Gail Weaver Norwood Publishes “Escape from Grief Prison: A Story of Love, Loss, and Healing”

Posted by Monica Hoel
The title of Gail Weaver Norwood’s book may mislead you. This book is about more than grief; it’s about learning how to manage our emotional well-being in times of challenge.

When her husband of 41 years died, Gail grieved. She grieved long, and hard, and completely. It was years before she felt like she had the freedom and strength to move on with her life. Five years after Mike’s death, she remarried – and her new husband died 6 months later.

To say that Gail is intimate with grief is an understatement.

But through this process of overwhelming sadness, she has come to a different understanding of grief. “We have choices.”

Gail says nearly every book and most people were very specific about how grief would make a person feel and what the steps were for moving through the process. They would even offer timeframes for how long certain phases would last. “They told me year three would be the worst, and I couldn’t imagine anything worse than how I was feeling in the first year.”

All the steps, expectations, timelines, and rigid definitions only seemed to keep her in a state of overwhelming sadness. “It felt like I was being sentenced to what I started calling ‘grief prison.’ And it came with a set of rules. ‘Welcome to Grief Prison; here’s your handbook.’”

And, in fact, her emotions were on the verge of being debilitating. “I didn’t want to go to group sessions because I couldn’t get my crying under control. I didn’t even want to be around my friends.” She describes the experience as feeling like real walls around her.

When her second husband died, she says she still didn’t feel equipped to deal with the weight of emotions that came with loss. But what that second round of grief gave her was a chance to look at things differently and face the situation with a different approach. This time, she was intentional about taking care of her mental and physical being. She took time to explore her spirituality, and calls this time of reflection her “grief seminary.” This time around, she sought things to read that offered healing and help – not books that told her how long she was going to feel bad.

“If I found something that really spoke to me, I would read it over and over again. We don’t always take the time in a busy day to focus on something that is meant to heal our hearts. But it’s important to make that time.”

The different approach worked for Gail. She recalls a moment when she read about a young woman who had suffered and survived a great loss. “I read her story about how she finally ‘made peace with it.’ And those words were powerful. Until you make peace with it, it’s really got a hold of you. We come to that place at different times, but learning how to accept it, and deal with it, and make peace with it makes all the difference.”

Gail has written Escape from Grief Prison because she believes we have more control over our emotional health than we realize; more than a lot of social norms and self-help books convey. “I thought I had to go through this loss in a certain way, and then I realized I don’t. We have choices. And that’s my message.”

You can enjoy a very thoughtful and insightful conversation with Gail on the Duck Pond Wall podcast.

  • Gail Weaver Norwood
    Emory & Henry Class of 1971

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  • <div class="lw_news_image"><span class="lw_item_thumb"><a href="/live/news/2044-homecoming-eamph-author-book-signing-features-a"><picture class="lw_image"> <source type="image/webp" srcset="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,76,2131,2208/10365_PXL_20210924_183619348.rev.1633712942.webp 1x, /live/image/scale/2x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,76,2131,2208/10365_PXL_20210924_183619348.rev.1633712942.webp 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,76,2131,2208/10365_PXL_20210924_183619348.rev.1633712942.webp 3x"/> <source type="image/jpeg" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,76,2131,2208/10365_PXL_20210924_183619348.rev.1633712942.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,76,2131,2208/10365_PXL_20210924_183619348.rev.1633712942.jpg 3x"/> <img src="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,76,2131,2208/10365_PXL_20210924_183619348.rev.1633712942.jpg" alt="Lincoln McCarthy HIMSELF will be at the second annual E&H Homecoming E&H Author Book Sign..." width="345" height="225" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,76,2131,2208/10365_PXL_20210924_183619348.rev.1633712942.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,76,2131,2208/10365_PXL_20210924_183619348.rev.1633712942.jpg 3x" data-max-w="2131" data-max-h="2132" loading="lazy"/> </picture> </a></span></div><div class="lw_widget_text"><h4 class="lw_news_headline"><a href="/live/news/2044-homecoming-eamph-author-book-signing-features-a">Homecoming E&H Author Book-Signing Features A Crime-Solving Doodle</a></h4><div class="lw_news_summary"> Four E&H authors will ply their pens at the second annual E&H Alumni Authors Book-Signing event on Homecoming day, Sat. Oct. 16, 11 am-Noon. You’ll find them in front of the bookstore. <a href="/live/news/2044-homecoming-eamph-author-book-signing-features-a" class="link-with-arrow gold">Keep reading</a></div></div>
  • <div class="lw_news_image"><span class="lw_item_thumb"><a href="/live/news/2430-town-of-saltville-eyes-big-plans"><picture class="lw_image"> <source type="image/webp" srcset="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,3200,2400/11805_gwh_all.rev.1660772634.webp 1x, /live/image/scale/2x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,3200,2400/11805_gwh_all.rev.1660772634.webp 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,3200,2400/11805_gwh_all.rev.1660772634.webp 3x"/> <source type="image/jpeg" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,3200,2400/11805_gwh_all.rev.1660772634.JPG 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,3200,2400/11805_gwh_all.rev.1660772634.JPG 3x"/> <img src="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,3200,2400/11805_gwh_all.rev.1660772634.JPG" alt="This beautiful bird is the latest visitor to the well fields in Saltville, and bird enthusiasts a..." width="345" height="225" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,3200,2400/11805_gwh_all.rev.1660772634.JPG 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,3200,2400/11805_gwh_all.rev.1660772634.JPG 3x" data-max-w="3200" data-max-h="2400" loading="lazy"/> </picture> </a></span></div><div class="lw_widget_text"><h4 class="lw_news_headline"><a href="/live/news/2430-town-of-saltville-eyes-big-plans">Town of Saltville Eyes Big Plans</a></h4><div class="lw_news_summary"> There’s a Labor Day party coming up in Saltville, Virginia, but town leaders are looking at much more than just a big weekend. <a href="/live/news/2430-town-of-saltville-eyes-big-plans" class="link-with-arrow gold">Keep reading</a></div></div>