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Thursday, April 2, 2009

GRIEF DENIED: Pauline Laurent - Vietnam Widow's Story

Vietnam Memoir Finds a New Audience
Among Grieving Wartime Widows

Pauline Laurent’s “Grief Denied” is helping the spouses of those killed in the war on terrorism begin the healing process

Story by John P. Abbott

Pauline Laurent stumbled upon writing in an attempt to save her life. So depressed that she was on the verge of suicide, she began to pour out her feelings in the pages of a journal. Those rambling, heart-wrenching entries would eventually become “Grief Denied: A Vietnam Widow’s Story,” the first book of its kind about that era and one that has found a new audience today for those who have lost loved ones in the war on terrorism.

Laurent will talk about her experiences on Thursday, April 16 at 7 p.m. at the Petaluma Community Center, part of the Writers Forum that meets the third Thursday of each month. (see below)

A Certified Professional Life Coach, a gifted public speaker, and a workshop leader, Laurent had never dealt with the pain of the loss of her husband. “Grief Denied,” published in 1999, is an exploration of the price we pay when we hide, deny or delay grief.

Writing Her Way Out
Laurent grew up in a small town in southern Illinois before moving to Chicago where she met her husband, Howard Querry, III. He was drafted into the army, and soon after leaving for Vietnam was killed in combat. Two months pregnant at the time, Laurent buried her grief and got busy. She went back to college, got her degree in education, and eventually settled in Santa Rosa, where she accepted a job with Werner Erhard and Associates.

After three years of 70-hour work weeks, she quit her job due to exhaustion and stress. At the same time, she ended a relationship with a man she had been involved with for four years. “My life had been a series of losses and losing this significant career and relationship at the same time was too much to bear,” she recalls.

She plummeted into depression and became suicidal. Realizing that taking her life would destroy her daughter, she entered therapy; part of her recovery was writing about what she felt. “I did not consider myself a writer, but I discovered there was a lot inside of me that needed to come out. Writing became the container that could hold the feelings that were spilling out about Vietnam.”

A Story Taking on a Life of Its Own
She experienced an epiphany at a writing workshop a few months later. As part of a writing exercise, Laurent recounted the day she had been informed her husband had been killed – a story she had never told. “When the teacher asked who wanted to read I raised my hand. I was emotionally devastated: I would read a few words then sob, then read a few more and sob again. But it was a huge breakthrough for me. After that I felt like the story took on a life of its own. It wouldn’t leave me alone. It wanted to be told.”

As cathartic and compelling as Laurent’s story may have been, every agent and publisher that she approached rejected the book. When she shared her frustration in a crowded auditorium at a writing conference, a literary agent in the audience gave Laurent her business card and offered to look at her manuscript. That was the break that eventually led to the book’s publication.

The book garnered strong reviews and connected with people in all walks of life. Jonah Raskin, professor at Sonoma State University, called it “undeniably moving.” Publishers Weekly described it as a “direct and powerful memoir.” Bill Moyers, who invited Laurent to appear on his television show, said the broadcast “brought a remarkable response from so many people around the country.”

Finding a New Audience Today
The book’s influence continues to reverberate today. Laurent has been asked to lead several grief workshops for widows of troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. “I treat these women as if I were going back to myself as a young widow,” she says. “What did I need to know then? What would have the greatest impact?”

Laurent doesn’t consider herself a professional writer; instead, she thinks of herself as a “bright shining light” on the path of healing. “I don’t have the credentials or degrees that other writers have, but it’s not about the degrees you have or the people you know. We all have a story to tell and we can allow ourselves to tell our stories using whatever means and methods we can avail ourselves to.”

April 6 - On KRCB – Public Radio in Sonoma County, CA (streaming on the web)
at 9:00 am PDT. Pauline will be interviewed on Sonoma Spotlight. It is only a 5-minute interview so be tuned in early to hear her. She will be discussing the writing workshop she is leading on April 16 at 7:00 pm in Petaluma, CA. “The Courage to Write the Story That Scares You.”.

April 16 ~ The Courage to Write the Story that Scares You, Pauline Laurent
Writer's Forum ~ Supported by Poets & Writers, Inc. through a grant it has received from the
Hearst Foundation. $15 at the door. 7:00-9:00 pm at Petaluma Community Center, Luchessi Park, 320 No. McDowell Blvd., Petaluma ~

For more information about Pauline Laurent visit and

For more information about the Writers Forum visit or email