A new book, written by 22 Nova Scotia women from different walks of life, shares their stories of struggle and strength this past year.
Karen Dean, a single mother of three and resiliency coach, says she woke up with the idea for the book, We Are Unbreakable: Raw, Real Stories of Resilience from Women in Nova Scotia in 2020, one morning in October.
“I literally woke up in my bed and it was in my head. I immediately went on a mission to find 21 other women to contribute their stories,” Dean tells Global News, saying she wanted to included the voices of 22 women to pay tribute to the 22 victims of April’s mass shootings.
“Especially in a pandemic, we are alone a lot of the time in our homes and life is so much different now. So I think it’s important that people read this and feel the feelings and know that we all felt the same feelings through all of this and we are definitely not alone.”
Included in the book is Dean’s own experiences this past year. As someone who teaches resiliency to others, Dean says she considers herself pretty tough, but the start of 2020 proved difficult.
“I literally shut down because I’ve never felt so unsafe in my life,” she says.
“My older daughter works in a hospital. I was worried, I was scared, I could not protect my kids from this thing that I couldn’t see and it was just a lot to deal with.”
It was just as things started to feel normal again when a gunman went on deadly rampage across rural Nova Scotia, which Dean says, “hit so hard.”
“I’m a domestic violence survivor, and then I lost my friend Gina Goulet, who was this incredible, fierce woman, who I know the whole world misses,” says Dean.
The tragedy prompted Dean to start a fundraiser through her clothing company, Countryfied Clothing, for the Stronger Together Nova Scotia Fund.
After raising nearly $100,000, Dean says she had to end the fundraiser in July, when her 20-year-old son was diagnosed with cancer.
“He started chemo the week that I wrote that cheque,” she says. “I cried a lot.”
But through this new book, Dean says she’s been able to let it out and bond with other women. Contributors include business owners, mothers, farmers and the executive director of Northwood, a long-term care facility that was hit hard by the COVID-19 virus, which killed 53 of the home’s residents.
Michele Tessier, a naval officer, also contributed to the book. Along with her own experiences this past year, Tessier also included those from other women in the navy.
“The writing process was emotional. It was recalling where I was at the times that certain things happened and then reading the submissions that the other women had given to me,” Tessier says.
Some of the women she spoke with were on board HMCS Fredericton when six crew members died in a helicopter crash on April 29.
“When that particular incident happened, it struck everyone very, very hard,” she says.
“One of my very good friends was the executive officer, she was the second in command of the ship, and so I have a note from her in my submission, as well as one from one of the chiefs that was on board.”
Tessier says it was a project that helped her realize how many women — and people in general — interpret things the same way.
“We all feel the same way about the same situations and how that means that we’re not alone in things, that the feelings that we have are validated and that we have the strength and the resiliency to overcome things.”
We Are Unbreakable: Raw, Real Stories of Resilience from Women in Nova Scotia in 2020 launched just two weeks ago and quickly became an Amazon best seller.
It has been sitting at the top of the Canadian Collection Category for more than a week.
“I just think that speaks to how much people need to read these stories and how much people can relate to it,” says Dean.
“I’ve been through a lot of things in my life that could’ve, should’ve broke me, and haven’t and I think all of us as humans need to feel that we are unbreakable, that we can get through the tough times.”
A portion of the sale of each book will go the Nova Scotia Remembers Legacy Society to establish a bursary program for women in rural Nova Scotia.