Events inspire woman to write about coping with grief
By SCOTT AUST
After searching for eight years to find a book that would help her counseling clients handle grief, Doris Arwine realized she hadn't prayed about it enough, so she asked the Lord for help.
"He said, 'You're going to write it yourself,'" Arwine said. "I said, 'Huh?' I've never written a book. I don't know how to do that."
But Arwine decided to follow through. The result was a 50-page illustrated book, "4 Keys to Unlock a Sad Heart," self-published through Xlibris.
The book, told from the perspective of a squirrel family, outlines the real-life event of a fire that burned down Arwine's childhood home in rural Finney County.
Arwine said she needed a book that could explain the four keys of grieving — to think, write, talk and weep — primarily to children, but also to parents and adults.
"It felt like kids and adults were struggling a little bit to get the concepts. I always think things are better when you can use stories," she said.
Arwine, 68, is a licensed clinical social worker/therapist who owns and operates a Christian counseling business, In His Image, in Garden City. In His Image serves southwest Kansas offering individual, marriage, family and play therapy. She has been a counselor for 23 years, about 12 of them in private practice. Over the years, Arwine has worked with hospice, foster care, adoptions and presented workshops on a variety of topics.
The book's catalyst was a very grief filled year. Last year, Arwine's mother and sister died within a couple of months of each other, and a number of family friends and past clients also died.
Shortly after her mother's funeral, Arwine sat down and wrote the book. The process took about nine months from writing, through several edits, getting it illustrated and finding a publishing company to get it printed.
"This was very therapeutic to me. It helped me grieve," she said.
Arwine used a real-life experience as the basis for the book's story. When she and her sister were 5 and 6, they burned down the family home. The family lived on a farm 25 miles from town. One afternoon, their mother put them down for a nap, but Arwine and her sister got up and made mud pies — and decided to cook them.
A fire started. The girls found their mother, then went to where their father was working and he and other men tried to put the fire out, but it was too late.
"Thank goodness my oldest sister had the sense to go back and get the youngest one," Arwine said. "It literally burned to the ground. But one thing I remember my mom saying was that when she couldn't run any faster or go any further, she fell on her knees and thanked the Lord for keeping her babies safe."
Arwine said animals were used in the book because of their non-threatening nature to children.
After the fire, the story tells how the family lived in a barn while waiting to find another home, and introduces a grandfather who helps the kids deal with loss by introducing the four keys of dealing with loss.
Arwine said the grandfather in the book is based on her own grandfather, a storyteller, but in real life Arwine didn't learn about the process of dealing with grief until her education as a counselor.
In real life, her family didn't talk much about the fire or the loss of their home. As with many people, the bad memories were pushed down and ignored.
"We did like everybody else does when you have a loss. We didn't talk about it. We pretended nothing had happened. We stuffed our feelings and we cried alone," Arwine said. "Tears are words that can't be spoken. I like that because many people think tears are sign of weakness, but they are really a sign of strength."
Arwine said she received counseling for depression in her late 20s-early 30s, which is what led her to become a counselor. She said she really didn't begin grieving the loss of the family home until a few years after she got into her vocation.
"When you don't grieve your losses, after a while they catch up with you," she said.
Grief can overwhelm people, she said, causing them to avoid it.
"What I tell people to do is make an appointment with it. If you're busy playing or busy working, you don't have time for it, then you tell it to wait its turn. I'll set aside 15 minutes or so, and we'll go through the four keys," she said.
Arwine and her husband, Jim, a retired military veteran, met in high school in Garden City. They have two adult sons, Alan, a political science professor at the University of Kansas, and Tim, who lives in Bali, Indonesia, and does a variety of things including teaching English as a second language.
Arwine and her husband moved back to Finney County in 2000, around the time she began her private practice, a career she loves.
"I love the people, and I love seeing them helped," she said. "What I like best about my job is seeing people make change and having better lives. Because we are all capable of change. When people come to us, they are in crisis most of the time. That's when they're most able to make change. But it's a big responsibility, and I couldn't do this work without a relationship with the Lord."
Arwine will be signing copies of her book from 3 to 5 p.m. April 13 at Hastings in Garden City. Copies of the book are available at Hastings, as well as online at Amazon.com. Later this year, the book will be featured at the 2013 Frankfurt Book Fair in Frankfurt, Germany, Oct. 9 through 13.