Breathing New Life …

Being a writer, and being someone who has used writing each and every brutally honest emotion or thought as my way of coping and crawling through this muddy hell we call grief – I have often found it next to impossible to read other people’s pieces about death and loss. They never seem to sit right with me. They are either too religious, too preachy, too covered in the plastic-coating of what the outside world thinks and wants grief to be, or just too unrelatable. They are too much of the wrong things, and never enough of the right things. Or at least that is what I have experienced.

It is rare for me to find a book or a film or an article or much of anything – that truly speaks to me in that “Wow!” sort of way. So I don’t find myself reading a lot of other people’s work. I write. I write all of the things that I feel nobody else says. I write all the words that others tell me they are afraid to express. I write the pain and the fear and the questions and the panic and the fight and the terror and the loneliness and the confusion and the “what now?” on the trainwreck that is this life.

Sometimes, of course, there are exceptions to every rule. Sometimes, now and then, rarely – I will read something so powerful, so beautiful, so poetic, so true – that it is as if that writer had jumped inside of my heart and brain, stolen my words and my soul, and printed them there in front of me. But that isn’t what happened. Because when you feel the kind of intense, all-consuming pain that a widowed person feels, or that a person who has been through loss and death feels – there is no reason for stealing. The beauty inside of your words comes from that gut-wrenching pain – it comes from that hole inside of your soul that used to be your life – and if you are brave enough to put it out there, it can be everything.

Me in my “after” life – at Camp Widow East, Myrtle Beach.

Recently, I was introduced by my dear friend Sarah, to an exceptional man named Tom Zuba. Tom is a widower, who, in addition to losing his wife, also lost both his son, and his daughter. All seperately. At different times. When I type that out or even start to think about the massiveness of that statement, I almost cannot breathe. And so I have no idea how this man breathes through all of that pain, as it piles itself onto his heart, over and over and over ……

 I have never met this man, nor have I “met” Sarah. But in this new, weird, widowed life of mine – they are my “internet” friends. Sarah and I talk on the phone often – we trade tears and laughs and brutally honest dialogue about our dead loved ones that we lost in a few second’s time. Sarah is a writer and a very talented artist and someone I really admire, and so when she told me I have to check out this guy’s poetry and what he has to say about grief and loss, it took me about 14 seconds after hanging up the phone with her to look at his Facebook page and his website and his words. His insanely beautiful, haunting words.

 And after I did that, his words caused a hurricane of action within me. His words left me with that rare feeling of “Wow!”, where I felt as if just reading them was not enough, so I sent him a message telling him so. And he wrote back. And then I wrote back. And he wrote back again. And we talked about pain and love and comedy and baseball and life.

 And now we are friends. Internet friends. But friends. And I know that we will find a way to pool our pain and our passions together, and meet up somewhere in the future, to create something that becomes that rare “Wow!” moment for someone else. But until then, I’m going to post here the poem he wrote that brought me to tears. The poem that woke me up and made me start to breathe differently – with new life. The poem that I’m going to print out and frame, and put on the wall in my home office, so that I can read the words every single time I feel like giving up. Every single time I don’t want to get up and feel this pain. Every single time I tell myself that what Im doing doesn’t really matter, and nobody really cares or reads or listens.

Every. Single. Time.

“Grief is not the enemy.
Grief is the teacher.

But its lessons are not learned in the head.
With the mind.
Its lessons are heart lessons.
Filtered through grace.

and over
and over
our mind will say
“But, this is not fair.”
“I don’t deserve this.”
“Why me?”
“I will never get over this.”
“The pain will always be there.”

Don’t get trapped
in the viscous
of your mind.

Grief is not a head-thing.
Not if you want to heal.

Healing grief 
is a heart thing.

And when the heart speaks
to you
in silence
it says
I know darkness
deep, all-encompassing, endless
so I will be light
for the next person.

I know loneliness
even in (especially in)
a room full of people
so I will be friend
for the next person.

I know terror
so I will be comfort
for the next person.

And I know despair.
life is too dark
so I will be hope
for the next person.

And in time
with grace
and heart
I realize that
I am more of who I was
not less.

I am more.
Not less.

We think that grief is the enemy
to be avoided at all costs.
It is not.
Grief is not the enemy.
Great is the great, life-giving teacher.

Not in spite of the fact that someone you love has died.
But because of that fact that someone you love has died.

Grief is the teacher.
The life-giving, heart-expanding teacher.
Because you have chosen to say yes
to life
to love
to your beloved, 
and over
and over again.

Grief is not the enemy.”


You can find more of this truth and inspiration at or To check out my friend Sarah’s blog and her words of hope and love, go to

As always, your comments are deeply appreciated and MATTER! Thank you …


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5 thoughts on “Breathing New Life …

  1. I read about him after you mentioned him in a fb post or blog…not sure which..and I couldn’t believe that one person had suffered so much and was still upright much less putting himself out there to help others. I find a lot of writing, and peoples spoken words, just too cliche’ for me. I don’t want the sugar coated version of it..time heals all wounds, take it a day at a time..yada yada. Time doesn’t heal the wounds, it scabs them over only to be reopened periodically and there have been many times where I could not see tomorrow or even think about it getting here. Your writing may be difficult for some people to read but it is brutally honest and it is what people who have lost that love are thinking but feel they must go with the mainstream in what they say. I know how rough it is for you and you have the added burden of your job difficulties right now and I wish you lived near me…in a small town, someone always needs help in the things you are offering…kids, dogs errands for people who can’t get out. I hope and pray (yes I will pray for you lol) you find something to sustain you quickly.

  2. I have found that in this unwanted journey, my internet “friends” have been far more understanding and helpful. I’ve seen way to much nicey nice stuff written by people who are just a short time out and I’ve wanted to scream, “What the hell’s wrong with you??” I like reading your blog because in the beginning of my journey, you weren’t that far out yourself and the emotions just clicked with me and I said, “Yes! Someone who gets it!” Thank you for being honest with your walk. Maybe one day I’ll post my stuff as a blog. (((((hugs))))))

  3. That poem was POWERFUL. I love that it views grief as a path to not only better one’s self, but others all around you. It hones a person to be even more empathetic. That’s BEAUTY.

  4. I have a hard time reading other people’s writings. They all seem to be working so hard to be positive, inspirational. Their stories are like a prize fight where the fighter keeps getting back up, no matter how beaten he or she gets. I feel like my opponent is the mountain I’m tumbling down, and sometimes I land on a flat edge and stay there awhile before falling some more. I have nothing inspirational to say, and consequently find myself writing less and less. So I wonder, what’s different about me? And I often feel marginalized in an already marginalized world. I can’t tell if it’s just stubbornness on my part or if I’m just being brutally honest with myself. I’ve never had a high tolerance for games or bullshit.

  5. Hi Kelley-

    I have been reading your blog regularly for almost a year now. I really wanted to thank you for helping me along the way. You have a way of articulating and explaining exactly how I’m feeling. I’m not sure how you do it, but you are truly a gift. Your posts leave me laughing and crying (sometimes at the same time).
    I lost my sweetheart last October. He was 43, and his heart stopped– just like Don’s did. That may be one of the reasons that I relate to you. I was there with him when it happened- I’m thankful for that, but it’s difficult as well. I’m sure you can understand.
    Thank you again for sharing your story, and being so honest about the feelings that go along with losing the love of your life. You’ve helped me through many hard days. Can’t thank you enough!!!


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