Marie Osmond's new, perfect-for-Mother's-Day book The Key is Love: My Mother's Wisdom, A Daughter's Gratitude (New American Library) became an instant New York Times best seller. No surprise there. It's a fantastic read, one of those rare personal stories where you learn lots about the subject and even more about yourself. Osmond, the mother of eight, and coauthor Marcia Wilkie write movingly yet unsparingly about the 2010 suicide of the star's son, Michael Bryan, but also pack the book with warm, practical advice from Osmond's late mom, Olive. TV Guide Magazine spoke with Osmond on the set of her Hallmark Channel daytime talk show Marie where, appropriately, she was preparing for a special Mother's Day episode (airing Thursday, May 9 at noon/11c).
TV Guide Magazine: Word is, this is not the book you planned to write.
My original publishing deal was for a funny, quirky, Erma Bombeck-type book on childrearing. But, then, things changed. When my son passed away the tone of the book also had to change. I also realized that any book I did on motherhood would have to include my mother's wisdom. Unlike me, she never divorced, never adopted children, never worked outside the home, but the lessons she taught me have sustained me through all my difficulties and, trust me, there is nothing worse than losing a child. But, as my mom always reminded me, you can and must move forward. You don't get over it, but you do get through it.
TV Guide Magazine: In the book, you describe what you felt after Michael's death as "knockdown grief." How was it to relive that in print?
I swore I never would. I talked about Michael's death on Oprah's show and after that I said, "That's it. No more." I never imagined I'd write about it someday, because reliving it was just too excruciating. But, two years later, I had some perspective and found that I had more I needed to say. Even then it was hard. You write it, then go away and cry for awhile, then come back and write some more. It was the book tour that was toughest. In promoting it pretty much nonstop for a week, I had to go there again and again and again. That was brutal. Losing my parents was also brutal. Even being prepared for it, you're never prepared. My dad was my safe place in life, the man who took care of me always, especially during my very bad second marriage. But after each loss you have to get back up. You do it for your kids. I know my parents and Michael would want that.
TV Guide Magazine: You say you've learned so much from your children, especially when you went into therapy with your eldest daughter, Jessica. What do you think your mom learned from you?
[Laughs] Probably nothing! Though my mom would always say, "You're so much smarter than me." She'd pat my face and say, "You've been through so much more than I have. You are a woman of great strength." But even that I got from her. My parents would always say, "Build a shell." That doesn't mean you get mean or hard or uncaring. It means, when bad stuff hits, protect yourself. Learn what you can from it and move on as soon as possible. Put on your big girl panties! I remember feeling really sorry for myself after my first divorce and my mother was, like, "Get over yourself! You have a child to take care of!" Well, I was furious! "How dare you! You are so awful! Okay, fine! I will!" And I did get over myself and put the focus where it belonged. It was the most brilliant advice ever. Mom was awesome.
TV Guide Magazine: You write a lot about faith yet never get preachy. Hard to do?
Not at all. Faith is my strength as a Christian woman but I don't preach it. I just try to live it. We can't make sense of everything here, and we need a higher power to help us with that but I don't believe anyone should preach or force their views on another human being. Thus the title of the book. I think we'd do really well to look at everything with love. Hearts can be softened when we have compassion for each other.
TV Guide Magazine: In the book, you describe some sixth-sense experiences, including a visitation dream where you saw your mother greeting Michael on the other side. Any reluctance to share the woo-woo stuff?
Nope. I believe we all have those experiences and, if you don't, you're denying something. I had that dream right before I had to sit down with my younger children and tell them Michael died, and it brought me such peace. It was a great gift to know he was finally free of hurt, and that he was with my mom. You can tell the difference between a regular dream and a true visitation. Dreams fade in time. Visitations stay with you and remain crystal clear. Right now I can see what happened in that dream through my third eye as clearly as when it first happened. I've had many experiences like that. It happened when my grandmother passed. I was taking a nap one day while we were on tour and I saw her going through this cloud, into this whiteness, where she met an individual I recognized as my grandfather who had died many, many years earlier. I woke up because my dad was knocking on my door to tell me my grandmother had died. I see it all the time in my work with Children's Miracle Network. Parents who have lost children frequently find comfort in experiences like that. You just need to be open to it.
TV Guide Magazine: Your Mother's Day episode is devoted to a subject dear to you — adoption. [Guests include married actors Nia Vardalos and Ian Gomez, who share their experiences adopting a daughter — the subject of Vardalos' book Instant Mom].
[Laughs] I think of my show as free therapy. It's so flippin' expensive to seek help. I want everyone to benefit from the thousands upon thousands I've spent on shrinks. Let's get people the help they need especially when it comes to parenting, and especially adoption, which has changed so radically because of social media. More and more kids are locating and contacting their birth parents. It's a whole new world, more complicated than it used to be but worth it. Adoption is so fantastic, so rewarding. [Laughs] Like I always say, some of my children are adopted, but I can't remember which ones!