Archive for Christianity Posts

We Cannot Grieve Alone


Stories of Hope: An Interview with Maryanne Pope by Dr. David Susman


Photo by Kim Williamson

Mental Health Matters

Stories of Hope is a blog series hosted by clinical psychologist, professor and mental health advocate Dr. David Susman. The series features individuals who share their life experiences with mental health issues. Dr. Susman recently asked author and advocate Maryanne Pope about her mental health journey and her current activities. This is their interview:

DS: Tell us about when you first started becoming aware of concerns related to your mental health. How did these issues continue to affect you before you sought treatment?

MP: My experience with mental health issues was the result of a traumatic event. In September 2000, my police officer husband, John, died in the line of duty. He was investigating a break and enter complaint at a warehouse when he stepped through an unmarked false ceiling, fell nine feet into the lunchroom below, hit his head and succumbed to brain injuries. There was no safety railing in place to warn him – or anyone else – of the danger. There ended up being no intruder in the building; it was a false alarm.

We were both 32 at the time. In hindsight, I would say that most of my grieving process was normal and healthy, considering the circumstances. In the hours, days, weeks and months following John’s sudden death, I experienced shock, disbelief, sorrow, fear, anger, regret, self-pity, confusion, denial, feeling overwhelmed and so on.

I began to get concerned about my mental health, however, when my mind started to create fantasies about the reality – and finality – of John’s death. As the full extent of my loss began to sink in, the emotional pain simply became too much to bear, so I suspect my mind began to seek – and find – alternative explanations for his death. A simple missing safety railing wasn’t going to suffice in terms of me accepting the end of John’s life. There had to be a bigger reason…a Divine one…

Please click here to read entire interview.

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


This is the fifth blog in the Life After Loss series:

What Are We Doing Here? A Discussion of Destiny, Fate & Divine Plan


“Our authentic calling, our true work in this world, becomes an outgrowth of our lives. Our work can transform and transcend whatever traumas we survive, turning them into something useful for ourselves and, we hope, for others.”

– Louise DeSalvo, Virginia Woolf scholar

According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, both destiny and fate mean “a predetermined state or end.” Fate implies an inevitable and usually an adverse outcome. Whereas destiny implies something foreordained and often suggests a great or noble course or end.

In other words, both fate and destiny infer that some sort of predetermination exits.

As for who or what or where that predetermined outcome originated from? Well, I suspect that answer depends on whatever belief system you happen to be most aligned with.

Regardless of what you believe and/or have personally experienced in life, the idea that our souls are here on earth to fulfill some sort of purpose can be either reassuring (especially if we feel we’re on the “right” track) or unsettling (if we are feeling rather lost and off-track).

Or, if we are of the belief that this whole exercise is just one big chaotic crapshoot that is simply unfolding at random, then although we may not believe in any sort of predetermined plan or individual purpose, that doesn’t necessarily mean our lives don’t have meaning. Rather, our lives may have the meaning we assign to them – versus some larger force.

However, just as I discovered with exploring the possibility of life after death, it wasn’t until after I lost someone very dear to me that I suddenly became VERY interested in whether or not he still existed, in some capacity, after the death of his body.

I suspect it’s the same with destiny, fate and the possibility of our souls having some sort of higher purpose for being here: we may not really think too much about it, until we are forced to…until it really matters.

In my experience, life after a significant loss is when life’s big questions come bubbling to the surface.  

I think this is partly because searching for, and perhaps finding, a higher meaning in the wake of a tragedy helps make whatever anguish we may be experiencing a bit more…palatable.

Do you believe in the idea that a “Divine Plan” exists for each of us?

God knows (sorry for the pun) I heard that whispered in my ear enough times in the days and weeks following John’s death. And quite frankly, that particular platitude offered me little in the way of solace. Instead, I was tempted to wind up and punch the person in the nose.


Because I found it presumptuous that people would tell me that John’s sudden – and easily preventable – death was part of some greater plan schemed up by a God who may or may not even exist…and as such, I best accept it.

To me, the concept reeked of apathy, especially when I realized that this “Divine Plan” is not something any of us mere mortals get to know. Rather, it’s supposed to be enough that a plan exists, so no further questions necessary.

But what is the point of God having some grand plan if no one knows what it IS? 

I guess that’s where faith come in.

However, perhaps because I had so many people telling me that God had a plan for me and John, I began to think they may be right. So what did I do? Why, I tried to figure out The Plan – or at least, our tiny parts of it.

I didn’t meet with much success 🙂

But now that nearly 17 years have passed since John’s death, I have the liberty of seeing things far more objectively than I did in those early days. And I cannot deny the possibility that there could be some sort of plan at work. Or maybe it’s just the way I choose to frame the situation?

Here are a few facts to our story:

1.) John and I used to argue about my procrastination as a writer. I had read Virginia Woolf’s book, A Room of One’s Own, multiple times. Woolf maintained that in order for women to write fiction well, they needed a room of their own and a secure income. John thought that was ridiculous. He figured motivation and me sitting down to actually do some writing was far more important.

2.) The day before John died, we had one last argument about me not writing and I told him how scared I was of waking up 20 years later and still not have finished writing a book. He looked at me and said, “You’re probably right about that…just as long as you know that will have been your choice.”

3.) Because John died in the line of duty and we had mortgage insurance, I was entitled to receive exactly what Virginia Woolf had proposed: a secure income for the rest of my life and an entire house – paid off in full at 32 – in which to write.

4.) Two weeks later, I started writing what would become my book, A Widow’s Awakening. It was published 8 years later…well under the 20-year time limit 🙁

5.) A few years after his death, for some unknown reason, I took a playwriting course. My very first play script was entitled, Saviour, and it’s about John dying of his brain injury – with none other than Virginia Woolf as his spirit guide.

And then there’s the workplace safety initiatives of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If John hadn’t died as the result of a preventable fall at an unsafe workplace, the JPMF wouldn’t exist – and I certainly wouldn’t be an advocate for safety.

So DO I believe in destiny, fate and/or some sort of Divine Plan?

Honestly, I don’t know WHAT I believe in. But I do believe there are far larger forces at play in our lives and our job is to get up each and every day and do our very best at whatever is in front of us…and everything else just seems to fall into place. Eventually.

“God does not die on the day we cease to believe in a personal deity. But we die on the day when our lives cease to be illuminated by the steady radiance of wonder renewed daily, the source of which is beyond all reason.”

Dag Hammarskjold, former UN Secretary-General

I would love to hear your thoughts on fate, destiny and/or a Divine Plan. Do you think your soul is here to fulfill a certain destiny?

For further info about the Life After Loss blog series, please click here.

Here is the link to subscribe to receive the Life After Loss blogs – as well as to read the blogs posted thus far in the series.

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.



Box of Books Bonanaza!


“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.”

– Chief Rick Hanson, Calgary Police Service

Are you looking for a unique fundraiser for your organization – that might also help deliver some of your key messages? 

If so, we might be able to help!

For a limited time, Pink Gazelle Productions is offering the Box of Books deal. Each box contains 36 copies of the creative non-fiction book, A Widow’s Awakening (plus 50 bookmarks) by Maryanne Pope. The box can be purchased for $180 ($5/book x 36 books) plus $20 shipping.

The organization can then turn around and sell individual copies of the book for a suggested retail price of $20 or $25 per book.

Please note, however, that an individual book is quite expensive to mail (approx. $12 within North America), so it is preferable to sell (or giveaway) copies at events, tradeshows, conferences, etc – versus selling on-line and incurring the mailing costs. But you can do that, too, if you like 🙂

The Box of Books would be appropriate for organizations that fall within one or more of the 5 key target markets we have identified for A Widow’s Awakening (see below).

For marketing purposes, we can provide the organization with electronic versions of relevant images (book cover and author photo) as well as written content for specific niche markets.

About the Book

AWA front cover

With over 1800 print copies sold, A Widow’s Awakening is touching the heart and soul of readers. This extraordinary story, told in the style of creative non-fiction, is a candid portrayal of author, Maryanne Pope’s, journey through the first year of grief after the on-duty death of her police officer husband.

Engaging, powerful and heart-wrenching, A Widow’s Awakening captures the immense difficulty of accepting the unacceptable while learning to transform loss into positive change.

Key Niche Markets

Based on extensive reader feedback, we have identified 5 key niche markets that A Widow’s Awakening is suitable for:


About the Author

M Pope B&W

Maryanne Pope is the CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. She is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the executive producer of the documentary, Whatever Floats Your Boat…Perspectives on Motherhood. Maryanne lives on Vancouver Island, British Columbia.

Reader Testimonials

Here are a few comments from readers:

My mind is still 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. I loved A Widow’s Awakening because it is not one of those ABC’s of how to get over it. 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.” 

– Chris, Calgary, AB

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.

“I read your book over the weekend…could not put it down. The way you described your journey was extremely well done and thought provoking…and helpful to me as a Chaplain. Having been in private practice as a psychological counselor and now serving as part of a pastoral staff and more recently as a volunteer Chaplain with a police service, I’ve had many conversations with individuals who have suffered loss. I highly recommend every Chaplain read it. Your transparency did not sugar coat reality – well done. In addition, we are using the JPMF’s Boots workplace safety DVD for training staff and volunteers.”

– Miriam Mollering, Pastor of Life Care Ministries and Risk Management Designate, Centre Street Church, Calgary, AB

To read additional reader testimonials, please click here.

Purchasing the Box of Books

Here is the link to purchase the Box of Books through the PGP on-line store.

If you have further questions or prefer to be invoiced, please contact us.

*Please note: we only have a limited number of boxes left. Offer good until Feb 15th, 2015 – or until supplies last.