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Thursday, 28 June 2018 10:48

Author shares her journey in debut book

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Assiniboia author and inspirational speaker Gaylene Guilleminn was in Swift Current. Assiniboia author and inspirational speaker Gaylene Guilleminn was in Swift Current.

Assiniboia author and inspirational speaker Gaylene Guillemin is sharing her journey of grief with others to help them gain a better understanding of their own loss.

Her debut book “Beyond shattered dreams: A journey through grief to self-empowerment” is a reflection on her life-changing experience when her husband Merv passed away in January 2014 after a long struggle against hemochromatosis.
She has been doing book signings and speaking engagements in various communities since the book's publication, and she spoke at the Swift Current Branch Library, June 7.
“The feedback has been really positive,” she said. “People are really enjoying the presentation and I'm finding people are opening up and sharing their journey through the questions.”
A common remark from people who have read the book is that they just wanted to keep on reading once they started.
“I'm getting the comments that they're getting through the book really fast and I almost felt like I wasn't giving them enough, but it's really a compliment that they are enjoying the read and they're unable to put it down,” she said.
According to Guillemin it was “very scary” to write her first book, but she was fortunate to have guidance from Winnipeg writer and editor Stone Wallace.
“He mentored me through this and when I first talked to him I asked him do you think this is something people would be interested in,” she recalled. “He said 'It's going to be a beautiful story, Gaylene. I hear when you talk, I hear the passion in your voice from this journey.' So he's been so supportive through it and was a big part of the success of this book.”
She found that it became part of her healing process to write about her experiences and her grief.
“I started journalling three months after Merv passed away,” she said. “Journalling has been so good for me. That allowed me to put a lot of stuff on paper and then some of it I keep, it's personal to me, but from that I was able to put into my story that would help me make this book a success. I talk pretty freely and pretty openly about what I've gone through. I understand this is my journey and not everybody is going to feel the same way, but they can take what they want from it.”
She was married to Merv for almost 28 years and they have two children. Her identity was shattered when he died and she had to find an answer to the question “Who am I now?”
“He was my world and I leaned on him,” she said.
She started the long process of rebuilding her life and taking the difficult steps of living independently without her partner.
Her spirituality has increased since Merv's death. She received her certificate as an angel empowerment practitioner and she also obtained a death and grief studies certificate.
“I used to have a lot of fear, but now I have faith in my journey,” she said.
Everyone's experience of grief will be different, but she believes people can learn from each other. In her own case her grief journey already started during Merv's long illness, but others might experience a sudden loss of a loved one.
“So everybody's is unique,” she said. “Some are going to grief differently than others. Everybody grieves in their own way. The big thing we need to realize is it's good to have those tears, not to feel ashamed to let that grief out.”
It is common for people to have a lot of questions and to search for answers during their grief journey. An important lesson for Guillemin was to not bottle up her feelings.
“I find that when I bottle it up it's not healthy for me and I need to get it out, one way or another,” she said. “So it be tears, I did a lot of listening to music, I did a lot of journalling. I used tools to release my grief so that it could be out and keep it from consuming me.”
She noted that society is not very good at dealing with people's grief, which can have a detrimental effect on people during their grief journey.
“We think that people are strong when they keep it all inside, but really it's healthy to let that out there, because if you keep it inside eventually you are going to have to deal with it,” she said.
People are often hesitant to say something or to talk about somebody who has died, because they do not want to intrude on someone's grief. She feels it is important to realize that everyone has a unique grief experience and others can support someone during that journey.
“All we can do is listen to them and allow them to express themselves without judgement,” she said.
Guillemin's own journey as an author is continuing. For the moment she is focusing on promoting this book, but she might write another one in the future.
“I have a few ideas in my head, but I'm not sure where it will go,” she said. “This journey that I'm on right now might be the inspiration for my next book.”

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Matthew Liebenberg