Archive for Life After Loss Posts

published in A Widow's Awakening Book, Change, Death, Grief, Hope, Inspiration, Life After Loss, Widowhood by Maryanne | February 20, 2018 | No Comment

Reader Feedback for A Widow’s Awakening Book – Batch #1

 

Here is some of the feedback we have received from readers over the years…

“I started reading A Widow’s Awakening on Sunday and finished it Monday. The first third of your book touched me in ways I hadn’t anticipated. I cried so hard, my eyes became swollen; the pain was so real. I haven’t cried that hard in a long, long time. The grief you expressed was so real to me, as I experienced my own grief in a similar way. Reading your book has been healing for me.”

– Cristy Hayden, Calgary, AB

“I thought A Widow’s Awakening was an incredible read, and I like that you were so brutally honest. I found myself taking notes all the way through as there were so many areas that grabbed my attention.”

– Elliot Windmill, Journey with Lossul, UK

“All I can say after devouring your book in 24 hours (which I have not done in three years!) …is that you could see me reading it in bed, on the seabus, on the couch…it is wildly energetic and honest and authentic and funny and real. I loved it…incredibly heartbreaking but life affirming at the same time.”

– Alex Carr, Vancouver, BC

Maryanne Pope, photo by Kimberley Williamson

“All I can say is WOW! How did you do it? I laughed, I cried I laughed again and cried some more. It was the bravest piece of literature I have ever read.”

– Ann Lebitka, Calgary, AB

“I just finished reading A Widow’s Awakening and thought it beautifully written. I was completely absorbed in every page . . . it was funny, sad and shocking. People can learn from the honest insight, all of the emotions that people go through when grieving the loss of a loved one. I think it’s a wonderful gift that you have given back in John’s name . . . a memorial fund that can make a difference in other people’s lives . . . because isn’t that what John and all police officers’ intent is after all?”

– Peggy (spouse of police officer), Calgary, AB

“I’ve read a lot of books this past year on grief. Your book was the closest description of my thoughts and feelings. I almost found myself cheering in some places. Finally…someone understands!”

– Karen Adkins

“I wanted to congratulate you on your truly remarkable book. God forbid, if I ever have to deal with such a tragedy, I hope I can do it with the strength and resolve that you did. Thanks for sharing your experience.”

 Gwen Farnsworth, Health in Action

“Told with brave candour and intelligent wit, A Widow’s Awakening takes you on an enlightening journey into the worlds of policing, hospital trauma units, Orthodox religion, unsafe workplaces, and the unexpected areas our minds can wander into when life becomes almost too painful to bear. An inspiring story of coming to terms with the unimaginable in order to live a life with purpose and meaning, this book is a testament to the capacity of the human spirit.”

– Shannon Lyons, Calgary, AB

“I have been reading A Widow’s Awakening and wanted to say thank you. It’s so beautiful and so real. Like you, I lived it. The love of my life was killed at work in Sept 2000, when he fell putting up rafters for a building. He was 52. I miss him so much and it still hurts. Your book is a wonderful gift and I treasure it…and the knowledge that someone else felt and feels the same as I do.Somehow I don’t feel so alone. Thank you.”

– Sherry Smith, Saskatoon, SK

“A Widow’s Awakening was awesome! We drove to LA and I could not put the book down. By the time we reached Primm, Nevada, I had read the whole book. You are a credit to the female population…a fighter to stand up for yourself and what you believe is right.”

– Darlene C, Calgary, AB

“A Widow’s Awakening gives a rare insight into the emotional roller coaster and psychological struggle experienced by the newly widowed wife of a police officer, senselessly killed on duty as the result of an unsafe workplace. This compelling account of personal tragedy and its aftermath is told with brutal honesty and a sense of humour uniquely her own. The dangers and consequences of policing, its effect on family, friends and comrades, as well as the author’s determination to improve workplace safety in memory of her husband, results in a fascinating and thought provoking book.”

– Former Chief Rick Hanson, Calgary Police Service

“I got home Friday night and was going to “start” the book – well, I didn’t put it down till I finished!! I laughed but mostly cried. It was an amazing read . . . thank you for sharing.”

– Sherry Woodworth, Calgary, AB

“Your book, A Widow’s Awakening, arrived Friday afternoon and I spent all of Friday evening reading it. It has been a very long time since I have done that, reading a book cover to cover, crying most of the time. You told your story so well and with such passion that I felt that I was in the room with you…I realize now that I have a great deal of hurt that I haven’t dealt with over the years and how it is my responsibility, like you, to find my true mission/purpose in life.”

– Kathleen Specht

“I am choosing A Widow’s Awakening as our first book club choice. I chose it because it had a deep impact on me. It deals with grief but it also forces us to face many difficult questions, such as the dilemma of mourning someone close to us, while at the same time becoming financially secure as the result of that loss…this is a powerful story that challenges many of our assumptions about grief.”

– Nina Steele, Nonparents.com

“After waiting for 8 years, I was not disappointed with the excruciating, painful story that unfolded on each page. The mind-numbing experience of a young woman losing her husband cannot be comprehended by someone who has not gone through this. Maryanne’s gripping, raw account of her journey, during and after this tragic time in her life is worthy of a good read. Her vulnerability in describing the events of the day of John’s death and her minute by minute survival is the closest I have encountered to being inside someone else’s skin. A Widow’s Awakening will give great insight to those of us who have not experienced this loss.”

– Deborah McInnes, Off-Duty Partners, Calgary, AB

“Just wanted to let you know that I gave my friend (who’s husband passed away) a copy of A Widow’s Awakening. She said it was actually listed as recommended reading by her support group.”

– Melanie Kisters, Vermilion, AB

 “My heart is beating harder and my breathing shorter. I am hugging my husband tighter and kissing him longer. I have burnt supper while reading! I have read books until wee hours of the night but I have not felt this much about a book before. You are an incredibly gifted writer…I feel like I am right beside you and that I am getting to know John and your relationship together. I love how he loved you. I love your writing style, how brilliantly you tie everything together and how you authentically share your soul.”

– Kim Williamson, Photographer, Cochrane, AB

“I read A Widow’s Awakening over the weekend…could not put it down once I started reading. The way you described your journey was extremely well done and thought provoking…and helpful to me as a Chaplain. I highly recommend that every Chaplain read it. It was a great read…very insightful and helpful. Your transparency did not sugar coat reality.”

– Miriam Mollering, Volunteer Chaplain, Calgary Police Service

“In her book, A Widow’s Awakening, Maryanne Pope speaks of the profound impact a workplace fatality can have on those left behind. From a workplace safety perspective, her message reinforces how important it is that every workplace is made safe for everyone. As a safety professional, it reinforces the importance of the work that we do.”

– Denise Howitt, EHS Partnerships Ltd.

For further information on A Widow’s Awakening, please click here.

To order a copy of the book, please visit our on-line store.

Map of Heartbreak – Loss as a Catalyst for Change

 

“What breaks your heart? The warrior knows that her heartbreak is her map. It will lead her toward her purpose, her tribe.”

– Glennon Doyle Melton, “Hurts So Good” article, O Magazine, Feb 2017

Pain as Fuel

In her article, “Hurts so Good,” author Glennon Doyle Melton wrote about a group of women in Iowa who had all lost an infant – and started an organization called “Healthy Birth Day,” with the goal of lowering the stillbirth rate in their state.

“Instead of withdrawing after their losses,” explained Melton, “or finding ways to disconnect from the magnitude of their suffering, they ran straight toward it. Their pain became their fuel. Their courage saved others from the misery they’d experienced.”

This is similar to how we chose to proceed in the aftermath of my husband, John’s, death as the result of a preventable fall at unsafe workplace. By “we,” I am referring to the police officers who started the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund and all the people who have (and/or still do) work for, volunteer with, or lend support to the Fund in some way.

In the early years, pain and anger certainly fueled our passion and guided our purpose. Nothing we did could bring John back but we all agreed that the workplace safety campaigns were better than doing nothing at all. We will never know the number of lives we have saved, or the injuries we’ve prevented…and we’re okay with that.

Would I recommend this path to others in a similar situation?

Hmmm…

Working closely with the JPMF to help raise public awareness about why and how to ensure workplaces – and the roads – are safer for everyone, including emergency responders has been my path, yes. I knew in my heart and soul, very early on, that workplace safety was an issue that I would need to tackle.

I wouldn’t change a thing.

But being a workplace safety advocate did not come without sacrifice in other areas of my life. The time, money, effort, love, and attention I put into the JPMF meant there were other areas of my life that didn’t get that. And that’s okay. I chose the path I did…every moment of every day. I have no regrets.

However, now that I have 17 years of experience behind me, I can safely say that trying to transform a tragedy into positive change so that others don’t have to experience similar suffering comes at a cost. We cannot do it all.

“Pleasant experiences make life delightful. Painful experiences lead to growth.”

– Anthony de Mello, Awareness

Thankfully, we get to choose how to respond to whatever loss we have experienced…and forge our own way forward. So regardless of whether we allow loss to be a catalyst for growth and change for ourselves and/or for others, just remember:

“Allow heartbreak to guide you at every turn.”

– Glennon Doyle Melton

When the love in your heart is your road map, you cannot go wrong.

Related blogs by Maryanne

Chick in the Road

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her regular weekly blog, please sign up here. As a thank you, you’ll receive a short but saucy e-book entitled, Dive into this Chicago Deep Dish – Ten Bite-Sized Steps for a Yummier Slice of Life

published in Creativity, Death, Habits, Life After Loss, Playwriting, Procrastination, Saviour Play, Souls by Maryanne | October 4, 2017 | 4 Comments

Perilous Playwriting – Let’s Air Some Dirty Laundry, Shall We?

 

 

“Be truthful, one would say, and the result is bound to be amazingly interesting.”

― Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

Or…rather confusing for all concerned.

Picture, if you will, a boardroom table…

Six strangers are sitting around said table: a playwright, a dramaturg and four actors. All are gathered to read aloud a play script.

What, perhaps you wonder, might this be experience be like – for the (squirming) playwright?

Imagine a big pile of dirty laundry (belonging to the playwright) being dumped on the table and then the next eight hours are spent watching a small but determined group of strangers systematically sift through (and comment on) each and every piece of one’s (not only dirty but decidedly un-sexy) undergarments.

A tad uncomfortable?

Oh, you betcha.

For that playwright was me. The script was Saviour. And the “dirty laundry” was not just my chaotic thoughts and heartbreaking emotions experienced during the darkest days of my life, but also some marital laundry as well, such as two spectacular (but significant to the story) arguments that John and I had about my habit of procrastinating on my writing and my refusal to say no to unreasonable demands placed on my time.

And those were just a few of the facts (and the human response to those facts) connected to the real-life story. Add in a complicated plot, a completely imagined world (what the soul experiences as the body dies as the result of a brain-injury), and four well-developed but overly chatty characters still trying to sort it all out themselves, and let’s just say the script was in need of…some slashing ☹

Here’s a snapshot of Saviour:

Can one soul save another? A young couple, Sam and Adri, have an argument about Adri’s procrastination as a writer and belief in Virginia Woolf’s idea that in order to write well, women need a secure income.

Sam, a police officer, goes to work that night, falls through a roof and hits his head, only to discover it is Virginia Woolf who will take him to the moment of his brain-death. Meanwhile, Sam’s Sergeant guides Adri through the early days of grief – and tells her she will receive Sam’s wage for the rest of her life.

Saviour is about the need to live and die in peace – and just how difficult that can be to achieve. The play promises the audience a fast-paced, imaginative and compelling theatrical journey that has strong links to real-life events.

Though a love story, Saviour challenges the notion of romantic love and suggests instead the staying power of tough love.

“Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind is written large in his works.”

– Virginia Woolf


Although I haven’t yet personally experienced this as a playwright, I suspect a workshopping of one’s entirely fictional play would be uncomfortable. After all, regardless of the story’s roots, whatever we create is an expression of our imagination. It’s our story, our creation…our baby under the knife.

But add in the fact that it is based on personal events and boy oh boy, it can get really uncomfortable.

A workshopping of one’s play can be a very useful exercise (it certainly has been for me) but it is not for the faint of heart. You pretty much have to leave your ego at the door, put on your big-girl panties, shut up and listen.

The problem, of course, is that we can’t really leave our ego at the door. Like it or not, it goes where we do. The solution to this, I have found, is to take notes. Lots of notes. And remind myself, more than once, that I have chosen to be experience this because I am HERE TO LEARN.

In other words, my big-girl panties had to be very big…granny-panties, in fact.

There are times, of course, when the playwright does get to speak…like when one of the actors asked me a question about a character’s journey that I thought was blatantly clear. But guess what: if someone has to ask the question, it obviously isn’t clear – especially if everyone else around the table has the same question.

A good question – and there were plenty of them – is pure gold in terms of figuring out how best to move forward with the next draft.

I learned an awful lot in that eight-hour workshop, both about the Saviour play and playwriting itself.

Which brings me to my next point: I choose very wisely WHO I let sort through my dirty laundry.

I have been working with the Alberta Playwrights’ Network on the Saviour script for nearly a decade. Trevor Rueger, the APN’s executive director (and the dramaturg at the table), has earned my trust over the years. Trevor knows what he’s doing. I know he’s not only going to get the right actors to the table, he’s also going to make sure the workshop is of benefit to me. The learning curve for playwriting is steep…I need constructive criticism, honest feedback and useful guidance on that seemingly endless upward climb.

Yet at the end of the day, it is my play and deep down, I KNOW which nuggets of advice to run with – and which ones to leave on the table.

And how do I know? Because of the resounding “click” I feel in my soul when someone says something I needed to hear…like another little piece of the puzzle was just put into place. And since this particular play is about the journey of four different but interconnected souls – mine being one of those – this makes sense.

That the workshop was on the actual 17th anniversary of John’s death was deliberate. I knew magic would happen. And it did. It just wasn’t the fun, Disneyland kind of magic.

It was better.

Here’s what happened:

After an intense session of brainstorming in the afternoon, Trevor called for a break. But the actor who read the part of Sam (the character based on John) and I continued chatting. Or rather, he continued chatting. I scribbled in my notebook what he had to say.

Prior to the break, we’d all been discussing WHAT it would look like for Sam to achieve peace. Sam’s goal – what he had to achieve by the end of the play (which is the moment of his brain-death) – is to be at peace with his sudden death at the age of 32. But the group had been brainstorming about what specific outcome had to happen so that Sam could be “at peace” when he died.

Here’s what the actor who played Sam said to me on break:

“I think what would give Sam the most peace is seeing that Adri is okay…and by that I mean she is taking her writing seriously and that she does, at long last, believe in herself. He needs to see that she has become empowered by him, and his sudden death, to do what she needs to do, which is write. And when he sees that she is empowered and does, finally, begin to write three months after his death, he is able to die in peace.”

I nodded and continuing scribbling like a madwoman as this total stranger summed up Sam’s journey as it relates to Adri – and therefore, of course, John’s journey as it relates to me.

And the actor had more to say.

“Oh, and I think,” he added, “that’s what the connection to Jesus as Saviour is about, too. It was likely not the intent for Jesus to come back and single-handedly save humanity with a magic sweep of his hand. Rather, his job was to be a role model to empower people to save themselves and each other.”

So I HAD hit the mark!

I just need to make the story less convoluted. Easier said than done…but certainly do-able.

After the workshop, I returned to John’s sister place, where I was staying, and collapsed on their couch…overwhelmed and exhausted. I stayed there, staring at the ceiling and processing the day – until a steak dinner got me back on my feet.

The next morning, I woke up, dusted off my bruised ego and jotted down a summary of the key insights. Thanks to the workshop, I now have a clear idea of what needs fixing, why…and how to fix it. My imagination will take care of the rest 😊

You can measure your worth by your dedication to your path, not by your successes and failures. 

– Elizabeth GilbertBig Magic

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her regular weekly blog, please sign up here. As a thank you, you’ll receive a short but saucy e-book entitled, Dive into this Chicago Deep Dish – Ten Bite-Sized Steps for a Yummier Slice of Life