Skip to content

An Interview with Mary Aviyah Farkas, author of Overcoming Deepest Grief

farkas 1

I was raised in Manhattan’s Lower East Side where I went to school with Black, Brown, Asian, and Jewish kids learning that “white” does not confer privilege. Then on to the San Fernando Valley and a too-early marriage at 19. The illusion of being straight was broken at 25 when I knew, deep in my bones, that I am a lesbian. Soon after this discovery, I moved to Boston in the 1970’s heyday of demonstrations and Gay Pride, then back to California in my late 30s after my mother’s death, where I began a new life in Mendocino County. I thrived in my work as a Registered Dietitian, and married again, this time to a woman who I loved heart and soul for 18 years until her sudden death in 2006, when I unexpectedly found her dead, cold, and blue in bed, no forewarning, no goodbyes. My crushing grief became unbearable when, after the memorial service, my in-laws came to our home and pillaged and plundered my wife’s many expensive collections and furniture, which were jointly owned, with no regard for the sanctity of our marriage, nor the fragility of my heart. I was emotionally unable to work and had to leave my home, which had been raped, as well the work that I loved to be near family in southern California. I was in shock, pain, and deep emotional turmoil. My large family helped me heal. The long journey out of the hell of deepest grief began. In 2009 I started to seriously write as a way to express my inner feelings. Writing is an extremely interior process, allowing access and expression of deep emotions. Writing my book literally saved my life.

Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?

I had to write to deal with my darkest feelings, else I felt that I would commit suicide.

Since childhood, I’ve always read a lot and widely. In my 20s I was immersed in reading Gertrude Stein.

What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?

My father was a Holocaust survivor and I grew up with stories about food scarcity and starvation, thus my strong interest in nutrition, which led me to become a Registered Dietitian. I hold an M.S. in Nutrition from Tufts University, and an M.A. in Counseling Psychology.

My knowledge of nutrition, physiology, and neurobiology helped me in my grieving process. I knew that our brain is plastic and can recover from the deepest insults.

Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?

My book’s title came to me as a clear statement of the deep loss I had to deal with, and my process to recovery from this loss: Acceptance, Gratitude, and Joy.

How did it feel when you first saw your book cover? Or when you first held your book in your hands?

I was profoundly proud of what I had written, as well as the cover I chose. The mandala on the cover was painted for me in the 1990s by Paul Heussenstamm. I knew that the beauty of Paul’s mandala reflected the beauty of my words.

If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?

Thelma Houston’s “Don’t Leave Me This Way” and Tina Turner’s “Way of the World.”

Both of these songs, along with Keith Jarrett’s Koln Concert and hours of listening to jazz, classical music, and writing helped me heal. Immediately after my wife’s death, I couldn’t listen to music because so much of it reminded me of her.

What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?

There is, we know, no “perfect” reader, just as there is no “perfection.” I believe we all try our best to live this life of blending our interior heart and soul, with our flesh and blood in a world still learning to love. I would want my readers to find beauty in my words, and find hope that they too can come out of any dark space in their heart.

What was the most rewarding/meaningful part of publishing your book?

I self-published my book, not wanting to spend months searching for a publisher, especially after feeling that my book was “done.” The most rewarding part, once the book was being purchased, was reading all the positive reviews that spontaneously appeared. Also, winning four book awards gave credence to my voice.

What new writing projects are you currently working on? Or, other projects that are not writing?

I am a Docent at the Holocaust Museum Los Angeles and have just joined their Docent Writing Group. Having grown up with many Holocaust and war stories, I am committed to capturing them for others and the future.

Are you a writer, too? Submit your manuscript to Atmosphere Press.

atmosphere press

Atmosphere Press is a selective hybrid publisher founded in 2015 on the principles of Honesty, Transparency, Professionalism, Kindness, and Making Your Book Awesome. Our books have won dozens of awards and sold tens of thousands of copies. If you’re interested in learning more, or seeking publication for your own work, please explore the links below.