Friday, November 4, 2016

My Conversation with Oprah

Publishing a book series isn't for the faint of heart, especially for a woman editor-in-chief tackling sensitive subjects. Sometimes when I fall into bed at the end of a long day, I’m utterly exhausted. But full of unfinished tasks, my mind refuses to shut down. Before I know it, the overactive and overtired voice in my head is having imaginary conversations with notable figures touting polarizing opinions in today’s media. Last night’s conversation went something like this.

OPRAH: I understand you’ve written over 18 books about life-changing experiences including grief. Why in the world would you write about such a topic?

ME: No child ever says they want to grow up to write about grief. But I've always been fascinated with true stories. They're just so no-holds-barred. Some of them, well, you just can't make this stuff up. They're actually very inspiring and I knew that if I didn’t put them into a book series, the stories would be left unwritten. And that is a tragedy.

OPRAH: So you wrote a book series about tragedies to prevent a tragedy?

ME: Yeah, something like that. But why should it not be okay to tell our tales? Everyone has a story about grief. Everyone. Even you.

OPRAH: Because the world is full of sad stories. Why make the world sadder?

ME: Sharing our stories actually does the opposite, and also challenges the paradigm about how we view taboo topics. By sharing stories, we heal people. We validate their pain. When we validate their pain, they can begin to heal. When they begin to heal, they’re less sad. So talking about grief and other stigmatized subjects in this generation will help future generations. So you see, storytelling is actually an ancient healing modality.

OPRAH: I’m sorry, I don’t understand. Exactly how does storytelling help?

ME: If you go out for a jog and suddenly break an ankle, you become sidelined with pain. Every little step is agony. In order to heal your broken foot, you must nurse it back to health. If you ignore the pain and continue to jog, you only make your injury worse, not better. Doctors prescribe rest, ice, cast and elevation for a minimum of six to eight weeks for good reason. A broken heart is ten times worse, so you need sixty weeks, or the equivalent of five years before you can go jogging again.

PASTOR JOEL OSTEEN: If you still feel sorry for yourself after six months, you clearly thrive on your own self pity, or relish the attention it brings.

ME: With all due respect, Pastor Osteen, helping someone nurse a broken heart is all about compassion, and listening. Without judgment.

PASTOR JOEL OSTEEN: Writing books about grief only perpetuates one’s sorrow.

ME: Incorrect. Sharing our stories is about finding hope. For without grief, there would be no need for hope.

BILL O’REILLY: Today’s headlines are filled with tragedies. Why add to that?

ME: Today’s headlines are filled with scandal, shame and embarrassment, none of which have to do with compassion.

BILL O’REILLY: So you’re saying Grief Diaries isn’t about grief?

ME: It’s true stories about real people finding healing and hope in the face of grief.

PASTOR JOEL OSTEEN: Grief has been around since the beginning of mankind. It is too heavy to deal with, and deserves to stay under the rug.

ME: If we don’t work together to remove the stigma of taboo experiences, then future generations will be no better off. If we don’t make a difference, who will?

BILL O’REILLY: Politics are far more interesting. Grief is boring. Nobody will read your books.

ME: Grief Diaries isn’t for everyone. It’s written for those who share our path but feel alone because they weren’t allowed to talk about their experience in the first place. Validating their own grief by reading our stories gives them the voice they were robbed of. And that is the first step toward healing.

OPRAH: How does Grief Diaries give them a voice?

ME: When readers who share our path find commonality in the stories, they feel less alone. And it also gives them hope that such a challenging experience is survivable. The crux is that Grief Diaries represents: a village of over 450 writers who light a candle of hope for those who share the same path, and raise awareness at the same time. 

It’s about removing the stigma from these experiences. It’s about making it okay to take care of those who are hurt, not leaving them with a broken ankle on the side of the road, left to their own devices because we couldn’t handle their agony. If a person suffered third-degree burns over their entire body, should they be left to their own devices, to heal alone on their own? Of course not. 

Our generation is challenging the paradigm about how we view experiences involving grief. We're making it okay to talk about it. That is the very first step toward healing, not sweeping it under the rug because others are afraid the sorrow is contagious. Burns aren’t contagious. Broken ankles aren’t contagious. And neither is grief.

If we don’t make a difference in this generation, the next generation will inherit the same lack of compassion.

BILL O’REILLY: I still don’t get it.

PASTOR JOEL OSTEEN: You’re all just wallowing in your own self pity. Get over it.

OPRAH: I get it. Thank you for challenging the paradigm about grief. That takes a lot of guts.

ME: Thank you, but the writers are the true heroes. It takes tremendous courage to share life’s intimate experiences with the world. But they’re doing so to help others who share the path, and help change how society views grief in the first place. If we don’t challenge the stigmas, future generations inherit the same mess.

OPRAH: That’s an amazing way to look at it. I will add Grief Diaries to my book club immediately. [Big hug].

ME: Thank you. Our writers will appreciate that very much. Now, where’s your nearest Starbucks? I have 20 more books to publish before morning.

Lynda Cheldelin Fell is the award-winning publisher of Grief Diaries, a 5-star book series featuring the heartfelt stories of 500 writers from 11 countries. Learn more at

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