Embracing Our Embarrassment;
Our Candour Can Give Others Courage
Updated April 30th, 2014
“We never throw an idea away because you never know when someone else will need it.”
– Art Fry, 3M scientist who helped develop the Post-it Note, in Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek
A few years ago, I recorded the audio version of my book, A Widow’s Awakening, in my sunroom. It was a rather interesting experience, telling the entire tale into a microphone while Colin – the audio technician and a complete stranger – sat a few feet away listening carefully to every word.
Thankfully, Colin had read the book before our recording session. This came in handy when I got to the rather embarrassing passage about what I shall call my “Jesus Thought.” Have a listen:
Click here for AWA audio clip (1 min 30 sec)
When I finished reading the paragraph out loud, I leaned back and looked over at Colin.
“Well,” I said, “How did that sound?”
He smiled. “Awesome! When I first read that passage in your book, I thought to myself, ‘this lady is crazy’ — but in a good way! I mean you were so honest…it’s actually my favourite passage in the entire book.”
“An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal behaviour.”
– Viktor Frankl
The truth is, however, writing that particular passage was the most challenging part for me. It took me years to find the courage to just put the thoughts down on paper. Although it certainly wasn’t the most emotionally-difficult part to write (that goes to spending the day with John in the ICU as he succumbed to brain injuries), it definitely required the most courage to write…never mind publish.
For it is one thing to share publicly the circumstances of what happened — the facts — and even how one felt about it all, but it is quite another to share one’s psychological response. Why? Because it is socially acceptable to feel sad and angry over the preventable death of a loved one; thinking one is the Second Coming of Christ not so much. And understandably so.
As such, for a long time I was embarrassed and ashamed of the thoughts I experienced during the early days of grief. But once I got past my pride and concern about what others might think of me, I decided to share the truth of my psychological journey because I suspected I wasn’t alone in having bizarre thoughts as the result of experiencing an extremely traumatic event.
My decision was the right one. Although some people certainly thought I was a fruit loop (but a funny & honest one), many readers thanked me for my candour – because it validated their not-so-socially-acceptable thoughts in the wake of tragedy.
“I could not put your book down. Even when my eyes were swollen shut from crying I continued to read. After 5 years my grief is still pretty raw but it comes in waves and tides. I had 18 months of counselling and did not come close to the comfort I got from your book. It was nice to hear someone else express the thoughts that I was thinking (i.e. Am I crazy? Is he still here somewhere? Does God really exist?). I think the hardest part for me since my husband’s death is that I feel like I am no longer connected to anyone or anything. Your book gave me hope. Thank you.”
— A Widow’s Awakening reader
Although each person’s grieving process is very different, the bottom line is the same: when we are forced to accept the unacceptable, our minds will do whatever they have to, in order to survive.
“My mind is racing after reading your book. It’s been 14 months since my husband died. Your raw and honest words hit home. Suddenly, I felt connected because it was real. You tell it like it really is for many of us, even though we have a public face that hides the personal chaos churning away inside. You validated me and my struggle. I spent the whole day in bed reading it yesterday. Today I don’t feel crazy anymore. There were so many instances where I wanted to scream with joy because I related to something that I haven’t dared share with anyone for fear of getting locked up.”
— A Widow’s Awakening reader
I am glad I found the courage to write the truth about what I was really thinking and feeling during my darkest days – partly because it added some much-needed humour to an otherwise heart-wrenching story, partly because it is helping others realize that regardless of what they are thinking and feeling in their own journey through grief, they are not crazy or alone, and partly because as a writer, I am getting a heck of a lot of mileage out of that “Are We Waiting for a Saviour?” theme!
Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening and the playwright of Saviour. She is the Board Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund and the CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions Inc. The audio version of A Widow’s Awakening is available through WestVoice Audioworks.