Can You Do Grief Differently?
“Our life is different now. But different doesn’t have to mean bad or less than.” -Tom Zuba
If you could do grief differently would you? I would. My experiences with grief have been wrought with emotional pain and sadness, but mostly overshadowed by unbearable a-l-o-n-e-n-e-s-s. By default it was an organic process, as I had never experienced the death of a loved one prior to losing Sebastian. Upon reflection, if I had the skills or the support to ease through it differently I most certainly would have grabbed a hold of that branch.
A couple of years ago I came across the work of Tom Zuba*, a life coach, author and a speaker, who has turned his experiences of grief into something different. To my knowledge, Tom has not discussed grieving the loss of a beloved pet; however this is a gentleman who has become friends with grief. In 1990, Tom suddenly lost his 18-month-old daughter, Erin. On New Years’ Day 1999, Tom’s 43-year-old wife, Trici, passed away. And, in 2005 his 13-year-old son Rory died from brain cancer.
Tom (http://www.tomzuba.com/) defines grief as “the internal, automatic response”. Furthermore, we live within a society that teaches us to repress and pretend to do whatever we can to feel nothing. In his work he motivates people to take the grief that is inside of us and get it up, get it out and use mourning as a path to healing. He posits, “You are not your anger; you are not your sadness, you are not your despair”. Each of those emotions has a beginning, a middle and an end; an energy that moves through our body. Subsequently, when a person is able to view their feelings with kindness, gentleness and compassion, we become just that.
My most favourite principle is that we are all energy, which is inclusive of our words and how we use them. Tom states, “I have come to believe that words are energy and energy has power … power to create our feelings, our emotions and ultimately our experience. The words we choose to speak are important” (Zuba, 2012). Likewise, when someone dies we often say that we ‘lost them’. He asks us to re-evaluate what we believe and questions, “Have we really lost them?” What personally draws me to Tom’s work is his confidence that we will always be in relationship with those that have died. Moreover, we are the ones who decide if it will be a healthy relationship or not.
The idea of continuing a relationship with one that has passed on strongly resonates with me. When I think about my little Sebastian I have often wondered, “If I had done __, perhaps he would have lived longer” (and so on). These thoughts leave me feeling sad and worn out, even now as I type this. I no longer want to intertwine Sebastian with the woulda coulda shoulda’s, and to borrow from Tom’s words, I no longer want to marinate in pain. When Sebastian visits my memories, I want to remember the funny and special times that we shared, because that is what he was, and is, to me. He was cheeky, sometimes growly and l loved his king-of-the-house-ways. I am so bloody grateful for his presence (= presents) in my life.
I am not asking you to move away from the grieving process, nor am I trying to diminish your feelings and experiences. Grieving IS important and we all do it differently – and that’s okay. I am proposing that you incorporate additional tools as a stepping stone to move through grief differently. How are you feeling about this? Does Tom’s work motivate you to practice grief differently? Please comment, or email me, and let me know. And – if you are experiencing the loss of your beloved furry family member I send you love. You are not alone.
*You may also connect with Tom Zuba here: https://www.facebook.com/tomzuba1
Zuba, T. (2014). About Tom. Retrieved from http://www.tomzuba.com/pages/toms-story
Zuba, T. (2012). Introducing Life Coach Tom Zuba and a New Way to “Do Grief” Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yIg5vBMAySU