Once Upon a Loss: A New Look at Cinderella

Once Upon a Loss:
A New Look at Cinderella

An Award-Winning Documentary
by Carolyn Russell Stonewell

Illustrated by Karen Lisa Friedman

|   THE  FILM   |   THE  FILMMAKER   |   AWARDS  &  HONORS   |


The Film


If a parent dies when you are a child or an adolescent, people assume that you are young and you'll get over it.  It's not like abuse or alcoholism.  No one did anything to you.  It's part of life.  But for many this unspoken attitude makes the deep sense of loss, despair, and lack of self-esteem that follows them around for years all the more shameful and inexplicable.  For filmmaker Carolyn Stonewell, it wasn't until midlife when she went into Jungian analysis -- after a series of tragic losses -- that it became clear these losses were connected to a much earlier loss, the death of her mother when she was nineteen.  It was then that her analyst suggested she work with the Grimm Brothers' Cinderella.

Once Upon a Loss: A New Look at Cinderella is Carolyn's story and the stories of three remarkable women who when young lost their mothers to death or abandonment - their pain, their isolation, and the ways they sought help.  Weaving in and out of these moving stories is a version of the Grimm Brothers' Cinderella beautifully illustrated by Karen Lisa Friedman and narrated off-screen by Katherine Diamond, an accomplished New York actress.

Tying it all together is a completely new interpretation of Cinderella by well- known Swiss Jungian analyst Kathrin Asper who looks at the fairy tale not as a rags-to-riches story but as a metaphor for both recovering from an early wounding experience and an individual's search for self-esteem and identity.


About the Filmmaker


Carolyn Russell Stonewell began her career writing ads for retail and corporate clients.  Her way into finding her own voice began in 1979 with a public service campaign that used dramatic skits to raise questions about the larger implications of crime.  It was endorsed by the National Association of Elementary School Principals and won the Bell Ringer Award of the Publicity Club of Boston.  In 1980, the National Council on Crime and Delinquency cited it as an outstanding corporate program.

Soon after, she and New York acting coach and director Harold Guskin wrote Riot in the Kitchen (a satire on school lunch programs) that encouraged kids to eat healthy foods.  Sponsored by The New England Foundation for the Arts, it toured New England schools for three years.

In the mid-1980's, she offered courses at The Cambridge Center for Adult Education based on her interest in Jungian psychology and mythology, and also learned to produce, direct, shoot, and edit short video programs at Somerville Community Access Television.

Once Upon a Loss: A New Look at Cinderella is Carolyn's first full-length documentary.  She has designed a lecture about her five-year journey making the film, and has facilitated Once Upon a Loss Workshops in several states.  Carolyn also teaches courses in English and the humanities at Middlesex Community College in Bedford and Lowell, Mass.  She lives with her husband Brian in Cambridge, Massachusetts.



Awards & Honors

  • Gold Apple Award:
    National Educational Film and Video Festival

  • Finalist Award:
    The New York Festivals

  • Premiere
    & Repeat Engagement:

    The Museum of Fine Arts Boston

  • Featured Film:
    Women in Film & Video / New England Screening at MIT


Television & Screening Honors

  • Licensed to WTN-Lifestyle TV,  Cable Canada

  • American Psychological Association

  • Western Psychological Association

  • The Association for Death Education and Counseling

  • The American Association of Public Health

  • The Society for Visual Anthropology Film & Video Festival


Press & Media

  • The Boston Globe (MA)
    Front-page color feature, Living/Arts Section,
  • The Washington Post (DC)
  • The Cleveland Plain Dealer (OH)
  • The Boston Phoenix (MA)
  • The Improper Bostonian (MA)
  • The Tab (Boston, MA)
  • The Morristown Daily Record (NJ)
  • Sojourner: The Women's Forum (MA)
  • The Cambridge Chronicle (MA)
  • The Arizona Daily Star
  • The Inner Oddyssey (AZ)
  • The Times Record (ME)
  • Seven Days (Burlington, VT)

  • Guest on Daybreak, CBS's KPHO-TV,
    Phoenix, Arizona
  • Film clip shown on NBC's KNSD-TV,
    San Diego, CA
  • Guest on Daybreak, CBS's WGME-TV,
    Portland, Maine
  • Guest on News 13 This Morning, CBS's KOLD-TV,
    Tucson, Arizona
  • Guest on Daybreak, NBC's KVOA-TV,
    Tucson, Arizona



"Stonewell weaves a tapestry of stories that add up to a moving and psychologically nuanced portrait of women who lost their mothers at a young age...The film combines Jungian analysis with the classic Cinderella fairy tale (as told in its darker, un-Disney-fied, Grimm Brothers version) to explore the cycle of mourning that many, if not most, motherless daughters go through...Jungian analyst Kathrin Asper provides the theoretical framework ...The stories, the brave heart of the film, come from the women themselves...it is hopeful because it shows women who've gone through this and used that energy in a creative way."
Joseph P. Kahn,
The Boston Globe     (entire article)

"This documentary combines interviews with women who have lost their mothers with an analysis of the Grimm Brothers' tale of Cinderella, drawing startlingly cogent parallels between the story's themes and the emotional tribulations of those who have suffered the loss of a mother...Once Upon a Loss was four and a half years in the making for Stonewell.  Her care and attention are manifest in the film's well-crafted narrative development and in her successful integration of seemingly disparate themes."
Chris Wright,
The Boston Phoenix     (entire article)

"Thank you so much for sharing your documentary, Once Upon a Loss: A New Look at Cinderella, with me.  I found it to be very moving and provocative, causing me to seriously rethink the Cinderella narrative.   It is a powerful story about myth and loss that I believe will be very valuable for use in high school, college, and especially women's studies courses."
Andrea Walsh,
Assistant Director of Studies,
Committee on Degrees in Women's Studies
Harvard University

"A poignant and beautiful film about mother loss and early wounding.  The interweaving of the archetypal story of Cinderella with the personal stories of women who lost their mothers makes this film a must see."
Linda Schierse Leonard, Ph.D.,
Author of The Wounded Woman and
Creation's Heartbeat: Following the Reindeer Spirit


"Carolyn Stonewell's documentary, Once Upon a Loss: A New Look at Cinderella, unveils depths of unspoken despair.  Whether mother disappeared physically and/or emotionally, many daughters, mothers, and grandmothers will recognize their own feelings in this film.  Many will be asking themselves, 'What exactly does Motherless mean?'  Kathrin Asper's psychological insights into the Cinderella story are guideposts to reconnection to the inner self.  A beautiful and thought-provoking film."
Marion Woodman, Jungian Analyst
Author of The Addiction to Perfection:
The Still Unravished Bride

"This is a beautiful film and brings out very clearly several issues which need to be reiterated again and again.  Mourning is a social phenomenon, not simply a reflection of the inner feelings of the mourner.  It points to the problems created by societies' inability to deal with feelings, by family's lack of appreciation that children mourn.  We do not learn as children, and we do not learn as adults a language that allows for sharing of grief.  Nor do we develop rituals, for example, planting a tree as Cinderella did, and customs that give grief form."
Phyllis R. Silverman, Ph.D.,
Professor, MGH Institute of Health Professions
Associate in Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry,
MGH Harvard Medical School

"I have found this insightful film a useful catalyst in therapeutic work with patients who have suffered early loss of a parent... The combination of family film footage, interviews with the women, and the symbolism suggested through analysis of the Cinderella story, provide a powerful linking of past and present, and an encouraging perspective on the human capacity for growth and integration."
Barbara H. Rosenn, Psy.D.
Psychotherapist, Assistant Professor of Psychology
Wellesley College

"Carolyn has certainly carried through her creative vision in the making of this film.  The language of image and sound and color chosen to tell the story convey vividly and movingly the individuating possibility for personality when psyche is truly suffered and allowed to lead toward wholeness.  Carolyn related much of her personal search, speaking of the role played by events and people who influenced and motivated her."
Jean Hess Green, Ph.D.
Analytical Psychology Club,
APC Bulletin, Vol. 59, No. 1, January 1997


Upcoming Events

  • 2004 Conference of The Jungian Society
    August 5-7 at Salve Regina University
    Newport, RI

Past Events & Presentations


From the premiere of Once Upon a Loss to a sold-out audience at The Museum of Fine Arts Boston in May of 1996, Carolyn has been giving film presentations, lectures, and workshops to groups interested in loss, psychology, mythology, women's studies, filmmaking, and as part of continuing education programs for mental health professionals.  In some lectures, Carolyn talks about her inner process in making Once Upon a Loss, and the role several key dreams played in helping her find her own voice.  The workshop on loss discusses the film and Cinderella;  and uses family photos, treasured objects, and journaling to understand the importance of remembering stories and grieving.  Carolyn also co- facilitates workshops featuring the film with psychotherapists such as Linda C. Gould, M.A., L.P.C.C. of Mosaics Integrated Health in Cleveland, Ohio,  and she licenses the film to practitioners who wish to give workshops using it.


  • Analytical Psychology Club
    of New York

    New York City, NY

  • The C. G. Jung
    Institute - Boston

    Boston, MA

  • The C. G. Jung Club
    of Orange County
    at Chapman University

    Orange, CA

  • Phoenix Friends of C. G. Jung
    at Faith Lutheran Church

    Phoenix, AZ

  • Mosaics Integrated Health
    at Cleveland State University

    Cleveland, OH

  • Winter Session Seminar
    Wellesley College

    Wellesley, MA

  • Burlington College
    Burlington, VT

  • Documentary Research Class
    Ithaca College
    , Ithaca, NY

  • Panelist at Artsfirst: Promising Student Arts Program - 2002
    Lesley University
    , Cambridge, MA

  • Brookline Adult and Community Education
    at Coolidge Corner Theater

    Brookline, MA

  • Washington Society of Jungian Psychology
    Palisades Community Church

    NW, Washington, DC

  • Slater International Center
    Wellesley College

    Wellesley, MA

  • Friends of Jung
    at California School of
    Professional Psychology

    San Diego, CA

  • Southern Arizona Friends of Jung
    at St. Philip's in the Hills

    Tucson, AZ

  • Bowdoin College
    and C. G. Jung Center

    Brunswick, ME

  • Berkshire Area
    Health Education Center Conference

    Pittsfield, MA

  • C. G. Jung Institute -
    Boston Benefit Screening

    Cambridge, MA

  • Women's Studies / Sociology Classes
    West Chester University

    West Chester, PA


"I learned that I'm not too old to do this work of recovery and that art and story hold us and heal us."
Workshop Participant, 
Bowdoin College and C. G. Jung Center
Brunswick, Maine, 
April 1997

"The film helped me see that I am not the only adult woman who still feels the impact of a mother's loss.  I have felt for so long that I should be getting over this loss now (after 26 years) but I came away so relieved to know that I am not alone in my feelings."
Workshop Participant, 
Mather Mansion, Cleveland State University
Cleveland, Ohio, 
May 1997

"I just wanted to let you know that the workshop [Nancy and I gave] yesterday at Cleveland State University went really well.  There were 12 women present, and all loved the film and workshop.  It's a true honor and pleasure to work with your exceptional film and to continue our contact."
Linda C. Gould, M.A. L.P.C.C., 
Workshop Facilitator, Cleveland State University
Cleveland, Ohio, 
November 1997

"The workshop was a wonderful time and place for me to be among a group of women who shared similar losses.  It made it safe to reconnect to those memories and feelings whereas it usually is not."
Workshop Participant, 
Slater International Center, Wellesley College
Wellesley, Mass., 
May 1996

"The film touched everyone deeply and took each of us, I think, into our own memories, touching wounds, leading along a path towards healing.  It was definitely a privilege to share in the stories the four of you told.  Kathrin Asper's words, and the telling of the fairy tale, and the music, was rich, rich, rich.  BRAVO!"
Karen Magee, M. A., L.P.C., L.M.F. T.,
Workshop Facilitator
The Jung Educational Center
Houston, Texas,
June 1997

"Unbelievable!  Never has a film and discussion touched me so deeply.  Please make more films.  Wonderful documentary along with handout.  Short discussion of dreams thought provoking."
Workshop Participants, 
Berkshire AHEC and Citizens Against Child Abuse & Children of the 90's Conference
Pittsfield, Mass., 
May 1997

"I see all of the lectures that we present.  Yours was one of the best.  We will be talking about it for a very long time.  It wasn't just academic.  It came from the heart.  You really touched people."
Board Member
Friends of Jung San Diego, California
May 1998

"I want to thank you for all the work you put into the discussion board for the documentary research class...your input was perhaps the most educational part of the year."
Ithaca College
Ithaca, New York
December 2002

"The film was remakable.  The personal sharing of stories of loss combined with 'Cinderella' was an unusual yet powerful way to process loss."
Burlington College
Burlington, Vermont
November 2003




Liz Canterna Douglass,  Ph.D.
(520) 469-7977

In private practice and on staff at Sierra Tucson Psychiatric Hospital, Liz has a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis in Depth Psychology.  Specializing in grief, addictions, trauma resolution, and women's issues, she conducts 8-week psycho-educational workshops on Motherloss for adult women, and offers an ongoing therapy group for women anticipating, enduring, or grieving Motherloss.


Maggie Bromell,  M.A, IAAP
Jungian Analyst - Northampton
(413) 548-7412

One of the participants in Once Upon a Loss, Maggie has a small, private practice; and leads groups working with fairy tales, dreams, and women's spirituality.


Winona Hubrecht,  M.A., L.C.P.C.
Jungian Psychoanalyst
(207) 363-7850

Past president of C. G. Jung Institute - Boston.  Through teaching courses and workshops on fairy tales, dreams, and other mythological stories;  and in private practice (couples and individual), Winona helps people find their own stories -- often involving loss and emotional abandonment.


Linda C. Gould,  M.A., L.P.C.C.
(216) 524-7772

As an associate of Mosaics Integrated Health, Linda specializes in mother loss and early parental loss.  She runs support groups, gives workshops, and sees private clients.


Karen Magee,  M.A., L.P.C., L.M.P.T.
Candidate-in-Training with the Inter-Regional society of Jungian Analysts
(713) 461-9683

With graduate training in family systems, Karen is now a psychotherapist in private practice in Houston.  For the last ten years she has presented workshops, lectures, and classes with an emphasis on Jungian psychology -- providing participants an opportunity to deepen their own awareness and heal wounds.


Dr. Mary Harsany, 
Clinical Psychologist
(514) 481-8664

Mary is in private practice in Montreal, having trained at the Center for Depth Psychology and Jungian Studies in Katonah, New York.  She has developed a one-day workshop based upon Once Upon a Loss in which -- after viewing the film - participants have various opportunities for inner work and sharing.


Other Resources

Jean Kilbourne:   Web Site

Grief Healing:   Web Site;  Page of Links re Human Loss

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e-mail the producer Carolyn Russell Stonewell at:

Illustrations by Karen Lisa Friedman of Karen Friedman Studios

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