I can pinpoint exactly when my writing was set free. I remember where I was sitting when David Sanford destroyed all of the literal and mental barriers to publishing. Today, I can feel the void of his departure from this earth into heaven. Oh, what a greeting he must have received from all those whose lives he directly and indirectly impacted with his writing, teaching, mentorship, friendship, and leadership. Here on earth, those of us left behind, gasped in sorrow for our loss. But he was ready for heaven and that gives comfort—no more suffering, no more pain.
I first met David in November of 2010 when he gave a free seminar called No Fear Publishing Strategies that Work to students at Multnomah University. I was proctoring a class and jumped at the opportunity to sit in. In a single day David changed the trajectory of my life.
For me it felt like a divine meeting. He removed all barriers, kicked out all the gatekeepers, and conquered all fear of publishing. He made a path for the dream that I had held since 5th grade. I had been published, but not in my own book, and that was the ultimate dream I had worked so hard for in decades of writing classes, writers’ groups, and conferences. He impacted my life to the roots. David set my writing free.
I remember slipping into the chair at Multnomah University with zero expectations. I could not have imagined all that David would reveal to us. He closed his talk by giving us a homework assignment. He offered to look over the completed assignment and read our writing with one stipulation. He said he would read anything as long as we didn’t send him a cat story. I vowed in my mind to complete the assignment, take him up on his generous offer, and to make him fall in love with a cat story. I made beeline to go meet him after he closed his talk. He kept his promise and generously filled my life with mentorship, encouragement, and unwavering support…even when I sent him my cat story many years later.
In a personal note he once wrote, “Your continued friendship, love, encouragement, support and prayers would mean the world to us.” But these are the things that he gave away in abundance. He set the example and anything I ever gave back fell easily into the groves of generosity that he had created between us.
His inspiration pathed the way for me to publish 15 books of my own and start my own publishing company, Selah Press, in 2011 to help others in their publishing dreams. He encouraged, referred people, opened doors, and always gave me permission to throw his name around if it would help me in any way. In 2019 I sold Selah Press to Loral and Seth Pepoon and absolutely love watching how they naturally picked up and carried on what David helped plant.
David was a giant in so many ways. I am only one person in what he called, “the very busy intersections of public speaking, social networking, mass media interviewing, and book publishing” that he walked beside and inspired. David would send me notes like this one, “Hello again! While talking with Aaron and Simon [from Bookworthy] today, they asked about some of my favorite authors. One of the names that came to mind was ‘Kayla Fioravanti.’” Publishing can be brutal. Going through the self-doubt, reading reviews, and sometimes overwhelming fear is hard, but I always knew David was a quick message away and that he truly was praying for me through it all. His belief in my writing was something I could feel across the miles. We never met again in person but his support was tangible. Many of his notes ended with “My ongoing prayer for you: ‘By His power, may God fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith’ (2 Thess. 1:11b).”
David wrote several glowing reviews for my books, but two of his reviews meant the most to me. Because David had specifically said not to send him any cat stories his review of my book Puffy & Blue: The Chronicles of Nine Lives Together was extraordinarily rewarding. “…Thank you, Kayla, for your deeply moving memoir—cleverly disguised as a cat book. As I’m sure is the case for many others, I read your book in one sitting…your memoir is deeply moving. You tricked me…and I am so grateful that you did.”
And now, as we grieve, his review of 360 Degrees of Grief: Reflections of Hope, brings on a new meaning. “Our culture fails to show us how to grieve. Just look at any company’s employee handbook. Three days of bereavement for a death in the family? No, grief isn’t a box to be checked. We never get over it. Every loss is new sorrow layered atop all the others. So, who teaches us to grieve, let alone brings much-needed solace? Thankfully, the answer is in your hand. The chapters in this book offer treasures of comfort, encouragement, strength, joy and peace. Buy a copy for yourself, and other copies for loved ones and friends. They will be deeply blessed, and so will you.”
Let me repeat his words to those of us who grieve David today, “Grief isn’t a box to be checked. We never get over it. Every loss is new sorrow layered atop all the others.” I borrowed words for the title of this post from David’s wife Renee who wrote, “Above all, I know my beloved husband is free from the pain he endured and fought through for so long. I know he is alive in the presence of God. Not because of anything about him, but because he loves and trusts the Lord Jesus who defeated death. David is filled with joy. And he hasn’t stopped loving any of his family and friends. He loves all of us more than ever.”
I felt the need to remind myself of the lessons I’ve learned from grief in order to process this new layer atop all the others and so I am sharing the twelve lessons grief taught me from 360 Degrees of Grief.
- The walk through grief is filled with milestones that are precious. You cannot sneak past grief in the night, run through it or sit still in one spot of grief. You must walk through it at grief’s pace. Grief is a passage, not place to wallow in, skip past, or tunnel under. If you don’t go through the grief it will fester and consume you in another way or at later time.
- Read through grief. Read the experiences of others. It is good to know you aren’t alone in your thoughts and struggles. At one point in your grief the numbness caused by shock will vanish and you will need to know that others survived the day after, the week after, the month after, the year after, the lifetime after their loved one died.
- Cry, even if you aren’t a crier, allow yourself to cry, weep and sob as needed. Even if crying leaves you exhausted and spent it still washes away a stronghold of hurt. Crying does not miraculously close a wound, but it allows a festering sore to feel cleansed.
- Love your way through grief. The instincts of hurt can cause us to withdraw within ourselves, but loving others is a salve of healing. Bottled up potential love causes the vacancy left in our lives to feel enormous. Loving on others multiplies the joy in our lives. Even a glimpse of joy can be enough to carry you through the next hour.
- Forgive those who don’t know how to be there for you in your deepest hurt. Keep in mind that people will say stupid things, they will pull away and some will tell you to come to them when you need them – none of it feels good, but give them grace. This journey is new to them too. Listen to their intentions and not what the clouded perception of emotions can make you hear.
- Lean into God as you walk through your grief. There is no rescue or instant remedy that will offer relief from grief–only daily walking, talking, reading, writing and crying our way through grief leaning into the shoulder of the Father. Grieving alongside the Lord is the most intimate exposure you will ever experience with Him. God is near to the broken hearted. He will walk beside you on the messy path of grief.
- Learn to live with a hole in your life without falling into it. You can’t join the dead while you are grieving. You have the right to grieve, but not at the expense of the very essence of life. It is okay to laugh again, live again and adopt new people into your life. Accept the fact that life will never be the same, but you will find a new normal even with an ever present hole in the middle of your life.
- Have realistic hope about grief. It will get better, but it will always be present. You never stop missing your loved one. People don’t take their place. The vacancy is forever deep. It never goes away. It just gets easier to live with. The grief will never ever end. If it were to end we would forget our loved one; however you must continuously move forward in your grief.
- Don’t starve or gorge your way through grief. You will need the sustenance to survive grief because it is an exhaustingly long journey, but gluttony will only wear you out too. The same is true about drugs, alcohol, making yourself too busy to grieve and other methods of numbing yourself. Don’t try to numb the pain of grief, feel it, and go through it so that you can grieve in the here and now, not sometime in the far off future. You will grieve, even if you try to numb it, so do up front rather than later.
- Remember, to remember, to breathe. As sorrow engulfs you it is easy hold your breath, tighten all your muscles and give into the tension caused by loss. Life goes on with or without you. Take it one breath at a time, one step at a time, one jagged sob at a time; moment by moment remember to breathe.
- Grief is the price of love, but you must continue loving even as you pay the price. Your loved one enriched you, made you who you are and you must honor their lives by living yours even without them. Love others, love often, love openly, love fervently, love expectantly, and love completely into the lives of others.
- Write your way through grief. Even if you aren’t a writer and have no aspirations of becoming an author write your way through grief. Use a journal or purposefully write when memories flood you and you feel you may drown. Writing it out is a healing life preserver. Writers are the lucky ones who naturally use the written word to process grief. Become a writer, even if the words are only for your consumption.
From Chapter 1 of 360 Degrees of Grief: Reflections of Hope