With all the division creating strife in the world around us, one thing that binds us all is grief. In “Twentyone Olive Trees: A Mother’s Walk Through the Grief of Suicide to Hope and Healing”, talented and empathic bestselling author Laura Formentini finds the words to express the epic, transforming journey of grief. Through fables and letters written to her son after his death, she shares the heart of a grieving mother in this beautiful, empowering book. Formentini shared her time with us to answer some questions about this life changing endeavor.
Your beautiful and powerful book “Twentyone Olive Trees: A Mother’s Walk Through the Grief of Suicide to Hope and Healing” is about a loss that, unfortunately, many parents experience. What do you hope readers will take away from your story?
In 2019, I was working in Ethiopia when I got word that my 21-year-old son had ended his life on the other side of the world. While I was preparing for my trip halfway around the world by myself, an Ethiopian man, a stranger, stood by my side that entire day, holding my hand. He was a beacon in my darkest hour. When it came for me to board that plane after ten or so hours together, I expressed gratitude for his kindness, but the stranger declined, saying that “he had done nothing special; it was his human responsibility.” This spontaneous act of compassion not only saved my life- it stayed with me.
When COVID-19 first began claiming thousands of lives in the United States and worldwide in 2020, the percentage of people grieving was a lot higher, and I was already dealing with the pain of my son’s suicide. Everything looked, felt, and sounded different all of a sudden. I was at a loss on what to do next, but the stranger’s selfless act of kindness toward me made me realize that we will never know how much our actions- big and small- can impact someone else’s life. While he didn’t think he had done anything special, his actions saved me. You could do the same and save someone else’s life. We will never know how the power of love inside each of us will unravel for others. This is why I have decided to make it a daily routine to practice acts of kindness.
We have witnessed kindness and people coming together throughout the pandemic. I believe it must continue for the world to heal if we practice random acts of kindness which we incorporate into our daily routine as a form of “human responsibility.” I remember my son and his empathetic nature and vow to fight grief with positive deeds and encourage others to do the same. We are all in this together- when life seems utterly uncertain, random acts of kindness can save us (by improving our mental and physical health) and the world (by establishing a network of compassion.)
Twentyone Olive Trees is my ultimate act of kindness towards anyone going through grief and dark moments. It is dedicated to my son and all empaths out there. It is my way of holding someone else’s hand, just like the stranger had held mine.
“Twentyone Olive Trees: A Mother’s Walk Through the Grief of Suicide to Hope and Healing” is a testament to a parent’s love. Did writing your story affect your healing process in any way?
This grieving journey has taught me that nothing lasts forever except our relationship with the universe. We don’t have to be who we were yesterday. If we understand that everything in life is impermanent, we can accept not having tomorrow what we have today and having tomorrow what we don’t have today. Because of the exciting opportunity every challenge creates, we have the choice to love and choose joy instead of despair. It is also my experience that this healing form of self-love can save lives––where there is love, there is life.
My son Blaise was my soul mate and my partner in crime on many adventures. We lived on two continents and traveled seemingly everywhere around the world together, often to remote areas like Lapland in the northernmost region of Finland. We had unique and profound conversations about wisdom and folly, ate the craziest foods like scorpions on a stick in Cambodia, encouraged each other when we were afraid, and exchanged as much laughter and eccentricities as we did confrontations.
Writing this book helped me transform in surprising ways, ways I never knew possible––from initial uncontrollable pain, through the setbacks of bridging the physical relationship with my son to the spiritual, and how the slow process of healing eventually turned into a transformation of my whole being.
Your talent with words and passion shows that writing must be a love language for you. You’ve written other works before “Twentyone Olive Trees: A Mother’s Walk Through the Grief of Suicide to Hope and Healing.” How was this writing process different?
Writing Twentyone Olive Trees has been a journey into catharsis and deep emotion. There were many tears as I wrote the book and much introspection, cleansing, and letting go. It felt like something that I was supposed to write for myself at first to release into the world afterward. It was meant to be a gift, a friend sitting there with you as you go through your dark moments, reminding you that it IS okay to cry and grieve, it IS okay to feel all that incredible pain, but that it is also OKAY to let go, and heal. Healing doesn’t mean not thinking about your loss anymore but thinking about it differently. It means accepting what IS without resistance and being grateful for the transformation of our journey.
“Twentyone Olive Trees: A Mother’s Walk Through the Grief of Suicide to Hope and Healing” features insightful fables along with letters to your son, Blaise. What inspired these fables?
The fables take a playful, childlike, and intimate look at coping with loss and embracing acceptance that I hope will intrigue, inspire, give hope and offer ways for readers to transform their loss and pain into something beautiful. I chose the fable format to tackle some of the most challenging life circumstances in a lighthearted way— a balm for the injured. After having endured significant losses in my life, I realize the importance of how playfulness and lightheartedness, and even laughter can become so cathartic and healing.
“Twentyone Olive Trees: A Mother’s Walk Through the Grief of Suicide to Hope and Healing” is an iconic book that captures our hearts. After such a profound, heartfelt book, do you have anything new in the works that you’d like to share with us?
My subsequent work, “Coming Home,” is about my time working at a children’s home in Kenya, Africa, where I collected the children’s autobiographies and described the difficulties of living in such harsh conditions. Still, how the love that impregnated the Home helped them cope with some of the most challenging living situations I have ever encountered, I am hoping this next book will affect positively the children living in our “First World” countries as to teach them how gratitude and love are some of the most potent forces in the world and that even without money and “power” as in prevailing over another, keep us separate and not united as a collective.
For more information on Laura Formentini and “Twentyone Olive Trees: A Mother’s Walk Through the Grief of Suicide to Hope and Healing” head over to Amazon.
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