Tell us a little about yourself and how you became bereaved?
My husband, John, was a Calgary police officer who passed away in the line of duty in 2000. We were both 32 at the time. John was investigating a break and enter complaint at a warehouse when he stepped through an unmarked false ceiling, fell 9 feet into the lunchroom below, hit his head and died of brain injuries. There was no safety railing to warn him of the danger. John and I had been together as a couple for 12 years and married for 4.
What motivated you to write your book, ‘A Widows Awakening’?
I had always wanted to be a writer but for one reason or another, had never got around to putting much time into actually writing. The day before John died, we had an argument and I told him 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…as long as you know that will have been your choice.”
That was my wake-up call. Two weeks later, I started writing A Widow’s Awakening. It took me 8 years to get it – and me – where it needed to be. But I did it.
Tell us a little about Pink Gazelle Productions?
I started Pink Gazelle Productions in 2002, which was only a couple of years after John’s death. At the time, I knew I wanted to write books but I didn’t realize I would also be writing blogs, screenplays and play scripts. So the company is a constantly evolving entity. Our tagline is “Authentic Lives; Authentic Works” and our purpose is to create works that encourage and inspire people to be make positive change in themselves and the world around them.
You set up The John Petropoulos Memorial Fund in 2005. What is it’s mission?
Actually the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund (JPMF) was started right after John’s death. Several of John’s police recruit classmates had memorial pins made and by the time of John’s funeral, more than $10,000 had been raised. So they asked me if, when I was ready, would I be interested in being part of the JPMF? I said yes! More than 16 years later, the JPMF is still going strong. We are a registered Canadian charity and our purpose is to educate the public about why and how to ensure their workplace is safe for everyone, including emergency responders.
To this end, we have produced a safety video, five 30-second ads that have aired on TV over a million times, as well as a variety of other educational resources. We also have a team of speakers who deliver workplace safety presentations to companies, schools, conferences, etc.
How important is it to you to connect with others who have also experienced the loss of a spouse?
To be honest, I wrote A Widow’s Awakening for ME. I knew I had to write it and the actual process of writing it was tremendously therapeutic. But then I reached a point where I realized it was likely going to be of help to others who were going through the grieving process. And it has been. However, as a writer, I was far more concerned with getting the story where it needed to be so that it was a strong and engaging read for any reader – regardless of whether that person was had experienced a significant loss or not.
Because of the book and my other work, including public speaking, I do tend to connect a great deal with other people who have experienced the loss of a spouse. I was at a work-related event recently and a woman who had just lost her husband to a workplace fatality confided in me that she is inspired by how happy I am. That really made my day. At this point in my life, I AM very happy and have worked really hard to be happy again, so it is great to be able to be an example to others that the death of a spouse isn’t the end of happiness…rather the start of a new chapter.
You’ve recently started a new blog series, ‘Life After Loss’. What are you hoping to achieve with this?
With Life After Loss, I am exploring some of the topics that were touched on in A Widow’s Awakening. Now that so much time has passed since John’s death, I am able to explore these topics (grief, mental health, suicide, life after death, spirituality, destiny, soul mates, etc) far more objectively than when I was in the throes of the grieving process. With this blog series, I was hoping to get some dialogue going about some of these issues – and that is happening, so I am pleased.
Can you share with us five things which have helped you through your bereavement?
- What one book?
Tuesday’s With Morrie – I read this 2 months after John died and I loved how Morrie encouraged people to CRY. Such a simple thing but so important to let those tears flow…when they are ready to flow.
- What one activity?
Walking my dogs in the woods or by the river. Hands down, this is what helped me heal the most. I would go for long walks and just think and cry and cry and cry. Writing A Widow’s Awakening also really helped because it gave me a chance to find meaning in John’s death.
- What one quote?
“The best way out is always through.” – Robert Frost
- What one piece of advice?
Take the time you need to grieve but be aware that time is passing. Grief is a stage that a person goes through – but you don’t need to stay stuck in it any longer than necessary!
- What one song/piece of music?
I have 3 favourites:
“Wind Beneath My Wings” by Bette Midler
“You Raise Me Up” by Josh Groban
“Good Riddance” by Green Day – not the good riddance part! I love the message: “I hope you had the time of your life.” I know John did and it reminds me to, as well.
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