my eyes. I saw reassurance. I even thought I saw a glimpse of triumph.”
Stephanie determined to look at the positives in her life and thanks her husband for his strength and courage to help carry her through her difficult time. “Happiness is your choice and you can change the way you look at your life,” Nielson said.
Miranda Parsons, a young mother and Orem resident, said what struck her about hearing Stephanie speak was seeing her husband sitting behind her.
“He just gleams and is so proud of her,” Parsons said. “I loved to see how strong he is and how he just cares for her.”
Stephanie’s story has inspired millions worldwide through her blog, Instagram and Twitter accounts, and appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show and Today Show.
Abigail Snow, a junior from Midway, Utah studying special education said she is inspired every day by Stephanie’s Instagram posts and loved hearing Stephanie in person. “I love how optimistic she is about going through something so dramatic,” Snow said.
Snow said she also loves Stephanie’s focus on her children and how she allows her experience to help them learn and prepare for their futures.
Stephanie recalled the dreams she had during her painful and long recovery process of doing simple motherhood tasks such as changing diapers or even bending down to pick up something from the floor. “My family has been my greatest accomplishment and the sole reason that I came back from the dead,” Nielson said.
When asked if given the choice to be in the accident or not, Stephanie responded that she would do it all over again. “The lessons that I learned and the people that I met are strengthening my children and giving hope to other people.”