Talking Grief with Mattie Jackson Selecman-Lemons on Friday

Oh man, you all are in for a great, insightful conversation with Mattie Jackson Selecman and our discussion of her new book Lemons on Friday.

Mattie and I were connected several years ago by dear friends who saw that Mattie and I had similar passions for meeting those in their grief as Mattie had recently lost her husband, Ben, to a tragic accident. Mattie turned her grief into giving and co-founded a nonprofit called NaSHEville that gives back to organizations supporting widows as well as orphans and trafficked women and I am just always in awe of the great things she has done and continues to do.

Mattie and I have chatted several times (and I’ve also had a great conversation with her on her podcast) and most recently she and I met up to chat about her new book, Lemons on Friday, that talks about what she is learning in her loss and how God is meeting her in it.

I am here to tell you that I don’t love sad books. I don’t love self help books. I don’t love really anything other than fiction…but I LOVED THIS BOOK. It’s in a category all it’s own.

Mattie is real and honest and wise and this book is a reflection of that. She gives such insightful and practical advice on going through the unimaginable and I think it should be required reading for any human. Read on to hear more about how this book came to be and why it will be the best thing you read this year:

• Your book made me weep (literal ugly cry on a plane) reading over your and Ben’s love story and then the details of his accident leading to his death. Was that cathartic for you to write it all down? Had you done that before and what was that experience like for you?

The entire process from originally journaling to sort through and identify really tough feelings to the actually writing and editing was cathartic in a many, many ways. For me it helped to make a little sense of what often felt like mental and emotional chaos. In terms of Ben’s actual accident and death, the book was the first time I’d written it out in full detail. It certainly was difficult, not as much because it brought back the trauma necessarily (I did LOTS of trauma therapy around those events); more because I still hate that the details are true. It’s hard to believe even today that something like one slip and fall can be so tragic. But I’m grateful to be able to recount all those scenes and not feel total debilitate by them now.

• What was the hardest part about writing this book and was there anything that surprised you about writing this book? 
Technically speaking, the editing process. It is so much more detailed and difficult than I ever anticipated. I have abundant respect for all my editors! But other than that, the biggest struggle for me was how much do I share so that readers will connect with me on deep, personal level without feeling like I’ve given parts of myself to the world that I can’t get back. Vulnerability is where we connect, but I also wanted to respect the privacy of both of our families and be sure to represent myself honestly without feeling too exposed. It’s a tough balance to strike, but I’m very happy with where it ended up.

• I do think your book brings to light a cultural issue we have with grief and loss. What do you feel like is our biggest issue with grief and why have we created such a stigma with sitting in grief?
I think we associate grief with weakness, whether we’d use that word explicitly or not, and our culture is uncomfortable with weakness. I was very uncomfortable with weakness. I think we have an understandable desire to want to get out of the pain and discomfort as quickly as possible (I definitely wanted that!), but what I found is that deep healing that actually lasts and actually brings joy not just survival, only comes with embracing and facing our weakest moments. We can’t be okay again if we keep pretending we’re okay when we’re not.

• The God nods is such a helpful and tangible concept for those grieving, in fact I think this book had so many practical concepts for those grieving. Was that important to you and were you inspired to do this because you had found this lacking in other resources? 
Absolutely! I was gifted a lot of “grief books” after Ben died, but most of them seemed more to talk about grief than to show someone walking through it honestly. I didn’t need to understand how to grieve so much as I needed to see someone else do it in order to believe I could do it too.

• You talk about your journey of counseling. What would you say to those that shy away from counseling after losing someone?
I had never been to counseling before Ben’s death. Again, we don’t like to feel weak and counseling is the most vulnerable thing we can do. I would encourage anyone who is hesitant, remember that counseling is about health. If you had a broken leg, you wouldn’t expect it to heal without professional help. Your heart breaks in much deeper ways than your leg. Don’t expect it to heal without professional help either. Counseling will never be your only source for healing, but it is a crucial tool.

• You mention some ways your friends loved on you immediately following losing Ben-what can that sound like, asking for help in a world that doesn’t know how to ask for it?
One practical thing I tell people all the time now is whether you’re grieving or someone you love is, don’t tip toe around conversations as much as you feel like maybe you “should.” More times than not, the person grieving wants to talk about the one they’ve lost but don’t want to make others feel uncomfortable. And if they don’t want to, they’ll tell you. I LOVED being asked this question, which I think is so kind and helpful and practical: “Do you want to talk about Ben right now? Or do you want to hear about my stuff and get lost in my world for a minute?” Some days I wanted one thing and some I wanted the other. But it was so nice to be given the option.

• I love the prayers at the end. I am so often at a loss for words in my own pain and in others and this gives verbiage to what my hearts feels and thinks. Was that your hope with the prayers or what prompted you to write them?
Absolutely! For so long, my prayers sounded like “Jesus, help me,” and that’s about it. Our minds are so exhausted and clouded when we grieve that I was hoping this could be a practical resource for people who need God’s comfort but feel at a loss of where to begin.

• What do you hope people take from this book? Just that — hope. There is nothing too painful, no heartbreak too big, that the Lord cannot and will not redeem if you keep asking him to. It is a long, painful, frustrating process, but healing is always possible. Hope always comes from God. You just have to come to him.

Thank you, Mattie!

To get or give a copy of Lemons on Friday, you can purchase it here.

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