Every Wednesday

Every Wednesday, I will post something about grief. Sometimes it will be a reflection on an aspect of grief’s landscape. Now and then I will share from my own journey of grief, because in the sharing of our stories we find strength and build a community of people that support one another.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Being Real

Book: A Widow’s Awakening, Maryanne Pope

It’s unsettling to read about people in anguish who are coming apart at the seams. At the same time, it’s also a story of the human spirit as the person confronts one of the hardest experiences that she will ever have to face — the death of someone she loved more than life. After reading Maryanne’s book, I feel that we could sit down and immediately begin sharing heart-to-heart.

Her particular hell: she was in her early 30s, married for four years to John, a policeman in Canada. Because there was no safety barrier, he fell through a false ceiling while investigating a break-in, hit his head and died. She did not have the chance to say goodbye.

Every grief narrative has commonalities with the rest. After reading dozens of them over the years, and after dealing with several deaths of my own, I pretty much know the landscape. The specifics of her unique story are what interest me.

Maryanne’s book is honest. She not only talks about all the major decisions she has to make in a short amount of time, like whether to donate John’s organs, the funeral arrangements, the flurry of forms and bills, and worries about her finances, she also shares her inner journey of trying to stay afloat and cope with all the crazy thoughts she has through the first year. Grief makes you crazy for a time as you try to comprehend what doesn’t make sense — how someone who was so alive a moment ago is now a cold body that no longer moves.

She shares her struggle to maintain a precarious balance between giving up and hanging on when there seemed to be no point, of pushing through weeks of despair to reach brief moments of hope.

Yet in the midst of the hard days, her dry humor surfaces, like when she worries about where in the afterlife her husband is. She imagines billions of souls flipping through magazines in the waiting room as God decides who gets into heaven.

Like everyone else who grieves, she has to deal with the clueless things that people say to comfort her. When someone says, “Losing a spouse isn’t as bad as losing a child,” Maryanne wanted to reply, ‘This isn’t a pissing contest!’ In addition to her grief for his death, she and John had been trying to decide whether to have children. With his death, that option is gone, and this person has reminded her that she has a second grief.

She also struggles with faith. When someone who is spreading the word of God on the street, asks if she has let Jesus into her heart, she asks him what God’s word is. After thinking about it, he says the word is “love.” He spoke true. Love one another as equals — in grief, in relationships, in your interactions with the world.

When someone we love dies, grief hands us a crapometer. It helps us tell who is genuinely concerned about us and wants to help, and who is only being polite and doesn't want to get messy.

Death also takes away many of our illusions of how we think things in life should be. The stark reality is that good people die and that too many of them die young. In grief we learn to trust ourselves. We also learn how strong we are.


You can find out more about Maryanne’s journey and the work she is doing at her website: www.pinkgazelle.com


  1. Hi Mark! Wow...what a beautiful and heartfelt blog you have written about my book, A Widow's Awakening, and my journey through grief. I am so glad my story hit a chord with you. I know you have experienced your own losses and grief over the years...and read a great deal of other people's experiences with grief.

    I am SO glad we connected and although we can't have a sit down heart-to-heart, I am glad we have connected via e-mail!

    Keep up the amazing work you are doing...and I look forward to reading more of your writing :)

    Take care and thanks again so much for reading my book AND taking the time to write such a kind blog about it.


    (Maryanne's Internet connection isn't working, so she asked me to post this for her.)

  2. People do say strange things. I have had a couple people debate whether it is easier to divorce or have a spouse die - as if convenience is more important than life. But I guess I don't know what their pain is like anymore than they could know mine. Thanks to you both... remembering you in my prayers. Paul

    1. Thank you, Paul. As much as I'm tempted to figure out which is worse in things like this, I know it would only have personal relevance. So much depends on where the relationship was when things happened. I've had friends divorce because they discovered that living together wasn't working. They married other people, are happy and they are good friends. Other people are devastated. When someone dies, however, the relationship is what it was. There are no do-overs, no mending, no more loving.