published in Christianity, Grief, Relationships, Spirituality, Writing by Maryanne | November 22, 2011

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.

6 Comments

  1. Sarah Polson on April 30th, 2014 at 9:36 pm:

    I loved this post! Loved that part in the book too. I remember laughing out loud actually. Your courage and honesty never cease to amaze me friend!

    SP

  2. Maryanne on March 20th, 2016 at 2:02 pm:

    This comment came in via e-mail:

    I wanted to let you know that I shared your blog post on the Jesus part of your book and how hard it was for you to share that. I sent it to a friend. Her fiance died four weeks ago. Her grief is very, very raw still and not much comforts her but your post did, so thank you. There’s not a lot I can share with her that’s helpful right now so I’m grateful when something helps. Thanks for being such an open person and sharing your heart.

  3. Mark Liebenow on January 7th, 2017 at 10:18 am:

    Where the mind goes when the shock of death hits, how our minds try to make sense of what does not make sense, is fascinating. By sharing this account, you tell us that you are going to be honest in what you write. That’s what we want. Now I want to go back through my journal to see if I had any Jesus moments. Thank you, Maryanne.

  4. Maryanne on January 9th, 2017 at 11:31 am:

    Hello Mark! Wonderful to hear from you and I am so glad this blog resonated with you – enough to go back through your own journals! You are so right: it is pretty incredible where the mind goes when we are in shock – as we struggle to makes sense of that which does not make sense.

    Take care and keep up the excellent work you are doing to provide support and encouragement to others who are going through the grieving process,
    Maryanne

  5. Ginny McKinney on March 12th, 2019 at 12:12 am:

    I loved this, Maryanne! Here was my crazy: I was totally fixated on my husband’s hair. They took me in to see him in the cardiac cath lab after they pronounced him dead. He was lying there…freshly washed, tubes removed, a clean sheet tucked up under his chin. The lights in the room were dimmed and a single spotlight shone down on his face. I was led to his side and it took a few moments to garner the courage to raise my eyes. When I did…I was aghast! They….they had slicked his hair straight back! I mean, OMGosh! He looked like some mafioso named GUIDO! I freaked out. The man was fastidious about his hair and suddenly that’s all I could think of. “You have to fix his hair! Like…NOW!” They couldn’t get it right. Once things had…settled….there was no moving the hair. It didn’t stop at the hospital either. I bugged the heck out of the funeral director till he finally just said “That’s the best we can do.” And, I finally let it go. But for six months after, I apologized every time I went to the cemetery. It’s CRAZY how crazy grief makes you. Thanks for shining a light in the dark spots and showing us the glittery bits in an otherwise horrific experience. ❤️

  6. Maryanne on March 12th, 2019 at 12:08 pm:

    Oh Ginny…that is classic! I totally understand (and agree) how important it is that every detail is correct. Thank you SO much for sharing your experience. I HATED the photo the newspaper used of John after his death – it was a horrible one…one of his worst. But what can you do?!

    Take care, thanks for reading and I’m so glad we connected on Twitter! Keep up the great blogging 🙂
    Maryanne

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