August 3, 2018
“God’s Glory, My Story” was a popular column in SPIRIT-LED WRITER, the award-winning online magazine for Christian writers I published for five years in the early 2000s.The column featured writers of all experience levels who shared their publishing successes.
With Vivian Renee Pittman’s interview here, I debut “God’s Glory, My Story” as a regular feature of my blog.
Vivian is a long-time friend. I’ve known her for decades, and I’m excited about her first book, He Restores My Soul: A Path to Recovering from Grief, which released yesterday. (Full disclosure: I provided editorial feedback on her first drafts, and wrote the Foreword.)
Vivian, tell us a little about yourself.
I am a mom, grandma, minister and teacher; in that order. I will be celebrating my 65th birthday this month, and I never expected to be an author at this age. I have worked both in the corporate world and in ministry.
I prefer ministry because I can reach people who need help, and make a difference in their lives. I love to teach the Bible, especially life application. It excites me when I can look into a student’s eyes and see the light of understanding turn on. There is nothing that satisfies me more than when I walk out of a meeting confident that learning has taken place, and someone has gotten to know more about our God.
Grief is the theme of your book. Please share how that theme has personally touched your life.
- I lost my Dad to kidney failure in August of 2006. My mom never recovered from his death. She insisted we sell her home, and she took the money and moved to Georgia to be near my oldest daughter, Kenya, right before Thanksgiving in November of 2006.
- My father-in-law had a major stroke two days after I returned and never spoke or walked again.
- My husband Jerry was diagnosed with terminal cancer in August of 2007. The radiation and chemo destroyed his body and he finally gave up the fight in May of 2009.
- In January of 2010 my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and dementia, and I had to return to Georgia, that April, to help my daughter, Kenya, work out a medical plan for her. I agreed to visit every four months to monitor Mom’s progress. I returned in August of 2010, and planned to come back that December.
- However, in November of 2010 Kenya had a heart attack, and died in the recovery room.
How did grief change you as you mourned?
Because I did not understand how to mourn properly, I suffered multiple illnesses. I became fearful, suspicious and bitter. I began to have panic attacks.
I really turned to God out of desperation because every medication and the side effects were wrecking my immune system. As a result, my relationship with Him grew deeper because He literally became the only One who had my cure.
What were the most surprising (positive or negative) lessons learned during your seasons of grief?
What devastated me was that I experienced so much loss in such a short span of time.
I also was surprised at the insensitivity of people during my grieving seasons.
It was like they were witnessing a car crash on their way to their next appointments. Everybody stopped, or slowed down, to look, ask what happened, discuss what they heard, and estimate the damage done. But very few stopped to help.
The overall attitude with death is folk are just relieved that it was not them this time. Just like the “rubberneckers” on the highway, they are happy to spectate and be on their way. People refuse to deal with death and grief until they personally have no choice.
Why do you think it’s so difficult for people, especially believers, to openly grieve?
I have found that people, especially believers, are ashamed to grieve openly.
Many believers also have their faith questioned when they cannot get over their grief in whatever timely fashion their religious leaders determine for them. They are expected to go into their “secret closets” and take care of all that emotional stuff. Then they are supposed to wash their faces and get on with life as usual.
What helped you process the grief in a healthy way?
Becoming too ill to go out of the house was what actually forced me to deal with grief.
When there was no escape I had to find a way to process the grief. This meant returning to my faith in God, and looking to Him as my ultimate resource for comfort and healing.
What resources helped?
Being able to talk about my grief was an enormous relief.
Finding a safe place to express myself without judgment was the key to my recovery. In my case the primary resource was a Christian prayer line; however, there are great online resources that will point people to relevant groups, blogs and articles.
Journaling was an invaluable resource, and it still is what helps me through my days and nights.
We must release out thoughts. We have to get the pain out so the healing can pour in.
WHICH BRINGS US TO YOUR BOOK.
Why did you write He Restores My Soul?
I wrote my book because for five years after the most recent loss of a loved one,
I could find no book that could help me with what I was going through. I was looking for a book that tore off the mask of conventionality, and showed me the ugly, raw pain of grief and I failed to find it.
Now I understand why I could not find that book. It was painful to journal my grieving process. It was even more painful to expose it publicly.
But I believe that there is some transparency that is necessary in true ministry. It is the mandate of every Christian to lay down our lives, if you will, to help others and glorify God in the process.
What tips does it offer for processing grief?
This book has underlying themes of self-awareness and self-care with quite a few practical suggestions of how to care for your body, soul, and spirit.
WRITERS ON WRITING…
As a new writer, did you encounter difficulty writing your book? If so, what was the most difficult aspect of writing it?
The most difficult aspect of writing my book was exposing my inner thoughts to public opinion about a very painful and personal aspect of my life. The fear of judgment by others was enormous.
By the way, I love the dedication to your book. Do you mind sharing who it is dedicated to and why?
I dedicated this book to my mother, Laura Lee Williams Brown Turner, who gave all she had and lost herself in the process.
My mother poured out her life, her talents and her wisdom into others all of her life. Even in the midst of suffering the onset of Alzheimer’s, she held it together and masked all she could because my dad was in renal failure and she had to take care of him. And she did, refusing all outside help until he died. The day he died she gave up the fight against the illness no one knew she had, and began losing herself.
She will never read this book. She will never be able to tell me her thoughts about what I have written. But her life has shaped so many others, especially mine, that I felt this was the least I could do to honor her.
ANY FINAL WORDS?
I hope He Restores My Soul comforts, supports and educates those who are grieving.
I hope it makes us think about our response to grief, and how we treat one another as we are going through the process.
And I hope this book will spark conversations in our communities about death in realistic and positive ways.
ORDERING, AND CONTACT INFORMATION
The book can be ordered on Amazon.com. Readers can reach me by email.