This I believe.
I believe in the power of our words as we express our experience as human beings. Words can inspire, encourage, lift someone up from despair and change the course of a persons’ life.
When I was seven years old my father died leaving my mother with five children. My grief cast me into a depression that lasted over two decades. For several years, as a young adult, I used alcohol and drugs to cope with the symptoms of depression, but eventually I pulled it together went back to college to study psychology and counseling.
I wanted to understand grief and so that is what I focused on. I took seminars, read all the current literature and wrote papers on the human experience of loss. During that time I had what people call a big dream. While I was sleeping a voice spoke to me. It was loud and clear. All it said was, “There’s plenty to believe in and that is where you will find hope.”
I woke up shaken. I looked around sure that someone had come inside my apartment. No one had. I wrote the words down, although it wasn’t necessary, I’ve never forgotten that dream. It carried me through a rough time like a buoy on turbulent sea.
Just as I was finishing my graduate work, with my focus on grief, my cat, Katie, died suddenly and violently. I was crushed and the depression that had shadowed so much of my life came flooding back. As a way of coping, I created a project that would give me something to do with my feelings. I decided to write a small booklet on grief. I would design it to speak very simply about what happens to us when someone we love passes away. It would provide comfort, education and hope. It ended up being small enough to fit in a wallet or pocket, twenty-four pages and twenty-four sentences long.
I gave them to my friends in memory of Katie, my cat. I also gave one copy to one of my professors. When I saw him the next week he pulled me aside. He told me he thought the booklet was exquisite and that I should pursue getting it distributed, he thought it could help other people.
That was fifteen years ago and since then more than 500,000 copies have been printed and distributed. I have met loving and amazing people who have shared their stories with me and allowed me to be a part of their healing journey.
Our words shape our lives. Kind words spoken to me have at times saved my life. The words I’ve shared with others have come back to touch and enrich my life beyond even the biggest of dreams.
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