Don't Rush Me
'My Teacher's Name is Grief'
Local author uses past to help others' future
January 26, 2011 - " . . . But grief is even more. It's a teacher if we let it be, and a good one. We can actually learn a lot from the sadness that we feel sometimes, not when we're in the middle of grief, but later with time when we feel a little less sad."
Every once in a while the Big Kahuna in the sky sends someone my way that keeps me on the light side of the road. The other day was one of those days.
Orion Township resident, Madeleine Miehls e-mailed me out of the blue . . . something like this: "Hi -- I just wrote a book, who do I talk to at your newspaper to let folks know?"
Usually, ever the delegatin' dude, I pass off stuff faster than the staff can catch. But, this e-mail piqued my interest. I selfishly kept the e-mail to myself and contacted her. (One day when I grow up I wanna' write a book and publish it, so I try to interview as many authors in the hopes that something will rub off on me. By the way, it ain't worked so far.)
So, Madeleine drove up to my Oxford office and dropped off a copy of her book, My Teacher's Name Is Grief, and quickly left.
What a wonderfully simple book. Or is it simply wonderful? I think "yes" on both accounts.
It looks like a children's book, with big pictures and a few paragraphs on each of the 21 pages. But, it is not. It is a book of hope for anybody who has lost someone they loved. In Madeleine's case, when she was 16, her mom died of cancer. In 2003, Gerald Cormier husband of 13 years and the father of her daughter (Emily) passed away.
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She struggled. She grieved.
"You think when something like that happens (spouse passing), people will be there for you all the time to help you. To do things for you, but that is not always true . . . you find yourself all by yourself . . . you have to make the effort to open the door and walk out," she said.
And, towards the end of 2004, she got out and started to attend meetings for folks struggling with the loss of their spouses, WidowedFriends.org. Which led to hosting grief workshops at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Lake Orion. And, then something happened.
"After a while I got tired of hearing everybody's struggles and I got sick of hearing me talk about it, too . . . more like I saw how far I'd come and after a time I grew weary of reliving grief again because I was finally living again."
One night she gave an hour speech on the "task that grief gives you." When she finished up, a nice older lady gave her a nudge. "You should write a book."
And she did. Self-published it, as a matter of fact.
"I think the biggest take-away in all of this is, life is what you make it. And it's okay to wallow for a time but you still need to get out of bed. Time doesn't stop though we might want it to. So you choose what you want in life and work hard to make it happen. And you will find there are naysayers. 'It can't be done.' 'Oh, I don't like your book because it's too dark.' Yep, I've had some people say that to me. 'Don't work out too much or you'll get too skinny.' My advice, ignore it all and ignore the voice in your head, too. In fact, that voice is our worst enemy. It's the one that says, 'It can't be done.' It can be done, if you show up and do your part," she said.
I don't think the book is dark. I think it is full of hope. I will let as many folks read this book who want it, but if you want your own, head on over to the Celtic Cove in downtown Lake Orion and get your own copy. (Or you can go on-line to Barnes and Noble or Amazon.com -- but I always prefer to support local businesses first.)
Madeleine is now working on her second book, The Book of Mom.
"It's for my daughter -- lessons every girl should know about," she said.
She has a radio interview planned for early February. For more about Madeleine, you can visit her website at www.WriteSideofBusiness.com.
Don is Assistant Publisher for Sherman Publications, Inc. He has worked for the company since 1985. He has won numerous awards for column, editorial and feature writing as well as for photography. He has two, sons Shamus and Sean and resides in the area. To read archived copies of his columns, click on his name, just under his picture up top . . . He can be e-mailed at: firstname.lastname@example.org