lessons from the ledge
a little book about big stuff

(reprinted from Northwest Herald, McHenry County, IL - January 7, 2018)


McHenry County Author Spotlight: Nancy Jo Nelson

Hometown: Barrington for the last 25 years. Palatine before then. Fremd High School graduate.

Latest Book: “Lessons from the ledge,” a memoir

Publisher: Stonebrook Publishing, St. Louis, Missouri

Release Date: June 2017

Where can we find it?

Barnes and Noble, Amazon.com and Ingram Spark, area libraries.

What’s it about?

Suicide survival, grief, resiliency, authenticity and learning to thrive under crazy circumstances. It’s also about the process of becoming fearless in the face of judgment and societal “norms” – the “shoulds” of others, if you will.

Where did the idea come from?

My life, and more specifically, the events which occurred from October 2009 with my husband’s disappearance through the present, moving forward as a family in the aftermath of his suicide.

What genre is your book, and why were you drawn to it?

Memoir/self help. I feel very strongly that there was a message from my mess to help other grievers know there is no right or wrong way to experience and move through loss. Grief is part of “normal” emotion and life, and we are wired to survive, thrive and learn from it. But only if we acknowledge it, stop running from and stuffing it down, and stay present.

Who is the intended audience?

Generally, everyone – as we all experience loss in one way or another. We’ve all been on ledges at times in our lives. Specifically, survivors of suicide – those of us left behind, have a common uniqueness that binds us together. Guilt, shame, questions, stigma ... all cultural things that keep the natural grief process somewhat handcuffed because we (and those walking the journey with us) are hesitant to share the stories that help unbraid the reality of the one lost and incorporate the memories. If we don’t talk about them, the stigma continues.

Why is this story important to you?

As a society and greater humanity, it is long overdue that we drop our masks of perfection. We are all broken and that is not a bad thing. Once we honestly share our stories without fear, others have permission to do the same and we connect on an entirely different level. My story has become a vehicle for connection on a larger scale and wider audience. Life is so short and unpredictable and the sooner we admit that, the higher quality of it we can experience.

How long did it take you to write? What was your process?

I started writing this story before I even realized it consciously. I made journal entries and sent update emails, which helped anchor time for me during an extremely chaotic time. The actual process started in 2015, with about a year off for “marination.” My writing process was very organic and I did very little editing on paper.

The biggest part basically was getting all of it out and then editing what didn’t need to be in the finished product. There is a lot of our particular stories that are important for us to write down and see, but doesn’t necessarily add to the reader’s experience. I submitted my first draft for editing in January of 2017. My final, finished draft was sent on April 23, the anniversary of my husband’s memorial service ... there are no coincidences. The process of writing was extremely cathartic and a necessary component of my own grief process.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book? What was the hardest part?

Writing this book at that specific time helped frame the whole experience in a more objective way. It simply would not be what it is if anything was different. I was able to see how far I have come, how much I’ve grown and learned, and collectively, how far we have come as a family. As I wrote, I sensed the healing and validating nature of the message for others. The hardest part was sitting in the stillness of my complicated grief and not allowing myself to “busy” my way around it. I had to feel my feelings, in some cases for the first time, in others to allow them to expand and breathe.

How are you publishing this book and why (traditional/indie/self-publishing)?

I decided to use a publisher because I felt I wanted the expertise to bring my story to a larger spotlight. Professional editing and book design was very important to me for my end result. I’m extremely proud of how it turned out. I hope this is just the first of more to come.

What is your education/background?

I finished my BA after my husband died so received a Bachelor’s of Arts in Applied Behavorial Science from National Louis University in 2012.

I received my certification in life coaching from Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (IPEC) in 2014. My website is www.ledgelessons.com, and I am also part of the Grief Resource Network site. I write for ESME.com (Empowering Solo Moms Everywhere) with several articles in the Bereavement area, as well as being the Addiction Resource Guide currently.

How/why did you decide to write a book?

I always knew I had a book in me. My father was a journalism major and owned his own PR firm. I choose to think I inherited his gift as a wordsmith. I have had a strong sense of my “voice” for years and it was fascinating to see it come across on the written page.

Who are your favorite authors?

I admire Brene Brown, Marie Forleo, Danielle LaPorte, Jennifer Lawson and Kate Northup – all female nonfiction writers with bravery to share their perfectly imperfect selves honestly.

Pick one: Danielle Steel or John Grisham?

I rarely read fiction and have never read either of them. I prefer nonfiction memoir.

Pick one: Stephen King or Nicholas Sparks?

I have never read either of them. I find real life far more interesting and don’t read horror or romance stories. I have my own ...

Pick one: Ebooks or hard/paperbacks?

I love books and bookstores. The smell of new books, the heft, the permanence.

Have you written anything else?

I have several articles on ESME.com with my thoughts on grief and the challenges of being a solo mom.

What’s next for you?

More podcasts and radio spots as well as workshops and creating a video presence. I will be leading a group for Hurting Moms out of California in 2018 and hope to speak my truth wherever I show up. I have a podcast with the creator of Grief Anonymous coming up in January.

How can readers discover more about you and you work?

Website: www.ledgelessons.com
Facebook: Nancy Jo Strickland Nelson and Lessons From The Ledge

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