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Courage to Grieve with Mattie Jackson Selecman (ep. 428)

Mattie Jackson Selecman

John O’Leary welcomes Mattie Jackson Selecman, author of Lemons On Friday, to the Live Inspired Podcast to share her devastating journey of loss, the difficult dance that followed and the reminder that hope can heal.

Mattie Jackson Selecman dreamt of being an author, but she never expected her first book Lemons on Friday would be about the tragic + unexpected loss of her beloved husband of 11 months.

Daughter of country megastar Alan Jackson and New York Times bestselling author Denise Jackson, Mattie became a widow at 28 years old and was forced to navigate a future drastically different than the one she had planned.

Relying on her faith, she embarked on a deeply personal journey through devastating loss and the difficult dance that followed.

This conversation is a reminder that no heartbreak or loss is unredeemable. By confidently clinging to hope, we can truly heal.

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  • Value of work + humility: Growing up in the quintessential country music family, Mattie is grateful for how her parents raised her and her siblings.
  • In her book, It’s All About Him, Mattie’s mom Denise candidly shared her and Alan’s marital struggles, giving Mattie the confidence to share her own difficult journey.
  • Intrigued by the history, science and art of wine, Mattie spent six years owning a wine bar restaurant.
  • “You are the sweetest and best thing that ever happened to me.” Mattie describes her late-husband Ben as joyful, abundant and filled with momentum for each day.
  • Eleven months into their marriage, Ben suffered a fatal traumatic brain injury while vacationing in Florida.
  • Nearly a year later, Mattie surrendered, chose to trust God and did not need to understand the “why” of her loss.
  • Advice to those with friends, families and others close to someone experiencing a devastating loss:
    • It’s less about what you do and more about being present.
    • In the midst of being emotionally, mentally and physically exhausted, open-ended questions are overwhelming. Direct questions like “do you want to get lunch today or can I drop something off?” helped her manage to make even the simplest decisions.
  • During difficult moments, such as baby showers, Mattie would recite Romans 12:15: Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
  • Through researching heaven, Mattie found comfort in knowing where Ben was. Books that helped her were Randy Alcorn’s Heaven and John Burke’s Imagine Heaven.
  • Approaching the two-year anniversary of Ben’s death, Mattie wrote Racing the Dark, sung by her father, to fight the instinct to run away and find the courage to face challenges.
  • “Grief is less about learning not to hurt. It’s more about learning how you hurt and how to navigate it.”
  • Learn more about Mattie’s give-back company NaSHEville, which helps women and children in need-specifically orphans, widows, and trafficked women, here.
  • Get a copy of Mattie Jackson Selecman’s Lemons On Friday here.

If you enjoyed today’s episode… Tune into Anna Whitson-Donaldson. After the sudden death of her 12-year-old son Jack, Anna felt lonely + heavy with guilt. By courageously sharing her family’s tragedy and the puzzling, unclear territory of grief, Anna found comfort + strength. Listen to Anna on Live Inspired Podcast ep. 298 now.


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  1. Q. What is the best book you’ve ever read?
    A. A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis.
  2. Q. What is a characteristic or trait that you possessed as a child that you wish you still exhibited today?
    A. I was very tender towards others.
  3. Q. Your house is on fire, all living things and people are out. You have the opportunity to run in and grab one item. What would it be?
    A. Ben's Bible. It's in my bedside table for that reason.
  4. Q. You are sitting on a bench overlooking a gorgeous beach. You have the opportunity to have a long conversation with anyone living or dead. Who would it be? 
    A. As a reader and author, Jane Austen.
  5. Q. What is the best advice you’ve ever received? 
    A. My dad said, "change is hard but it's usually good."
  6. Q. What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
    A. Life is first and foremost about the people in it. It's not about the performance or what you do.
  7. Q. It’s been said that all great people can have their lives summed up in one sentence. How do you want yours to read? 
    A. I hope I give people the fuel to do things they otherwise think they couldn't do.