published in Uncategorized by Maryanne | September 18, 2018 | No Comments

Comment on A Widow’s Awakening Book Cover Sparks Candid Discussion


“Sometimes we must lose what we love the most to awaken the person we are meant to be.”

– Words on cover of A Widow’s Awakening novel

Words have tremendous power

Words can heal. Words can help. Words can hurt. Words can forge relationships and words can end them. And the words on a book cover, I recently learned, don’t just help sell books; they can also send potential readers running in the opposite direction.

That’s exactly what happened after the launch of the A Widow’s Awakening novel. And I am grateful the potential reader in question chose to contact me directly…because her comment sparked a candid discussion about a deeper question:

When tragedy strikes, are we “supposed” to learn from loss and try to transform a horrific situation into some sort of change for the better, either in ourselves or the world around us?

This is the original comment I received:

Good morning Maryanne,

“Sometimes we must lose what we love the most to awaken the person we are meant to be”. I was about to order the book when this stopped me in my tracks. I hear things like this, and I cannot reconcile anyone saying this to me. I would give anything to have had my life path go in a direction that did not include my losses. I will never know how my life path would be if my son and husband were still here. I will never know the difference between them being here and them not being here. Nobody knows, nobody could ever know. My son was killed at work October 2015 at 25 years old. My husband died of brain cancer February 2016 at 51 years old.

I came across your blog a year or more ago (I have no sense of time) and I think your name caught my eye at first. Then I really connected with your way of thinking, writing, feeling. I understand from you, that your loss allows for writing from the financial point of view, and it prompted you, I just cannot wrap my head around the sentence. I do not know you, even so, I wonder if you wrote the sentence? I would have guessed your line of thinking was the same as what I have tried to explain. I would love to hear from you.

This was my response (edited slightly for this blog): 

Thank you for your heartfelt comment on my Pink Gazelle blog – about the sentence on the cover of A Widow’s Awakening: “Sometimes we must lose what we love the most to awaken the person we are meant to be.”

No, I did not personally write that exact sentence. The publisher came up with that – based on the contents of my book AND on all the additional content (for marketing and PR) that I wrote and sent to them. I approved the sentence and stand by it. But I can totally understand your perspective…because that is certainly NOT everyone’s belief: that everything happens for a reason and when we suffer horrendous losses, we can choose to become better people through the experience.

Your comment raises an extremely important question: ARE we meant to learn from horrific tragedies and strive to become happier than we were before those we love were yanked from us? Or do tragedies just happen…and we get to move forward however we choose?

I do NOT have the answer. As a writer, however, I have chosen the path of exploring the possibility that sometimes a tragedy has the potential for positive change – both in ourselves in and in the world around us. My personal experience has shown me that maybe, just maybe, there is always some sort of larger plan unfolding and that my husband John’s death was part of that…everything that happens is.

But I could be wrong. John’s death could just be a simple case of cause and effect…no safety railing, no husband. And my choice to ‘awaken and become the person I was meant to be’ was simply a personal choice based on my beliefs, my relationship with John, the circumstances of his death, my financial situation and my dream of becoming a writer.

The argument John and I had hours before he died was a defining moment for me. I had been complaining to him, yet again, about how frustrated I was with myself for not writing…and 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.”

Ouch. So when he died the next the day, I knew exactly what I had to do: write. And in the process of grieving his death, writing, working with the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund, determining whether or not I wanted to have a child on my own, and trying to find a new guy to have a relationship with, I gradually began to realize that I had a choice: I could more or less stay the same person I was when John died…or I could change and grow and become better – with or without a new partner to share my life with.

There is a quote (it is in A Widow’s Awakening near the end) by Louis Menand that goes: “Organisms don’t struggle because they evolve; they evolve because they struggle.” That sums up my journey through grief.

Interestingly, the book I am currently writing is entitled, Life After Loss; Lessons Learned from Grief, Grace & Growth. It is an exploration of the very subject matter you and I are e-mailing each other about: the possibility that tragedy, loss and suffering hold the potential for personal growth. But at the end of the day, this particular path/perspective is a personal choice. There have been many days (and still are) when I wonder if John’s death was ‘meant to be.’ My writing explores this possibility…but that’s all it is: a possibility.

The only thing I really know for certain is that I have grown as a person in the wake of losing John. Yes, I was kicking and screaming for much of the process but at the end of the day, I have learned an awful lot that I likely wouldn’t have if he had lived. But if he had lived, I know I would have learned different things!

I hope this answers your question. I cannot thank you enough for being so candid in your comments. I am so very sorry that you lost both your son and your husband.

Please take care,


And then this happened…

I sent the e-mail then went to my kitchen for coffee. My friends, Lynne and Gavin, happened to be staying with me for the weekend and I ran into Gavin in the kitchen. I told him about the exchange, to which he said, “I think the key word in the sentence on your book cover is sometimes. You’re not saying that everyone who loses someone they love is going to – or needs to – have the experience of awakening to the person they are meant to be.”

I went back to my computer & sent the person this follow-up e-mail:

Hello again…after I sent that e-mail, I remembered one more thing I wanted to mention. In that sentence that struck a real nerve with you, there is the word “sometimes” at the beginning. I think that is a really important word.

I think we are each on very different journeys and are going to experience different things in the wake of whatever it is we are dealing with. In my personal situation, I really got the sense early on that John’s death was a wake-up call for me. His death forced me to face a great many things about myself that I likely wouldn’t have dealt with otherwise.

But I don’t think that every time someone experiences a significant loss, there is a some sort of mandatory requirement to learn from the experience. I think that is a choice…and a very personal one based on many factors.


And then Lynne woke up…

Lynne actually read A Widow’s Awakening a couple of weeks ago, so the story was fresh in her mind. When I told her about the e-mail exchange, she had a different take. This was her response: “I agree the sentence on the book cover is a possible message one could take from the actual story – but to be honest, it really should be up to the reader to decide that after reading the book…versus being told that on the book cover.”

Lynne, the actress working with me on my Bungalow by the Sea play script, then smiled and added (oh so cheekily), “It’s like a play, Maryanne…you don’t TELL the audience what you think they are supposed to take from it or even what they could consider taking from it. You let them determine that for themselves based on the story.”

And there you have it. If you would like to weigh in on this discussion, I would love to hear your feedback (at least I think I would…this constant learning is really rather exhausting!).

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.

A Widow’s Awakening Novel is Now Available!


“I fear acceptance of his death because I know that will lead to apathy. Somehow positive change has to come out of this.”

– Maryanne Pope, A Widow’s Awakening

100% of proceeds from first 1000 copies sold goes to JPMF

On September 29th, 2000, Cst John Petropoulos of the Calgary Police Service fell to his death during the investigation of a break and enter complaint at a warehouse. John was searching the mezzanine level when he stepped through an unmarked false ceiling, fell nine feet into the lunchroom below and died of 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.

John was 32. We both were. So began my journey as a young widow.

About the JPMF

Shortly after John’s death, several of his police recruit classmates started the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund (JPMF). 18 years later the JPMF is still going strong. The Fund is a registered Canadian charity that raises public awareness about why and how to ensure workplaces are safe for everyone, including emergency responders.

For further information and/or to view the JPMF’s safety videos and public service announcements, please visit the JPMF website.

Since John’s death in 2000, thousands and thousands of people have died at work or as the result of an occupational-related illness. Thousands more have been seriously impacted by life-altering injuries.

About A Widow’s Awakening

September 29th, 2000 was the worst day of my life…and to be perfectly honest, things got a lot worse before they began to get better. When John died, I lost my husband, best friend, lover, soul mate and my biggest fan. I was beyond devastated; something deep inside me had broken and I didn’t know how to fix it.

A Widow’s Awakening captures the tumultuous first year of my grief. It is a candid story about my search to find meaning in John’s death while learning how to accept the unacceptable and transform loss into positive change – both through the workplace safety educational initiatives of the JPMF as well as through my own life and my writing.

To become a writer was my life long dream. John’s dream had been to become a police officer. Paradoxically, his line of duty death gave me the financial freedom to write…and the kick in the ass I needed to do the work.

A bit of background about the book

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you may be aware that A Widow’s Awakening was originally self-published as a creative non-fiction book in 2008. Over the next decade, it sold 2000 copies. In 2017, the publisher BHC Press picked it up for publication and is releasing it on September 13th, 2018 as a fictional novel based on a true story.

The novel is very similar in style and content to the creative non-fiction edition. There have been a few editorial changes plus a new afterword and, of course, a beautiful new cover!

To order the book

A Widow’s Awakening is available in print (softcover) and as an e-book. For a list of on-line retailers where the book is available, please visit the A Widow’s Awakening page at BHC Press.

If you would like to purchase a signed copy of the print book ($19.95 plus $5 shipping), you can order it through the Pink Gazelle store or the JPMF storeAll proceeds from the first 1000 copies sold goes to JPMF.

What readers are saying

Over the years, I am honoured to have heard back from dozens of readers with their thoughts on the book. Please click here to read some of the testimonials.

Here are a few reviews from the advance reading copy of the novel:

“As a safety professional and a Threads of Life volunteer, I recommend reading “A Widow’s Awakening.” It provides a vivid, heartbreaking reality of the consequences of an unsafe workplace and the personal costs of a workplace fatality. It brings home the message that we must ensure our workplaces are safe, not only for the workers, managers and public on a daily basis but also the Emergency First Responders who may be called there to help. One life lost is one too many.” 

– Laura Synyard

“Based on a true story, A Widow’s Awakening, is a hauntingly beautiful story of enduring love, overwhelming heartache and discovering resiliency.  With descriptions that are heartfelt, painful and often humorous, author Maryanne Pope artfully paints a picture of what it is like to have your entire world pulled out from under you.” 

– Sharon Ehlers, Grief Reiki

“A Widow’s Awakening expresses the gripping pain of losing someone you love, tragically and unexpectedly. Yes, it’s a novel….but the candid truth of this widow’s suffering is real. It’s Maryanne’s personal story, but it’s more than her story. It’s for anyone who has suffered a tragic loss…she captures the essence of a grieving soul. In a strange way you may feel relief because you’ve had some of those same feelings as she did that others often judge. You realize you are not alone.”

– Robin Chodak, Grief Coach

For further information

For further details about the book, including a list of niche markets, please visit the A Widow’s Awakening home page on the Pink Gazelle site.

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. She is the executive producer of the documentary, Whatever Floats Your Boat…Perspectives on Motherhood. Maryanne is the CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her weekly blog, please sign up here. Maryanne lives on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.


published in Family, Gratitude, Inspiration by Maryanne | September 5, 2018 | 4 Comments

What Are You Grateful For?


“If the only prayer you ever say is ‘thank you,’ that will be enough.”

– Eckhart Tolle

I received a beautiful letter in the mail a few weeks ago. It is from an old friend whose husband had a serious health scare several months ago. It is a miracle he survived. My friend requested that their names remain anonymous – but she was thrilled for me to share her letter in my blog, so here it is:


This is a simple note of gratitude to you. The timing of this letter is obviously late. My only excuse is life. It is my crazy part-time job and those activities within a home which are perpetual. There is, of course, the most important reason. Every single day, several times a day, my sharp thoughts remind me how incredibly, ridiculously grateful I am.

My husband’s doctor has met only two people in his entire career that have survived an aortic aneurysm. My husband is the second one. I am utterly grateful.

Now, when I see the STARS helicopter (Western Canada air ambulance) soar through the blue sky, I take a deep breath. I truly hope the passenger will be alright. When there is a car accident on the road, I wait in my car with no judgement…no matter how long it takes. Why? Because now I truly understand how things could have gone so very differently for my family.

Every year, for the rest of my life, I will buy STARS and Foothills Hospital Lottery tickets. It is my pleasure to do so and I now consider it to be my obligation.

There are simply no words that express how deeply grateful I feel. Here is what I think: a couple of decades ago, I was given one of my life’s greatest gifts: an introduction to the most selfless person I know. On the Family Day weekend, I was given an even greater gift: that my husband is still with us here today.

I don’t think we can ever get enough reminders of how precious life is and how quickly our loved ones can be taken away. I certainly learned this difficult life lesson when my husband, John, died at the age of 32.

May we all take a moment each and every day to be grateful for what and who we have in our lives.

In last week’s blog, I wrote about my experience of visiting Los Angeles and celebrating my friend Nina’s birthday. I received an e-mail from Nina today, telling me that one of the guests I was chatting with at her party passed away suddenly from a blood clot. She was 60.

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.

Coming Sept 13th…


The BHC Press edition of A Widow’s Awakening novel will be released on September 13th, 2018 – please click here for details.

To pre-order, please visit BHC Press for a list of on-line retailers.