Archive for Compassion Posts

published in Children, Compassion, Inspiration, Mothering Matters by Maryanne | October 23, 2018 | 2 Comments

Kindness 101 – Won’t You Be My Neighbour Documentary Hits Home


“I like you as you are…I think you turned out nicely.”

– Lyrics from Mr. Rogers song

Have you seen the Mr. Roger’s documentary?

If not, I highly recommend it. My niece, Emily (age 20), and I watched Won’t You Be My Neighbour not once but twice in one weekend.

Emily is an Early Childhood Education student at Mount Royal University, so it makes sense she would be interested. As for me…well, I watched it the first time because Emily wanted to see it. I watched it the second time (and took notes) because I couldn’t believe how profoundly impacted I was by the now-deceased host of a slow-paced and seemingly simple children’s TV show (that ran from 1968 to 2001).

And here’s the even weirder thing: I didn’t even watch Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood growing up! I don’t know why. I guess the show never really clicked with me. I preferred Mr. Dressup, Casey, Finnegan and the gang.

At any rate, I’m hoping that what I missed out on by not watching Mister Rogers as a kid, I have now somewhat made up for having watched the documentary…twice 😊

If I had to use a single word to describe the message that Fred Rogers was most passionate about trying to communicate in his show, it would be kindness.

Acceptance, tolerance, compassion and unconditional love would all follow close behind.

There is a great line in the documentary by one of the many people interviewed (who knew Fred personally or professionally) that sums up what Mr. Rogers stood for:

“Fred’s theology was to love your neighbor and yourself.”

Simple, yes. Easy, no. I recently spent seven years of my life despising my noisy neighbors…and have been working for the past year writing a play script about the experience, which is probably another reason this documentary crossed my path when it did.

This is another comment, by one of the people interviewed, that also really resonated with me:

“Fred realized that if you really want to communicate, you have to listen.”

Here are some sage snippets by Fred himself, pulled from the film:

“The space between the TV screen and the person receiving the message…I consider that very holy ground.”

“You’ve made this day a special day just by being you.”

“What do you do with the mad you feel…when you feel so mad that you could bite?”

“I think silence is one of the greatest gifts that we have.”

“Sometimes we need to struggle with tragedy to feel the gravity of love. Love is what keeps us together and afloat.”

“You don’t ever have to do anything sensational for people to love you.”

“No matter what your particular job, especially in our world today, we all are repairers of creation…thank you for whatever you do.”

Even though I am not a parent myself, this comment really hit home:

“I’ll tell you what children need. They need adults who will protect them from the ever-ready molders of our world.”

And as you may have heard, there is also a feature film about Mr. Rogers in the works, starring Tom Hanks…can’t wait! Emily and I will be first in line 🙂

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 Change, Compassion, Death, Grief, Inspiration, Kindness, Life After Loss by Maryanne | June 7, 2017 | No Comment

Compassion in a Box – Consider Giving the Gift of a Solace Club Grief Box

“It is important to remember that there is no right or wrong way to grieve. However, there are ways to help alleviate the suffering we experience. Some of these include increasing healthy coping skills, finding expressive outlets, and utilizing social and community support.”

– Solace Club, part of note inside “More Than Flowers” Box

Give a gift that says, “I care and I am thinking of you”

If you know someone who has recently (or not so recently) experienced a significant loss, you may wish to consider sending them a grief box from the Solace Club. A great deal of thought and love has been put into designing and producing these beautiful boxes – for the purpose of helping support people on their journey through grief.

I recently had the honour of receiving the “More Than Flowers” box and thoroughly appreciated the useful gifts inside. The contents included: ginger candies (yum…they were devoured within a day!), Bach Flower Remedies candies, essential oil, a cooling eye mask, tissues, journal with pen, a remembrance bracelet, thank you cards, as well as grief cards with encouraging quotes on them.

But here’s the thing: it’s the love behind the boxes that will also work wonders.

The simple act of taking a moment to order a grief box through the Solace Club and having it sent to someone who is hurting may help them more than you will ever know.

When we lose someone we love, it can really hurt. And sometimes we can start to feel very alone and isolated as we try to make sense of the past, deal with the harsh realities of the present and begin to forge a new – and often unwanted – future.

“When we lose important people in our world to death, we lose more than the person themselves. We lose elements of that relationship, relationship with others, aspects of our identity, our sense of security, etc.”

– Solace Club, part of note inside “More Than Flowers” Box

After the death of a loved one, our world is turned upside down…and can stay upside down for years.

So when someone – a friend, family member, colleague, acquaintance or stranger – actually takes the time to choose and hand-write a sympathy card, bake a batch of cookies, order a beautiful bouquet of flowers and/or have a Solace Club grief box shipped, it isn’t just the material gift that provides comfort. The love behind the act of sending it can help heal another person’s broken heart…because it says, “I care and I am thinking of you.”

Please click here for further details on the “More Than Flowers” box (and to order).

To view the other grief boxes (Self-Care, Anger, Holiday Survival Kit) available through the Solace Club, here is the link.

“We live in a culture that does not teach us how to help loved ones in grief.”

– Solace Club

Together, we can continue to change that.

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is the 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.

published in A Widow's Awakening Book, Change, Compassion, Death, Depression, Grief, Life After Loss by Maryanne | February 20, 2017 | 2 Comments

Grief at Work – Supporting a Colleague Who Has Experienced a Significant Loss


“When someone is going through a storm, your silent presence is more powerful than a million empty words.”

– Thema Davis

Temporarily Out of Order – Grief as a Mental Health Issue in the Workplace

I was in Nanaimo, BC recently, delivering a presentation at the 2017 Tourism & Hospitality Occupational Health & Safety Summit, hosted by go2HR. The theme of the summit was “The healthy workplace: A state of mind,” so the presentations touched on a variety of issues pertaining to mental health in the workplace.

My presentation was entitled, Behind the Scenes; A Grief Deconstructed. I have delivered this particular presentation before – but mainly to volunteers working with victim service units of police services.

For this health & safety summit, however, I adapted my presentation for the Tourism & Hospitality Industry and focused on 2 key messages:

1. The importance of workplace safety: Using the circumstances of John’s easily preventable death to drive home the fact that the public has a role to play in ensuring their workplace is safe for everyone, including emergency responders who may have to attend.

2. Grief as a mental health issue: Sharing some of my personal experience with the psychological and emotional aspects of my grieving process to illustrate how we never know what is really going on “behind the scenes” with someone who has recently experienced a significant loss.

I discussed the vulnerability, shame, confusion and isolation I experienced as a result of what I was really thinking and feeling in the months following John’s death – but was too embarrassed to admit.

My presentation is highly personal and very candid. As such, it tends to resonate with audiences. I do my best to explain the process of how my mind struggled to accept the unacceptable. Coping with a significant trauma can wreak havoc on our usual cognitive capabilities. It certainly did with me.

From a psychological perspective, I was temporarily out of order for a few months – but didn’t put the sign up.

Although the mental health issues that can crop up as part of the grieving process – such as depression, anxiety and/or suicidal thoughts – may be temporary versus chronic, if gone unchecked the impacts can, in the extreme case of suicide, be devastatingly permanent.

After sharing my experience of grieving John’s death, including healthy versus unhealthy coping mechanisms, I offered the audience some tangible tips that people might find of use in their workplace (or anywhere, really). Here they are:

7 Suggestions for Supporting Colleagues Who Have Recently Experienced a Significant Loss

#1) Don’t try and say the “right” thing – there usually is no right thing. Just be sincere and let the person know you care. If you are going to say the standard, “I’m so sorry for your loss,” then put your heart and soul into saying it…and look the person in the eye.

#2) Sometimes the less you say, the better – because you likely don’t know what is going on “behind the scenes” of their grieving process i.e. what they are really thinking and feeling. Due to the highly vulnerable state they may be in, staying clear of religious comments is usually a good idea.

Telling a Mom that “It’s God’s plan” that their child just died of cancer may not go over very well. Same with comments such as: “He’s in a better place now.” That is a religious belief – and not everyone believes it.

#3) Consider asking the person how they are doing – or what they need – and then shutting up and really listening to what their answer is 🙂

#4) Ask the person if it is okay if you mention the loved one who has passed away – or the event that has occurred. Sometimes we are so worried about “not wanting to upset” someone that we deliberately avoid mentioning the person who has passed away (or whatever has caused the grief).

But this can have the opposite effect: by not mentioning the deceased person’s name, it can downplay the significance of someone’s loss.

#5) Send or give the person a card expressing your condolences, compassion and concern. Even just a simple card with the handwritten note “I’m thinking of you,” can mean a lot.

#6) Supporting someone else in their grief is NOT about you. If someone you work with has just lost their spouse in a car crash, telling them that you understand what they are going through because your 90-year old Grandpa died when you were 30, is not helpful. Oddly enough, this sort of comment happens far more often than one would hope 🙁

Likewise, grief is not a competition. I was astounded by the number of people who said to me, shortly after my husband died: “It’s not as bad as losing a child.” That was a projection of their ideas about loss – and did far more harm than good.

#7) Consider asking them to go for a “Walk & Talk.” If the person is open to going for a walk (either on a break from work or outside of work), this can be an opportunity for them to open up and perhaps be more honest about what they are experiencing.

There is something about being outside, physically moving and not having to look directly at someone when speaking that may help the person speak more freely – which can be a tremendous gift.

The Downside of Being on the Right Track

What I personally experienced – both losing a loved one as the result of a workplace fatality and struggling with mental health issues as part of the grieving process – is, unfortunately, a reality for many people…and far more common that perhaps we may realize.

After I had delivered my presentation to the Nanaimo group, I was walking around the room, handing out my take-away tips to people and chatting and answering questions. When I got to the table that had some gals from a Vancouver Island resort, one of the women said to me: “You have no idea how much we needed to hear your presentation today.”

The woman went on to tell me that one of their colleagues had just lost her husband two weeks ago – he was electrocuted on the job.

“She is absolutely devastated,” the woman told me. “So thank you for sharing your story because now we have some idea on how to support her.”

And there you have it. In a room full of only 30 people, a workplace fatality – and the far-reaching impacts – had reared its ugly head yet again.

I told the resort gals how supportive my colleagues had been after John’s death. Even though I never returned to that job, I remember how much it meant when a group of my co-workers came to visit me about six weeks after John’s passing – and brought me a beautiful little indoor Zen water fountain.

Should you be interested in reading the entire 45-minute presentation I delivered in Nanaimo, here is the link.

Related Blogs by Maryanne

The Chick in the Road

Dealing with Dread & the Benefits of Being Back in the Saddle

The Awakening – Tragedy as a Wake-Up Call

Dear Widow – A Few Unfiltered Tips on How NOT to Grieve

Taking Death to Parties – Mentioning Loved Ones Who’ve Died

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is the CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her Life After Loss blogs, please sign up here.