An Author's Talk Should Expand her Book

For me, speaking requests seem to run in cycles. After a dry spell, I'll receive a flurry of requests to speak. I've seen authors talk about their books on television, heard authors speak in person, and these experiences taught me something. I've decided my talks will never be a rehash of a book. Recently I heard an author talk about his book and, at the end, I felt like I had listened to a commercial. This isn't what people want or need. Everyone is busy these days, and busy people want reliable information and they want it quickly. If the information is interesting or humorous or both, so much the better. I've had some training on how to speak on radio and my instructor advised me never to use the phrase, "in the book." Instead, he said I should say the title several times so audience members could remember it. I've followed his advice.

I've also followed my own advice. My book talks expand on a point, add new stories, or updates on research findings. Many authors have computer presentations to go with their talks, but I just talk. Since technology has failed me several times, I avoid it, and have handouts instead. Speaking is easier for me without a PowerPoint presentation. Plus, several people have told me they're sick of them. When I'm asked to speak, I give the organization or church group a list of titles to choose from, including:

* What can You Say to Someone Who is Grieving? * Affirmation-Writing: Boosting Yourself and Your Life with Words * Affirmation-Writing in the Workplace * An Inside Look at a Freelancer's Life * Writing to Recover from Loss and Grief: You can do It!

Is your group looking for a speaker? If so, please contact me. My motto: Have talks, will travel!

After Sandy Hook: Talking to Young Children about Death

The people of Newtown, Connecticut are in shock and grief, yet they must find ways to comfort their children. Talking with young children is a real challenge because they only understand simple words. How can you explain death? As someone with a BS in Early Childhood Education and a former preschool and kindergarten teacher, I have some suggestions. First, do not compare death to sleep, as some parents have done in the past. This can make your child afraid to go to sleep. Try to explain that death is forever. Rabbi Earl Grollman's book, "Talking About Death: A Dialogue Between Parent and Child," contains a read-along story for young children.

Personally, I would not tell a young child that God needed little angels in heaven. Even a young child is capable of thinking, "I don't want to be an angel. I want to be alive with my family."

Since young children do not have large vocabularies to explain their feelings, encourage them to draw pictures. Art therapist Marge Heegaard has written two helpful books for young children, "When Someone Very Special Dies" and "When Something Terrible Happens." Both are available from Amazon.

Read stories to children about loss and grief. Centering Corporation in Omaha, Nebraska specializes in grief resources and has picture books for children and workbooks for older kids. To order these grief resources visit their website,

Encourage children to remember their loved one, friend or teacher in special ways, such as planting flowers, writing a story, or creating a memory book with words and photos.

Whatever you say to young children, keep it short and keep it consistent. Refrain from providing too much information. To avoid from breaking down yourself, you may wish to practice several sentences out loud. Tell your children it's okay to feel what they are feeling and that love lasts forever.

What can you Say to Someone who is Grieving?

The massacre in Aurora, Colorado brings up the age-old question, "What can you say to someone who is grievng?" After losing four family members in 2007, including my daughter and brother, I have some suggestions. After losing my mother, father, aunts, uncles, cousins, and beloved dogs, I have more suggestions. One of the things you shouldn't say is "I don't know what to say." The simplest words to say are "I'm so sorry." You may talk about your happy memories of the deceased. Please avoid comments such as:* It's probably for the best. * He (or she) is in a better place. * Life goes on. * Time heals all wounds. * You're still young and will find someone else. A better approach is to say things that encourage the bereaved to speak their loved one's name and share recollections. For example, you may ask about their loved one's talents, the ones people knew about and ones people didn't know about. If you offer to help the bereaved person, be specific. "I'm going grocery shopping tomorrow morning. Give me your list. I'll shop for you and deliver you grocers at _______ o'clock." Whatever you say, choose words that show caring, and give the bereaved person a heartfelt hug.

Maximizing Your Internet Presence

The other day I received an email from my publisher, asking me to think of two ways to market my book. and send the ideas to her. It was a thought-provoking -- and challenging -- request. Marketing grief resources is hard to begin with and really hard in this economy. I thought about her request for an hour, wrote my reply, and hit send. On impulse, I decided to call the Editor-in-Chief who sent the email. She was very friendly and was impressed with the marketing steps I had taken already. But her request is still in my mind. How could I maximize my Internet presence? How can you? Blogs have helped me stay current and this morning I answered a blog request from a radio show host who wanted to interview authors. My book may not fit her show, or it may, I have no way of knowing. Still, my reply appeared on the Internet and will be read by countless people. This is publicity. I am also trying to write one ezine article a day, something you may want to do. I've also joined a speakers' bureau and hope to receive requests and Internet citations soon. Marketing isn't easy, yet it is essential for sales. Pretend I am your senior editor. Can you think of two ways to market your book on the Internet? Post them on my blog.

Writing About Grief: Getting Your Book Published

Putting thoughts about grief into words is one of the best ways to help yourself. Seeing words on paper can be a reality check. As time passes, issues emerge and, thankfully, so do solutions. You may also memorialize a beloved child or familiy member. I've spoken at two bereavement conferences and many of the people I met had written books. Of course, they wanted to see their books in print. This is a challenge at any time, but it's a huge challenge in a sagging economy. Basically, you have two choices, to submit your book to a publisher or publishers when the economy turns around, or choose self-publishing. Self-publishing used to be considered vanity publishing. No more. Good books are being written in a bad economy. New authors are going straight to the Kindle or Nook. Experienced and new authors are turning to the many self-publishing companies that have been established. These companies produce quality books. Do you want to see your book published? Make it happen.

Speaking from Experience Helps Others

I've been speaking to community groups about loss, grief, and grief recovery. These groups include churches, Kiwanis, and at the end of the month, the Bereaved Parents of the USA National Gathering in Tampa, FL. In the fall I will be giving a short LIFE course at Rochester Community and Technical College about creating a personal healing path. Many speakers quote studies, cite statistics, and predict trends. All of these are valuable, but nothing can replace a true life story. When I speak about the multiple losses I suffered in 2007, I'm trying to help others and let them know what works and what doesn't. Speaking is my way of "giving back," and I speak for free. Has your loved one died? Have you spoken about your loss to support or community groups? I hope so, because speaking helps others and also helps us.

Life's "Ah-Ha" Moments and What They Teach Us

All of us have "ah-ha" moments, a moment of clarity when something that wasn't clear suddenly becomes clear. I had an "ah-ha" moment in Boston last week at my Wheelock College reunion. The president of the college gave an inspiring talk about the state of the college and its future plans. She described the college founder, Lucy Wheelock, as a woman of vsion. Lucy Wheelock thought the world could be changed if education was mproved. When a Lucy Wheelock quote came on the screen tears came to my eyes. The quote: "Be bold, for there is much to do." This quote applies to many life situations. A bereaved parent, I thought of some of the ways I was bold after my daughter died. I thought of the grief resources I had written, books I never thought I would write, but enjoyed writing. I have two new books out and am working on marketing plans for them. My marketing plans need to be bold, I realized, and new writing projects need to be bold as well. Have you been bold lately? Think about some of your recent decisions and the consequeces of them. Boldness can be a path to the future.

Benefits of Taking a Break

Last week I took a break from my daily life and attended a college reunion in Boston, MA. It was my 55th reunion and my class was well represented. Catching up on news was really fun, more fun than I anticipated. Though the weather was uncooperative (it rained for four days straight), my husband and I still had a good time. We visited historic sights, feasted on "chowda" and walked the same streets we walked when we were courting. I came home refreshed and eager to get back to my routine. When I say I took a break, I mean a real break, without my computer or iPad. Yes, I missed emails and article writing, but the missing was good and gave me more thinking time. Have you taken a break recently? What benefits did you reap?

Do You Recognize the Anticipatory Grief in Your Life?

Yesterday I spoke to a Kiwanis club about anticipatory grief. Some people at my table had experienced post-death grief, but they had never heard of anticipatory grief. To give club members something to refer to later, I gave them handouts with anticipatory grief question and answers. Anticipatory grief is a feeling of loss before a death or dreaded event happens. If your child was born with a heart defect, you probably experienced anticipatory grief. If your spouse was diagnosed with Alzheimer's you have experienced anticipatory grief. If the rumor mill at work says people are going to be "downsized" you experienced anticipatory grief. How can you help yourself? You may learn more about this type of grief, journal regularly (this helps more than I can say!) and take care of your health. Adding quiet time to each day is also helpful. Everyone goes through anticipatory grief and one of the best things you can do for yourself is to be aware of it.

Enjoying Every Day is the Best Tribute to a Lost Loved One

I was sitting at the computer this morning, looking out the window at the yard and the plants that have come to life. Every green shoot, every bud, every stem, every flower, is a miracle. The scene was so beautiful, the day so promising, that I was overcome with happiness. This made me think of the loved ones I lost in 2007. As the years passed, I came to the conclusion that happiness was possible. More importantly, I decided I was worthy of happiness. Today, I am a happy person, and part of my happiness comes from having my departed ones in my life. Surely they would be happy that I am happy. They would also be glad that I'm not wasting the miracle of each day. Don't waste your miracle. Work toward happiness steadily, relentlessly, and you will find it. What are you doing to create happiness?

Speaking to Groups is Challenging and Fun

Over the years, I've given hundreds of presentations to various groups. Some groups were small, 12 to 20 people, and others were large, hundreds of people in a large meeting hall. I have to get my act together in order to give presentations. While giving presentations is fun, it also stimulating. Each presentation or workshop has to be organized, logical, meaningful, and most important, fit the group. I speak from the heart, include research findings, and practical tips for audience members. At the end of June, I'm giving two workshops at the Bereaved Parents of the USA National Gathering in Tampa, Florida. One is about creating a personal happiness plan. The other is about continuing my deceased daughter's mission of raising her twin children. Neither of these talks is easy, yet I will still enjoy giving them.

Both workshops have been outlined, and I'm working on sub-points now. I'm also working on meaningful handouts, handouts that people will want to keep and refer to later. My goal is to help those who are grieving and I'm honored to be asked to speak. Speaking about my multiple losses helps me and those who come to hear me. Shared experiences and words link us together. Onward to Tampa!

When Tears Take You by Surprise Again: Coping with Loss

This week I spoke to a group of Eldercare volunteers in my community. A dozen people came to hear me speak--dedicated volunteers who are willing to help others. Once a teacher, always a teacher, and I had my handout ready. It is a good handout, the "bones" of my talk, and I also brought wallet cards with happiness tips on it to give to the attendees. In the middle of my talk, without any warning, tears filled my eyes. "I'm going to cry," I announced. And I did cry. Two attendees started to cry with me. Though five years have passed since four family members died within nine months, grief took me by surprise again. Why did I cry? There are two reasons. First, you never get over the death of a child; you learn to live with it. Second, I didn't practice my talk aloud as I usually do. Practicing my talk aloud makes it real and prepares me for giving a talk. How did the audience react? I think my tears made my story real to them and they gave me a an enthusiastic round of applause at the end. As they left the room, many commented on the helpfulness and power of my talk. If tears take you by surprise, don't apologize for them. Your tears show you are human and connect you with others. Grief really is the tie that binds.

The Apple Tree and Hope of Spring

Two weeks ago, the apple tree in my back yard awakened from winter. If I looked closely, I could see tiny specks of green on the branches. In only a day, these specks had turned into tiny leaves. Hours later, the leaves started to get larger and the tree looked like it was covered with green lace. Now I see white dots amidst the leaves, blossoms that are going to flower at any moment. Seeing the apple tree come to life again gives me hope after a five years of grieving. If we let it, nature can help us to heal. Nature is always changing and so are we. After a long period of grief, self-examination and acceptance, we, too, may flower again and create new lives for ourselves. I am living that life now and, to my astonishment, I am happy. May you find happiness as well.

Are you suffering from Ambiguous Loss?

I just finished a book by Pauline Boss, PhD titled "Loss, Trauma, and Resilience." A retired University of Minnesota professor, Dr. Boss coined the term "ambiguous loss." What is it? It is a loss without a body and without a death certificate, as with the 9/11 victims. According to Boss, ambiguous loss is the most stressful of losses and "blocks cognition, coping, and meaning-making and freezes the grief process." You may suffer from ambiguous loss if the person who died changed drastically in recent years or if family members shun you at the memorial service. Do you think you're suffering from ambiguous loss? If so, I encourage you to learn more about it. You will understand yourself better and cope better too.

Creating a Grand Family

Today is the fifth anniversary of my daughter's death. I think of her every day and every day I promise to make decisions she would approve of and make her glad. In some ways, it's hard to believe my daughter has been gone for five years. Where did the time go? What did I learn? One thing I learned is that two teenagers and two grandparents can come together to form a grand family. It is a true miracle. Still, all of us had to go through a lot of pain to get to this place in our lives. I learned that my grandchildren are kind, brilliant, helpful people. Today, I we share mutual love and mutual respect. During the last five years I learned grief can be shared. Family members, close friends, and total strangers have come to my aid. But the most important thing I learned is that each of us has the power to come to terms with grief and create a new life. My daughter would want me to laugh, set goals, and enjoy each day. I'm doing these things. Ten percent of all the grandparents in America are raising their grandchildren. and the number is going up. So in memory of my daughter I have written a book to help GRGs (grandparents raising grandchildren), and GAPs (grandparents as parents), and hope it will be published soon. You are in my heart, Helen, and always will be.

Grief Recovery or Reconciliation?

In the early stages of grief my goal was to stop the pain. I had cried for weeks and wanted the crying to stop. I wanted to feel better. I wanted my former life back. With the passage of time and lots of grief work, I was able to stop crying. Day by day, I slowly began to feel better. But my former life did not return. Instead, I had a new and different life, a life without my daughter, father-in-law, brother and former son-in-law. According to many grief experts, we do not recover from grief, we come to terms with it. Other bereaved parents agree. In fact, the comments I have heard most are "You never get over it" and "You learn to live with it," referring to loss. More than four years have passed since my daughter died and I have adapted to my new life. Still, on her birthday and at Christmas time, tears come to my eyes. That is okay, for tears are a sign of love.