By Tom Zuba
My 18-month-old daughter Erin died suddenly in 1990.
My 43-year-old wife Trici died equally as suddenly on New Year’s Day 1999.
And believe it or not, my most amazing 13-year-old son Rory died from brain cancer in 2005.
When Erin died I spontaneously shattered into millions and millions of broken pieces falling into the deepest, darkest, hopeless, seemingly bottomless pit of despair. If you have been there, you know what I speak of. If you have not been there, no words can adequately describe the place. I did not believe there was a way out. I could not see a light at tunnel’s end. Not for a long, long, long time.
My wife Trici’s death was catastrophic and explosively incomprehensible. Our two sons, Rory and Sean, who Trici adored, were 7 and 3. On one level, the seismic jolt of Trici’s death felt neither random nor accidental. The timing— one day before what would have been our daughter Erin’s 10th birthday— felt significantly important. My prayer was not to waste Trici’s death. I, again, fell deep into that dark, hopeless, seemingly bottomless pit of despair. This time, however, I knew I could get out. I had done it before. This time was by no means easier than the first, but it was different. This time I knew there was a light. Far, far, oh so far away, there was a light at the end of this tunnel.
When Rory was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer in November of 2004, I used every resource available to move heaven and earth to keep him here with me and with Sean where he belonged. I set the intention to manifest a happy, healthy cancer-free Rory Brennan Zuba. I enlisted the support of hundreds and hundreds of people all over the world via his Caringbridge site to hold that vision with me. Forgoing traditional chemo and radiation because it offered us no hope, I flew Rory to Seattle and to Houston to meet with and be treated by cutting edge hope-filled doctors. In addition, we added acupuncture, and Chinese herbs, an organic diet, supplements, as well as massage and reiki and craniosacral therapy. He was anointed with Holy Water and water from Medjugorje and Lourdes. We rubbed ashes from India on his forehead and on his feet. We beat drums, sang songs, lit candles, offered prayers and bathed him in the vibrations of crystal bowls. Rory died anyway. In the end, I could not keep my son alive.
And deep, deep down I knew his death was not random. And I knew it wasn’t accidental.
For the third time I fell deep, deep, deep into that dark, hopeless, seemingly bottomless pit of despair. I knew I could claw my way out. I had done it before. But did I have the strength? The energy? The tenacity? The desire? Did I have the desire to do the hard, hard, hard, hard work required to heal a broken heart?
In time, lots of it, I discovered that I did. So I set the intention to heal. For that is the first step. And I realized that not only was there light at tunnel’s end, but this time the tunnel itself was lit. This time I was able to observe and participate fully in my healing journey.
I discovered that as an adult, I get to decide what I believe. About life. And death. And life after death. And healing. I get to decide what I believe about all of it. It no longer matters what my parents believe, or my teachers, or my priest or minister, or my family or friends and neighbors. In the end, what matters is what I believe. I decided to believe things that brought me peace, and happiness and sometimes even joy. I decided to let go of the beliefs I had clung to that brought me pain and sadness and discomfort.
I discovered that words have power. The words I choose consciously or unconsciously to tell the stories of the deaths of my beloveds would determine whether or not I would heal.
I decided to believe that Rory died in the perfect way at the perfect time. It could be no other way. Nothing I did, said, pictured, visioned or prayed for would have changed the outcome. Rory came to this earth for very specific reasons. He finished his work and then returned home. And if that were true for Rory, than it must be true for Trici, and it must be true for Erin. And oh does that bring my peace.
I decided to believe that my beloved family members were not taken from me. They didn’t die too soon. Their lives weren’t cut short. I refused to live with a hole that will not heal, and I decided to believe that it was not unnatural, or out of order for me, the parent, to bury not one but two of my children. In doing so, I discovered freedom— for me.
Each of my beloveds died in the perfect way at the perfect time. They each came to this earth for very specific reasons. They each had work to do. Agreements had been made by souls— by my soul and Erin’s soul and Trici’s soul and Rory’s soul and Sean’s soul before we incarnated. And when their work was complete, the eternal essence of who Erin is, and Trici is, and Rory is left their physical body and returned home. The same will be true for me. The same will be true for Sean.
And our relationships continue.
I discovered that healing is not a destination. I won’t wake up one day and be finally and fully healed, not while I’m in my physical body. Rather, healing is my new way of being in the world. Healing requires action every day. My hope, my prayer, my goal, and yes, my intention is to heal a little bit more each day until I finish my work here and leave my physical body.
Along the way, I discovered that I was born to be radiant. Not in spite of the fact that someone I love died, but because of the fact that someone I love died. I did not come here to suffer. I was born to be radiant.
Tom Zuba is an author, life coach and speaker teaching people all over the world a new way to do grief. Buy his book book Permission to Mourn: A New Way to Do Grief. To learn more visit www.TomZuba.com.