The winner of the 2013 Free Publishing Contest award for Non-Fiction, Bonnie Brooks has been blessed with the opportunity to share her inspiring story of emotional pain and spiritual healing in her debut book, Pierced in the Heart: The Miracle of Healing after Grief and Loss.
Bonnie is a former elementary school teacher and adult educator. She has worked in a senior management position in a provincial education ministry in Canada for twenty-five years.
Mental health issues in her family, along with her own bipolar disorder, expanded Bonnie’s heart and mind to the suffering of others. She’s tuned to hurting teens and adults who cry out on social media to a world largely insensitive to the pain disguised in their words.
Q: Can you tell us a bit about the title, Pierced in the Heart?
A: First, it’s symbolic of how my mother died—she pierced her heart with a knife and took her own life. Second, it symbolizes how I felt as I went through painful experiences.
Q: Would you say there was a turning point in your life?
A: One came the year I learned how my mother died. I’d always believed she died of a heart attack, so it was a shock to learn she took her own life. Soon after, I renewed my relationship with God. Finally, writing this book has been a major turning point. I didn’t realize I was still broken until God spoke healing words that brought me to a place of peace and acceptance. It was like putting an exclamation mark on all the healing that came before.
Q: What effect do you hope this book will have on its readers?
A: My stories of suicide, mental health challenges, and domestic violence could be unsettling if not for the hope offered through God’s healing words. My desire is that others who are broken will discover beauty beyond their pain. I want them to experience deep emotional and spiritual healing. I also hope readers will come to an understanding of what it’s like to lose a family member to suicide, or to live with a mental health disorder.
Q: At the end of every chapter, you have a section called “Healing Words and Letting Go.” Where did the inspiration for this come from?
A: I wrote the first draft at a five-day writing retreat. I asked God questions at the beginning of each day. In some cases, the healing messages just flowed out while I was writing. I remember the day I wrote about my brother’s death—I had my eyes closed as I typed, tears streaming down, and God spoke to me through those tears.
Q: You’ve tied Pierced in the Heart to the issue of mental health. Do you feel Christians face unique challenges in this area?
A: Yes, and that’s why I wanted it released during Mental Illness Awareness Week. There’s a stigma associated with mental illness, even though as many as one in five Canadians will experience mental illness at some point.
Sadly, Christians do face challenges. Due to lack of understanding about depression and other mental health disorders, many Christians think these issues can be cured by praying them away. Christians fighting battles with mental illness often say they’re judged by other Christians and told they must not be real believers—if they were, they wouldn’t have a problem. It’s unlikely those same people would make similar comments about someone fighting cancer.
The suicide of mega-church pastor Rick Warren’s son last year was a tragedy. However, it resulted in an explosion of Christians sharing their own struggles. For months on Warren’s social media sites, people talked about their shame. For many, it was the first time they’d disclosed their suffering. Recently, when Robin Williams died, both the secular and Christian communities were shaken. Tragic though it was, Williams’ suicide increased the dialogue about mental health in a positive way.
Q: What other publishing experiences have you had?
A: My first published works were a series of poems in a Grade Nine school newspaper. Several poems were published in a university anthology, “Beyond the Sound Barrier.” More recently, an article I co-authored on the effective use of digital media was published in an international science and technology journal. I also had a chapter published in the Back-to-School Memoir Anthology 2013. I’ve had short articles and letters published in local newsletters and newspapers. I once wrote a letter to the editor of a major metro newspaper which won the Golden Pen award.
Q: Do you have any particular approach to writing?
A: My typical process consists of a few minutes of deep breathing exercises where I clear tension from my body. I play peaceful nature music and begin free-flow writing. I keep my hands on the keyboard and don’t stop to read or edit. I keep an eye on my writing speed, and if I’m writing less than 1500 words an hour, I pick up the pace. I’ve learned that slowing down means that I’m engaging in left-brain, analytical writing rather than right-brain, creative writing.
Q: Which of your writing experiences could new writers learn from?
A: Writers who talk about writer’s block are usually stuck in the left-brain process. Since I started using the free-flow process, I’ve never experienced writer’s block. One of the most difficult roadblocks I overcame was self-doubt. I had to remind myself that I’d prayed God would be honoured through my writing, so I had to stop judging my work and give it over to Him. My best works generally come when I write from the heart, from a place of passion and purpose.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to tell us about yourself?
A: I’ve started two other manuscripts, and I’m looking forward to my early retirement this fall, so I can immerse myself in writing and publishing. I’m planning to take certification training in the field of grief support so I can offer coaching.
On Thursday, October 9th, there will be a special launch of Pierced in the Heart at The Fig Tree Christian Books & Gifts in West Edmonton Mall from 6-9pm.
Bonnie can be found on various social media platforms where she connects with individuals with similar passions—writing and publishing, mental health, grief recovery, inspired living, and most importantly a God who loves His children through it all: