On the night of the accident, I sat next to my daughter's body at the scene of the two-car collision. As I sought to find her hand under the white sheet, God handed me a new script. I handed it back.
I wanted my old life, not a new one.
I wanted my daughter to open her eyes, to say "Hi, mom." Surveying the blood spattered interior of the back seat, instinctively I knew that wasn't going to happen. Nonetheless, in the moment of shock and horror, and seeing my daughter's bare toes peeking out from underneath the edge of the stark white sheet, the mind is capable of grasping for straws. And I was going for the very last one.
God again handed me the new script. I tore it up and handed it back. "I don't want your new script!" I yelled. I had a wonderful life as a mother of one college graduate, one college student, and two teenagers. My husband and I were even blessed with our first grandchild. Life was wonderful! So no need for God to go changing it.
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But I didn't win. God did. I had no choice but to take the new script. I ignored it for three years. Heck, I ignored life for three years. But when my dear sweet hubby's grief consumed him at age 46, and he suffered a life-threatening stroke that left him disabled, I gave in and waved the white flag. There was nothing left of me. I was done. Exhausted. Here I was facing a new kind of grief, and I had hardly begun to process the first.
God's script laid there for months and months. My heart broken in so many places, I had no energy to read it. The lines blurred together, the words indistinguishable.
And then one day, out of rebelliousness, I picked it up. The first line said "When you help others, you help your own heart to heal." Seriously, God? I felt like a regressed teenager challenging a parent who knew better. I could hardly put one foot in front of the other, so how in the heck was I supposed to help someone else? But God failed to give instructions. I wasn't amused.
But I needed God, desperately. So I gave in. I waved the white flag. I was standing squarely in the belly of hell; I had nothing less to lose.
I wasn't entirely sure how to go about this new script, but herein lies the answer: I didn't have to figure it out all on my own. One door opened, then two doors, then four. And so on and so forth. And now, six years after the loss of our daughter, and three years after my husband's life-changing stroke, I haven't figured it all out yet but God's script isn't steering me wrong.
Where am I now? Today, I help others. Because this helps my own heart to heal.
There. I said it. Script accepted. God was right.
For me, helping others comes in many forms today. One of my most joyous endeavors is the Grief Diaries book series. When I set out last summer to compile the stories of people's darkest hours, some questioned whether I had lost my final marble. Who would want to read such sad tales? Yet I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that the collection was going to change lives around the world.
I trusted God's script. And strangers I've never met handed me their most precious life moments containing their very darkest hour. They entrusted me to handle each with kid gloves, package them oh-so-carefully, and present them to the world for the sole purpose of helping others not feel alone.
And each stranger became my friend who enriched my own world with their story. So I no longer questioned the script. I just followed it with humility, and humbleness, and never once forgetting that every story I now held in the palm of my hand is sacred. Not just to the writer, but to the world. To me. Their stories are sacred to me. And to God.
As all good things grow, so has Grief Diaries. What started out as eight original titles about different life losses has expanded by leaps and bounds into many different life challenges.
It's growing like wildfire, and here's why: Society teaches us that scandal and politics sell, but nobody wants a Debbie Downer. As a result, people feel completely and utterly alone in the face of hardship, never knowing that their neighbor is facing the very same challenge. Suddenly, this crazy book series about sharing life's challenges and losses has given voice to our darkest moments. And it feels good to share our hardships with others. Why? Because it helps.
There's a book for widows, eating disorders, brain injuries, mental illness, losing a child, life after divorce, hit by a drunk driver, and more. Grief Diaries has been compared to Chicken Soup for the Soul. But we're not about inspiration, we're about comfort. Because people need compassion and comfort. It's imperative to their healing.
So it's true: When we help others, we help our own heart to heal. And that is what every writer, over 200 to date, is doing when each bares their heartfelt story for strangers around the world to read.
Yes, each book raises awareness and sheds insight into life's hidden challenges. But perhaps most importantly, each story helps readers who wear the same shoes feel less alone. And that's critical. There is comfort in numbers. And there is comfort in company. It's human nature.
Life, even at it's best, is challenging. There is no shortage of Grief Diaries titles we can tackle. But it isn't about the books. It's about each other. The time has come to comfort one another by sharing our stories. Inside every human is a story worth sharing. And every story told is another heart touched. It doesn't get any more sacred than that.
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