In the fall of 2020, several months into a pandemic none of us could see coming, Chalice Press was graced with a proposal called “Trauma Transformed.” The author, Jennifer Ohman-Rodriguez, shared a heartbreaking, mesmerizing story of the sudden death of her husband, Tony, and the indescribably deep pain she endured in the months that followed as she cared for her two sons and tried to rebuild her life.
Even in normal times, there is, of course, no shortage of stories of mourning and loss. What set Jennifer’s book apart was her exquisite writing — prayers, stream of consciousness, poetry, prose — that carried us from one entry to the next, feeling her emotional disorientation and the unpredictable nature of grief and recovery. Despite the terrifying subject, her compelling writing pushed us through the manuscript. It was a keeper, no question.
That manuscript is A Time to Mourn & A Time to Dance: A Love Story of Grief, Trauma, Healing, & Faith, launching today from Chalice Press.
When we signed Jennifer to a contract in late 2020, we knew a COVID vaccine was on its way and believed the pandemic might be winding down. Knowing our society had gone almost a year without mourning the way our culture does — gatherings at funerals or memorial services, receptions where we share stories and console each other through laughter and tears — we anticipated a wave of grief that would wash over America. That happened, to an extent, but our inability to end this pandemic continues to postpone our return to normalcy, including mourning as we’ve mourned our whole lives. The pandemic has also taken lives suddenly, sometimes in just a few days, a trauma all its own. This is book that is even more timely than usual, a sad but undeniable fact.
This was the context in which Jennifer finished her manuscript and in which the book was titled. We knew this wasn’t a book about only loss and grief; we knew it was about recovery and healing, as much as that’s possible when there will always be a permanent hole in our heart. We turned to that wondrous scripture, Ecclesiastes 3, that reminds us of the balance in our lives: “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven,” says the King James Version and the classic song by Pete Seeger. The fourth verse caught our attention: “A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” We had our title.
In the pages following that title, Jennifer’s writing reminds us that to find help, stay grounded, embrace those who want to help us, and to keep at it even when we can barely get ourselves out of bed each morning. With the right help, with time, with support, with courage, we will once again find joy in our lives.
She has written about Tony’s death in the book, and in conversation, she protects those wounds, as is her right. But when you read A Time to Mourn & and A Time to Dance, you see Jennifer’s soul on the page. Her writing is as authentic as you’ll find. She doesn’t hide behind a façade or hide her vulnerability.
A Time to Mourn & a Time to Dance is a theological book in addition to a clinical book, though Jennifer is quick to remind you she’s not a therapist. Jennifer brings a pastor’s mind to the subject. A seminary student throughout the story, Jennifer found church and worship too heavy a burden for a long time. Fortunately, patiently, her faith revived, she finished seminary, and she looks forward to her first congregational call as her book launches.
We’re grateful Jennifer shared her story, and we’re grateful to help her share her story with the world. If you or somebody in your life needs a book of hope and healing, bring along a copy of A Time to Mourn & A Time to Dance to that next coffee conversation or walk down the trail.